Making Inroads into the Eightfold Path with Moral Discipline

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The eightfold path of Yoga, as we outline it in Chapter 1, is a useful model for the stages of the yogic process. In the following sections, we explain the first limb of the eightfold path in more detail because along with the second limb, it gives you the essential moral foundation for practicing Yoga successfully. We start with the five practices of moral discipline (yama), which Yoga insists that you must practice under all circumstances. They're the same moral virtues that you find in all the world's great religious traditions:

✓ Nonharming or ahimsa (pronounced ah-heem-sah)

✓ Truthfulness or satya (pronounced saht-yah)

✓ Nonstealing or asteya (pronounced ahs-the-yah)

✓ Chastity or brahmacarya (pronounced brah-mah-chahr-yah)

✓ Greedlessness or aparigraha (pronounced ah-pah-ree-grah-hah)

These five disciplines are meant to harmonize your interpersonal life and are especially important in today's enormously complex world. Much of the social chaos in today's world is due to the collapse of a common system of basic moral values. Yoga reminds you that you can't attain self-fulfillment in isolation from others. You can't hope to realize your higher nature without fostering what's good and beautiful in your day-to-day life in interaction with your family, friends, co-workers, teachers, and students. Thus, universally recognized moral virtues are the rich soil in which you plant all your other efforts on the path of inner growth and ultimate Self-realization (or enlightenment).

Yoga understands these virtues to be all-comprehensive, extending not only to your actions but also to your language and even your thoughts. In other words, you're called to abstain from doing wrong to others, speaking wrong of them, as well as poisoning them with your thoughts.

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