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The Yamas

Codes of Conduct for Virtuous Living

For at least 2500 years, yogis have observed a code of virtuous conduct taught in the Upanishads and yoga sutras and by countless teachers ever since. These virtues and disciplines have been enumerated and categorized in several different ways. Here, for simplicity and inclusiveness, we present a common traditional formulation of ten yamas:

  1. Ahimsa: Non-harming and nonviolence; refraining from causing suffering to any living being in thought, word, or deed at any time. Note: Ahimsa is regarded as the primary yama; the following nine yamas serve to elucidate the true meaning of ahimsa and to support its proper practise.
  2. Satya: Truthfulness; integrity of speech and action; authenticity; all that moves one toward truth.
  3. Asteya: Refraining from stealing, coveting, and financial irresponsibility or recklessness.
  4. Brahmacarya: Pure conduct that moves one toward the absolute/divine nature; overcoming selfishness, egotism, possessiveness and indulgence through the restraint of selfish desire; maintaining consistent discipline with food, sexuality, and other cravings.
  5. Kshama: The practise of patience and a relaxed non-attachment to time; living in the present moment without being preoccupied with the past or the future.
  6. Dhriti: Perseverance and joyful diligence; commitment to overcome fear, indecision, and procrastination and to finish what one starts.
  7. Daya: Compassion and empathy; a commitment to eliminate insensitivity toward other beings.
  8. Arjava: Straightforwardness; renouncing manipulation, deception, and backstabbing.
  9. Mitahara: Moderation with food; eating neither too much nor to little; vegetarian diet.
  10. Shaucha: Purity; commitment to eliminating all impurities of body, speech, and mind.

Like most ashrams and retreat centres, Dharmalaya asks that all who come to our centres or participate in our programs follow these practises sincerely, to prevent unnecessary suffering and to maintain harmony. In this way, we can assure the most benefit for ourselves and other beings while causing the least harm possible.

The Panchshila

Whereas the yamas are primarily a formulation of the Hindu traditions, there is a similar formulation in the Buddhist traditions, called the panchshila (a.k.a. panchsheel or pancasil, which is translated variously as the five virtuous commitments, five precepts, or five wonderful mindfulness trainings). You can read about the panchshila here.