How to Live a Good Live
I think it’s time to update the famous Yamas (Dos) & Niyamas (Don’ts) spelled out by the great Yoga Sage Patanjali. These observances are the ethical and moral requirements generally accepted by Yogic teachings. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Patanjali and the Yoga Sutras, but frankly, I was never very impressed with the Yama Niyamas that he laid out in the Sutras. Furthermore, recently I am seeing many attempts to broaden and reinterpret the meanings of these observances to make them “fit” better and be more comprehensive, and I think these wranglings are getting a bit out of hand. For example, “celibacy” is being translated as healthy sex with your partner if you are married and between the ages of 25 and 50 with no adultery. I mean come on, let’s just be brave and come up with a new model. It could very well be that in Patanjali’s time these Dos and Don’ts made sense, or it could be that they were meant for a different purpose than what is currently thought (I suspect Ashram rules to assist in the study of Yoga), but, in any case I think it’s time to put forth a new set of principles for enlightened living and that is the focus of this article.
The 5 Universal Principles below for living an enlightened and good life is the result of decades of spiritual exploration, experimentation and self-study. These are the principles that I live by. They are my mantras, my vows and I have found them to be extremely helpful in navigating the waters of spiritual living and help forge a sweet life. First, I will just briefly list the original Yamas & Niyamas of Sage Patanjali, which can also be found in the article Introduction to the Universal Principles of Yoga, and then I will go into my 5 principles for living an enlightened and good life.
Original Yamas Nyamas from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:
- Yamas: Yamas are self-restraints. They are non-violence, truth, control of sexual energy, non-stealing and non-covetousness (non-greed).
- Niyamas: Niyamas are self-observances. There are 5 niyamas. These are contentment, self-study, austerity, purity and devotion to the Lord.
Updated 5 Key Principles of Living an Enlightened and Good Life:
1. Relax: This principle is not to be brushed over. It is the key to developing the right approach towards life and all the twists and turns that inevitably come your way. If you can stay relaxed you will have a chance to break the reactive pattern of automatic response to conditions, thus, meeting more of the moment with more of your being. It all begins will having this ease of being. To relax means to not be easily swayed by the pull of dualities. Neither buying excessively into the promises of gain nor fearing excessively the consequences of loss.
Here are some articles that explore the concept of relaxation in more detail: Embrace Reality and Let the Universe Fulfill Your Desires, Shunryu Suzuki Speaks on Enlightenment & Zazen Practice and Today I Finally Passed the Test & Officially Became a Man.
2. Witness: This is a big ask I know. No human being ever has or probably ever will be able to bear witness constantly to all that is taking place within their mind and body. That being said, the more you can do it the more awareness will illuminate the inner walls of your mind, thinking and emotions. At the end witnessing is really all that is needed for enlightenment, so devote yourself to this practice of mindfulness. As Osho and Gurdjieff describe it, look with double arrowed awareness. One arrow observing that which is being done, thought and felt, while one arrow observing the doer, thinker and feeler. This is the secret to self-knowledge and being a light onto yourself.
In addition, witnessing is the basis of all insight meditation and you will find more details, hints and tips on this practice in the following articles: Brain Development & Enlightenment – Insight Meditation – Part 3, Silent Mind Meditation Program – The Silent Mind Meditation Chapter 12 and The True Meaning of Laziness.
3. Affection: Forgive, be kind, be thoughtful, be nice, be good, be sensitive, be loving, be compassionate. All in all, it’s the practice of Loving-Kindness Meditation. Let me tell you the hard part here. It is easy to do all of the above when things are going your way, but, can you do all of the above when things are not? As they say a well fed dog is friendly, but the real nature will be revealed when he is hungry. So it is with us. We can put up our best when all is good, but, can you do the same when you don’t get what you want? When someone insults you? When your ego takes a hit? Will you be able to side with affection under duress or will the subconscious, hidden, egotistical nature take control? That is the real test of adhering to this principle of affection and be warned it is not easy, but if you wish to ascend this practice must be mastered.
4. Honesty: Absolute honesty I should say. In word, deed and behavior. You will have fun with this one. Just give it a try and you will be amazed by how much you learn about yourself. How hard the mind works to manipulate perception and procure security, without any consideration to what is true. I have gone into this concept in more detail in the following article so head on over to read the nitty gritty: Silent Mind Meditation Program: Honesty – Chapter 6.
One additional helpful tip. In the article, 10 Things to do Everyday for A Happy, Meaningful & Good Life, which I hope you are all following religiously :-), item #7 speaks of doing your daily accounting at the end of the day. This is a great time to reflect on all the times during the day you were dishonest, insincere, hypocritical and pretentious. Please don’t start judging yourself, simply maintain a healthy sense of humor and learn about the antics of your ego and mind.
5. Courage: By courage here, I also mean self-confidence and self-belief. Courage is important on 2 fronts. First, the path to enlightenment is ultimately walked alone. Without courage you will not get very far, as at the first sign of danger you will balk. Second, to live a good life means to live according to your passion and if you lack courage you are going to play it safe always and never take the necessary chances to follow your heart.
This is another topic on which you can find lots more information here on Mastery of Meditation. I would suggest the following 4 articles to help explore this concept more: Silent Mind Meditation Program: Confidence – Chapter 5, Inspiring Osho Quote on How to Live Courageously, New Kundalini Yoga Classes & the Courage to Live Dangerously and How to Escape Your Suffering – The Blind Man vs. The Cripple.
So there are my 5 golden rules for living an enlightened and good life. I try to review them every morning and have them posted in handy places as reminders as well. If you have a set of observances you follow or other techniques which have helped you in your life, please share them with us below so others can benefit as well.