|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 170 ]
According to the yogic view, we all evolve from the grossest, most basic life-form, and merge back into the Divine 'oneness' naturally, over the course of time. This natural evolution though, takes countless lifetimes.
The observance of yama and niyama allows for acceleration of this process. This is a great advantage of having reached the human stage of evolution, where we now have an opportunity to 'consciously evolve', which other, lower forms of life do not.
We are all bound to this realm of manifestation via the wheel of karma, the law of cause and effect. The yamas and niyamas represent the basic principles of the Universe. We can, first of all through the yamas, begin to release ourselves from the effects of negative actions by living in a way that is of a higher nature and more in tune with the laws of nature itself, such as through ahimsa, satya, asteya, etc.
Failure to observe these truths reveals the naturally negative results, in which one falls prey to the inharmonious, evil and destructive forces of the cosmos with which he/she becomes attuned. In contrast, observing these principles reveals the higher evolutionary fruits (karma) of just action.
We all must observe these universal laws of yama and niyama; not because some higher power commands us to, but because they steer us toward behaviours that generate positive results and away from behaviours that will ultimately impact us and others in negative ways. There are many layers of awareness within each of these directives, and as I.K. Taimni points out in The Science of Yoga:
"Too many people begin to imagine that they have acquired perfection in the development of a particular virtue while they are [in fact] still at the initial stage."
Patanjali provides us with the measuring rod for this perfection, so that we can accurately judge our level of progression in the development of each of the yamas and niyamas. As we explore each of these virtues in coming lessons, you'll notice that they are quite lofty ideals and may seem difficult to attain, but...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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