"All paths lead to One"
It is likely that we have all noticed the similarities in spiritual traditions in which the teachings are pretty much the same yet they are given different labels/ words to describe the same insights
I have always felt particularly attracted to Buddhist and Indian philosophy, and while in Greece, we were asked by one of our teachers, Demetri, what were the precepts of Buddhism, there was silence. He said that if you have a Buddha statue at home or a tattoo or anything of the sort, you should know, and I am writing this is because I agree. I remembered them being almost the equivalent of the yamas in yoga philosophy and I said so, now I am sharing the similarities with you
In Buddhism there are guidelines for ethical living known as the five precepts, while in Yogic tradition, the same is found within the first limb of yoga in the yoga sutras of Patanjali, known as the yamas which are also, interestingly, five.
The Buddhist precepts are the ones below
1. Refrain from taking life
In yoga, this is known as Ahimsa which also translates as non violence, non harming or in other words compassion.
To me, this means acting in a non- aggressive way and to really see other living beings as not separate from us. For some, this may come really easy, but for others, who have been exposed or conditioned to aggression from a young age, it takes effort not being that way as the triggering emotions take over way too quickly. Most of us at some point in our lives, have had harmful thoughts, said harmful words or done harmful actions. I personally had aggressive tendencies from a really young age all the way through my teenage years, e-motions taking over me completely and it has taken me m
any years to break the bondage of deep-seated anger. I find that one of the most powerful practices to do this, is to first notice and acknowledge when the emotion is there before it becomes action. If we openly spoke about the ways we feel instead of letting things bubble up inside, the rates of unfortunate situations would without a doubt decrease. Compassion in all its forms starts by seeing "our ways," noticing the shadows, and by loving ourselves in spite of them, to the extent that there's so much love cultivated within that is impossible to engage in harmful practices. This is a daily practice, it doesn't happen overnight, a constant reminder of noticing where we are mentally, and energetically, noticing how we feel, having a constant checking in, being both a guard and a guardian of our state of Being, and letting the rest come by itself. I can assure you that observing the mind's content is one of the most powerful tools to shift the direction of thoughts to where we want it to go, towards kindness, compassion, love and peace
2. Refrain from stealing or taking what is not freely given
Within the Yamas, this is called Asteya, and I personally see it as a way of honouring what belongs to us and what does not.
I find that animals live quite in harmony with nature, they take only what they need and do not exhaust the resources by taking it all, they have a healthy way of coexisting, however humans tend to take and keep taking, to the point of consuming all resources, and when we do this we are not honouring the "giver/provider" and stealing its ability to regenerate. This is food for thought for all of us and we can ask ourselves, is there a way to decrease my impact on what I take from the Earth? whether it is food, energy, water and all resources? If so, how? and when?
On the other hand, taking what is not freely given, not only applies to tangible items that don't belong to us but also to what is intangible, such as time. For example, we might feel the need to share something with a friend or someone we know, and we either send a long message/audio or see someone somewhere and talk forever, perhaps not noticing if they are busy or even not interested in listening! we might get so caught up in our narrative that we end up taking a big part of their time, which unless asked if it's ok for us to take their time, it is not freely given or offered to us. We have all probably done it, and might not even be aware of it or see it as something to be considerate about. Therefore, it is good to notice that what we "steal" or take from someone/something is not necessarily a belonging but also immaterial things such as time
Is there any aspect of your life that you feel you're taking more than it is offered? If so, why you think this is? If you search within, you may find some powerful answers
3. Refrain from illicit sexual conduct (this includes sex with married people or in relationships as well as with minors, and any other kind of sex that causes harm to oneself or others.)
In yogic tradition this is considered sense control or moderation, Brahmacharya and it has to do with the ability to gain control over the senses such as sense pleasures so that they don't become an obstacle in our spiritual practices. In terms of yogic practices, there's a nadi (pathway of energy) called "chitta nadi" which flow is based on desire. Sexual desire is one of the strongest desires and as such, it has the greatest outward pull on this channel and the energy is then directed to the external world, and when this happens, the energy is eventually lost.
