When you start to take interest in yoga as a system of self-exploration, you learn about its three pillars – the three principles of yoga. Considering these principles comprehensively and from different angles, we receive Knowledge about them. Logically and consistently accepting and applying them in our life, we are more and more convinced: that, indeed, the principles are the foundation, the soil which real yogis and just good people grow up on. What are these principles and what does it mean to accept the principles of yoga?
Different traditions formulate the definition of principles differently. We will consider the interpretation of the principles according to Open Yoga school.
The First Principle urges us to do our best not to harm any living being unless it is absolutely necessary. If it is impossible, we should follow our duty.
This principle is also called the principle of kindness or the principle of Ahimsa – “non-violence”. Kindness has two forms: passive – not doing harm, and active – doing good. The first principle relates to the passive form – to not doing, to inaction. We are constantly interacting with the world. We influence the world, and the world affects us. Not to harm is the optimal minimum that we can make for the Universe around us. Don’t litter, don’t pollute the surroundings with neither thoughts, nor words, nor emotions, nor feelings or actions.
“It is clean not where they pick litter up, but where they don’t litter.”, – a folk wisdom tells us.
Nevertheless, minimizing the harm you cause to the world is not as easy as it seems. We, by definition, cannot exist in inaction in our daily life. Our essence is constant movement. We create, we live, we express ourselves when we think, speak, feel, express emotions and do things. Therefore, “do no harm” is in fact our work, our efforts to limit and prevent our inappropriate manifestations through thoughts, words, emotions and actions.
“If you can help, do it. If not, at least do not harm.” Dalai Lama XIV
The Second Principle, the principle of logic and efficiency, encourages us to direct our consciousness and spend our energy only on the things that lead us to the goals we have set in work, rest, study or yoga. Do not fritter around and do not waste your energy in vain on the things that lead you away from your goals.
This is the principle of maximum efficiency. Everything in the Universe is arranged as efficiently as possible. The Law of Conservation of Energy proves this to us. Energy cannot disappear without a trace or arise from nothing. The total energy of a closed system, which does not lose its energy and does not receive energy from the outside, remains unchanged. However, if we need a specific result, then energy alone is not enough. We need consciousness which directs the energy to achieve a specific goal. These two components are integral parts of one prana – the universal life force. Everything that distracts is scattering of prana, the scattering of the most valuable resource. Breaking the rules of the game established by the Universe itself is extremely ineffective.
The Third Principle, the vow of refusal of suffering, calls on us to help living beings with all our might to overcome suffering if they express their will and if it is within our power to help them. At the same time, we strive with all our might to eliminate suffering within ourselves.
We must try to build for ourselves and around us the Universe where there will be no violence, no suffering. This is the principle of active action. But what action?
We are like a vessel in which, without a conscious approach, suffering accumulates over time. Beginning to cognize ourselves through yoga, we shake the vessel, sufferings come to the surface and gradually disappear. But the vessel cannot be empty and if earlier filled with one suffering, then very soon, under the same unchanging conditions,the vessel will begin to fill with suffering again.
In this respect, examples with shatkarmas (purification practices) are very indicative. We express our will to cleanse our body totally and do it. But, if at the same time, we do not express an intention to change our lifestyle and nutrition, then sooner or later, we will return to the previous model of behavior. Even if by a volitional effort we do not use the old model of behavior for some time, but we do not launch new ones, then, when consciousness releases control, the old one will work by default. This happens because we have not offered anything else. And if they have, they have not achieved a sustainable result.
If we have volunteered to rid ourselves and the world around us from suffering, we must not merely create a universe in which there will be NO violence and suffering, we must create a universe in which there WILL BE THAT, which itself will supplant both suffering and violence!
What can we offer?
The first step is to receive the Knowledge of what non-suffering is.
The second one is to understand Knowledge, reflect on it, share and discuss it with like-minded people.
And third one, it is necessary to manifest, materialize and process this Knowledge. This means that we, ourselves, must feel the taste of kindness, logic and non-suffering. In other words, we, ourselves, must become Kindness, become Efficiency, become Compassion. And we should do it not sometime later, but at the moment when the clarity of our knowledge allows us to realize this. How can we fill the surrounding world with these qualities if we ourselves are on a different frequency? We can only manifest into the world as we are.
“Do your own bit of saving.” by Ray Bradbury
Of course, old habits will resist. And you have to be ready for this. There is the most effective way: to practice Yoga at your own pace, without extremes, and everything that is inappropriate will gradually and harmoniously be replaced by the appropriate. We must also be prepared for the fact that the pace of modern life forcibly awakens inappropriate qualities and character traits unknown to us. Waking up one after another, they begin to claim their right to exist. This is often a painful process for us. But, studying them and putting them under control, getting the result in the form of improving life, we are convinced and rediscover for ourselves that it is worth it!
Yoga cannot be taught! You can study Yoga only by yourself!
To accept the principles of Yoga means to become these principles, that is, to maximally manifest the qualities of kindness, consistency and compassion. If we make a choice in their favor in any situations that life offers us, then sooner or later, the three principles become fundamental qualities of our character, an integral part of our personality, which will advance us on the path of self-knowledge in the most perfect way.
Be kind, logical, compassionate. Practice and rediscover Yoga and be happy!
Article author: Olga Adhaya
Drawing: Pasha Klimovitsky
Editors: Mirra, Olga Belous, Eva Rati, Yulia Volievskaya
Curator of the project: Kerigona
Translated by: Larisa Skibina, Tatiana Atishaya, Nat Satcitananda