Tag Archives: ethics

Can kindness be taught?

A while ago when I was attending weekly meditations with my teacher Tom, he said what I thought was a benign statement after our meditation. “Kindness is one of the rarest things you’ll find in the universe.” He is a kind man, so at the time I shrugged it off as just a normal statement you’d hear in any meditation group. Water is wet.

It isn’t until one has a few rough years under their belt when they realize how true and powerful that statement is. Kindness is one of the rarest things you’ll find in the universe. Even when I garden, I notice how certain plants attack each other for sunlight and root space. I notice how the insects prey on each other. I notice how the geckos prey on the insects and so on. At that level it isn’t personal, its just survival in nature.

As we are “evolved” human beings, we can discern whether or not we are kind to each other. More and more these days we are not. From rush hour traffic, to debating politicians, I doesn’t really pay to be kind in a competitive world. In fact, some may see it as a distinct disadvantage.

So at one point soon we have will to decide if this is the kind of world we want to live in. Do we just want to be nasty to each other, or do we want to at least get along enough to maintain our community?

It seems more and more that people come to yoga to find kindness from outside society. As yoga teachers, I feel it is our duty to provide a place for people to come and at least find some sort of respite from not only the outside world, but respite from themselves.

Can you teach people how to be kind? As a person with a background in psychology, I feel it is one of the most difficult things to teach. You can tell someone to suppress their unkindness, but you can’t make someone be spontaneously kind. From a Behaviorist standpoint, you can reinforce the behavior of people who do kind actions. But from the Person-Centered standpoint, one realizes that someone is kind no matter what the outcome and is not looking for a reward.

Now that 30 day challenges are new thing in yoga, I propose a 30 day challenge to find that side of you that is kind and make it noticeable to all around you with whom you interact. If rarity is valuable, and kindness is one the rarest thing in the universe, you will see your personal value leap quantumly.

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The Yamas and Niyamas of Śāṇḍilya Upanishad

upanishad

If you give any depth of study to Patanjali, you will find he is often quoted as a “codifier” of Yoga. He was a journalist of the highest order writing down all the practices at his time and also referencing practices of the past. He was quite diplomatic in the Yoga Sutra-s giving a nod to all the different practices. And he put all the practices in terse format, so it would be easier to memorize for generations through the millennia.

One of the references that Patanjali may have drawn from come from the Śāṇḍilya Upanishad, an Atharvavedaic text dating back between 1000-1500 BCE (Patanjali existed around the second century BCE). This is a short treatise that mentions eight limbs of Yoga. It begins with a teaching between Arthavan and Śāṇḍilya:

Śāṇḍilya: “Please tell me about the eight angas of Yoga which is the means of attaining Atman.”

Artharvan: “The eight Agnas are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. Of these, Yama is of ten kinds and so is Niyama. There are eight Asanas. Pranayama is of three kinds. Pratyahara is of five kinds; so also is Dharana. Dhyana is of two kind and Samadhi is of one kind only.”

The ten Yamas of this Upanishad are:

Ahimsa (not causing pain of anyone both physically and mentally)

Satya (Truthfulness)

Asteya (Not coveting)

Bhramacharya (Celebacy)

Daya (Kindliness)

Arjava (equanimity of mind in actions)

Kshama (Patience)

Dhriti (Preserving firmness of mind in periods of gain or loss)

Mitahara (Taking of only oily or sweet food leaving one fourth of the stomach empty)

Saucha (Both internal and external cleanliness)

There are also ten Niyamas:

Tapas (Empanciation from the body through penance)

Santosha (Contentment)

Astika (Belief in merits or demerits of actions set forth in the Vedas)

Dana (Charity)

Isvarapujana (Worship of God with a pure heart)

Siddhanta-Srivara (Inquiry of the significance of Vedanta)

Hrih (Shame when straying from actions set forth in the Vedas)

Mati (Faith in the paths laid out in the Vedas)

Japa (practicing the Mantras)

Vrata (Regular observance of Vedic actions, and non observance of actions that are not in the Vedas).

The text then expounds on Asanas and Pranayamas. Perhaps that will be another blog post. The scholar/historian in me is fascinated by this text. I find it comforting and reaffirming that these practices have been around for thousand and thousands of years. The fact that we can still access this text in 2015 shows that it is true enough to stand the test of time.

 

30 day Yama/Niyama challenge

 

adisesa

Every day I come across some type of 30 day “yoga” challenge. Either they are a challenge to practice asana each day, or accomplish a pose in that time frame. One lady even wanted to try to do the splits (Hanumanasana) in 30 days. After about day 15 she stopped posting altogether. I wonder if her hamstrings gave out. People even have asana competitions where they are judged on their postures. I felt I wanted to propose a harder challenge–a yama/niyama competition!

Here are the rules:

1) Can you go 30 days without causing physical or mental harm to anyone?

2) Can you go 30 days by telling the complete truth no matter what?

3) Can you go 30 days without stealing anything?

4) Can you go 30 days of regarding others as human beings instead of male/female bodies?

5) Can you go 30 days free from greed?

6) Can you go 30 days being clean, not only physically but mentally?

7) Can you go 30 days being content with what you have, and not buying anything new outside of what you need?

8) Can you go 30 days of fervid adherence to these principles?

9) Can you go 30 days studying ancient yoga texts and then seeing how your practice fits into these texts?

10) Can you go 30 days of completely surrendering yourself to this practice no matter what the outcomes?

Which ones are easy and which ones bring up issues for you? In classical yoga, the above is what is asked of you for your whole lifespan. It is very challenging even for a day. I am not saying I am anywhere near close to achieving these on any given day. But to aspire to do these for 30 days will bring about profound positive change in your life much more than trying to do Eka Pada Rajakapotasana. It will be much more difficult than Eka Pada Rajakapotasna too.

ICP

 

Have fun!