On the other hand, detachment allows this energy to flow inwards, and this inward flow allows for internal alchemy or transformation.
This doesn't mean that we have to be celibates but aware of the fact that everything we do leaves a karmic imprint so with whom we expend our energy is a huge energetic exchange, they become us and we become them and if we are not in a good place, the desire for uniting in intercourse can have unhealthy motives and this can lead to suffering. Bramacharya has to do with our ability to channel our energy and use it wisely without excess
I love that in the book Siddharta Gautama from Herman Hesse, it says that Siddharta after being born in a palace with all the comforts in the world, left it all behind to truly see what was outside those walls and seek meaning. He saw suffering, decay, death, and he went through different stages and roles such as an ascetic, a gambler, a seller, a wealthy man, and a lover, seduced by a courtesan who taught him the art of sexual pleasure and with whom they had a child. He became involved in all of these roles and then abandoned them all again. He not only understood intellectually but experientially that none of these things brought him lasting peace and/or happiness, and eventually he became enlightened =)
What's the drive behind your desire to find connection whether it is sexual, emotional or energetic? Does it come from a love overflow or from lack? How do you feel without it?
4. to refrain from unskillful speech, including telling lies, gossiping, and speaking harshly
Also known as Satya, meaning Truthfulness; to speak with authenticity and integrity, to not hurt with our words and speak of what is helpful. Going back to the first precept, this also needs to be cultivated in oneSelf first; noticing the current of thoughts that at times we take to be ourselves, noticing when we are having a conversation with ourselves in our own heads, no matter how crazy it sounds, it happens to all of us unless this is noticed by the eye of our awareness. What normally goes inside our heads is what eventually will come out of our mouths and if we are constantly judging traits or characteristics in ourselves, there will be not much difference when I speak about others. Just as with the other precepts and limbs, the tool to cultivate Satya is to train ourselves to catch thoughts as they arise, once we become the witness of the internal dialogue, we can begin to shift it in a positive way, altering the energy that creates the thoughts, hence the thoughts that give birth to our words and our personal reality
Today as you talk, even in the mental form without speaking a word out loud, check what are the words that you utter most often, the ones that are set in your vocabulary, are they empowering, kind, useful? or are they the opposite? As someone says, "change your language, change your life," words are what limits or enhances our experience
Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates.
At the first gate, ask yourself ‘Is it true?’
At the second, ask ‘Is it necessary?’
At the third gate, ask ‘Is it kind?’
~ a Sufi saying
5. to abstain from taking intoxicants/ stimulants that cloud the mind
The last precept is not identical to the 5th yama which is Aparigraha and translated as "non attachment", "non-greed" or "non possessiveness" but it does have a similarity and connection to the Buddhist precept in some ways. When we find something that makes us feel good, happier, more extroverted, energised, relaxed, or anything we enjoy, we want to keep doing it. That something that makes us feel good can be something "healthy" we do like yoga or exercise (but if done too much, can become unhealthy, ego-driven and competitive) or it can be external stimulating substances such as caffeine, alcohol, drugs, sweets, etc. When ingesting any of these regularly, out of a sense of lack, or as an escape to how we feel without looking at the root of why I "need" it in my life to feel a certain way, that is when things get out of balance, we become attached to how we feel when we have it and find it hard to enjoy what is when we don't have that in our lives. We become almost a prisoner to those things that bring us enjoyment when that thing is no longer present or we are unable to have it, be it be stimulants, people or experiences. There comes a point where we are no longer having the coffee, alcohol, drugs, etc, but that very the thing begins to have "us."
Is there anything in your life you depend on? you don't feel good "enough" without it? Something you defend/have excuses for or don't consider yourself attached to but you need it often to be okay?
Both, the Buddhist precepts and the Yamas in the Yoga Sutras are pathways to liberation and self-realisation. They are not rules that one must follow, but principles that naturally unfold as one discovers, or better say uncovers, the unconditioned, unbounded and joyous Self that resides within the physical body, and when we do so, we don't have to force ourselves to live or follow the path, it happens naturally with ease
May the light of our consciousness shines through so that our lives are a reflection of our highest good <3
Love & light,