By Sadhaka I refer to a spiritual seeker. A spiritual seeker is one who is not merely satisfied with performing rituals but wants to know the reality about Athma, one’s real Self, Anathma, the world that is experienced thru’ one’s senses and Paramathma, the Supreme force behind the Creation. To attain this spiritual knowledge not only a sharp intellect but a subtle mind is also required. In Kathopanishad it is stated:
नायमात्मा प्रवचनेन लभ्यो न मेधया न बहुना श्रुतेन। (1-2-24) (Naayamathma pravachanena labhyo na medhaya na bahuna sruthena)
Athma cannot be obtained (i.e. knowledge of Athma cannot be got) through lectures, through scholarship or through listening a lot.
In the next Mantra the Upanishad goes on to say that mental discipline and adherence to a moral code can only make the mind subtle enough to grasp the reality about Athma. To achieve this mental discipline which involves adherence to a moral code and make it subtle a set of five do’s and five don’ts are given in the sutras 30 and 32 of Sadhana Padha of Patanjali Yoga Sutras, which are called as Yamas and Niyamas, Yama, the code of self-restraint and Niyama, the code of observance. These two together are clubbed and called the Ten commandments of Hinduism by Swami Paramarthananda. These ten I propose discussing as Ten Commandments for a Sadhaka as they are more relevant to the one who wants to go beyond the rituals and is interested in the deeper truths of Hinduism. Let me first list them.
Yamas & Niyamas
1. Ahimsa – Avoidance of violence
2. Satyam – Avoidance of telling untruth
3. Asteyam – Avoidance of stealing
4 Brahmacharyam – Avoidance of indecent and inappropriate attitude towards other sex.
5 Aparigraha - Avoidance of luxury and pomp.
6 Saucham – Cleanliness and orderliness.
7 Santhoshaha – Contentment at the level of owning.
8 Tapas – Regulating physical activity.
9 Swadyayaha – Scriptural study.
10 Iswara pranidhanam – Acceptance of every experience as God’s gift, without resistance.
Now we shall see each one of them a little more in detail.
1. Ahimsa – Ahimsa, non-violence, is avoidance of violence at all the three levels of body, speech and thought, i.e. physical, verbal and mental. Physical violence is causing physical injury to another and includes self-injury as well. The underlying cause for this is anger. The same is the cause for verbal violence through the use of hurtful language, which is a more common phenomenon. Two of the primary causes for anger are hurt-ego and thwarted desire. Mental violence is a more subtle form of violence which causes immeasurable damage to one’s own psyche, and this cannot be eschewed without achieving physical and verbal non-violence. Ahimsa can also be interpreted positively as universal love and compassion without which anger cannot be restrained and violence eschewed.
2. Satyam – Satyam, truthfulness, literally means that one does not utter deliberately a statement knowing it to be untrue and avoids making statements the truth of which he is not sure of. This is a verbal discipline whereby one maintains harmony between one’s thought and word.
3. Asteyam – Asteyam means non-stealing, not only in the gross sense but also in the subtle sense of avoiding unfair transactions, taking advantage of one’s status or other’s ignorance to derive an illegitimate benefit, depriving the other of his rightful due.
4. Brahmacharyam – Brahmacharyam which is commonly understood as celibacy literally means a lifestyle suited to seek the knowledge of Brahman i.e. celibacy in the case of a bachelor and total fidelity to one’s spouse in case of a married person. Swamiji sums it up as total avoidance of improper or inappropriate attitude towards the members of opposite sex.
5. Aparigraha - Aparigraha means non-possession i.e. one does not possess more than one needs. This means a simple life-style avoiding pomp and luxury and eschewing hoarding. This also implies that one does not get attached to one’s limited possessions.
6. Saucham – Saucham stands for purity and cleanliness. This purity is to be achieved not only at the physical level by keeping oneself and the environments pure and clean but also at one’s mental level by eschewing unhealthy, negative thoughts and entertaining only positive, healthy thoughts.
7. Santhoshaha – Santhoshaha involves contentment. This is no bar to making efforts to increase one’s earnings, only one should not be dissatisfied with oneself or with anything else in life, especially with his possessions. As one’s earnings increase his aim must be not in hoarding or spending but in contributing more to society. This is made possible by developing an inner attitude of richness and compassion towards the poor and needy.
8. Tapas – Tapas stands for austerity. Austerity is to be observed at all the three levels of body, mind and speech. These three have been described as Sareeram Tapaha, Vaangmayam Tapaha and Manasam Tapaha by Lord Krishna in Gita ch.17 (verses 14, 15 & 16). The practice of austerity is further classified under three heads Satvic, Rajasic and Tamasic in verses 17, 18 & 19 of the same chapter. Here Tapas stands for Satvic Tapas that covers all the three heads physical, verbal and mental.
9. Swadyayaha – Swadyayaha stands for regular study of scriptural books. It is also one of the Pancha Maha Yajnas that is prescribed for all householders under the name Brahma Yajna. One should study at least Gita, even if he cannot study other texts.
10. Iswara Pranidhanam – Iswara Pranidhanam means surrender to the Lord. Surrender to the Lord does not mean one remains passive expecting the Lord to play one's part also but to play one’s role in life with energy and enthusiasm remembering the Lord all the time and accepting all the results of one’s actions as one’s Karma phala, without resistance or blame-transfer.
The above ten are prescribed in Patanjali Yoga Sutras as means to remove the hindrances in the mind to the process of meditation for achieving Samadhi state. In the case of the spiritual seeker they help to make the mind subtle enough to engage in Vedantic meditation, Nitidyasanam, the final step in achieving Athma Jnanam. To achieve these values one should first be convinced of their importance, and then make a resolve to achieve them one by one within a time frame, implement the resolution with alertness and introspection, taking corrective steps whenever there is slip up without engaging in blame-game or losing oneself in regrets.