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Yamas, and its complement, niyamas, represent a series of "right living" or ethical rules within Hinduism and Yoga. They are a form of moral imperatives, commandments, rules or goals. The five Yamas of Patañjali's classical yoga system are commitments that affect the yogi's relations with others. The five Niyamas of Patañjali's classical yoga system are personal obligations to live well.

Ten yamas are codified as "the restraints" in numerous scriptures including the Śāṇḍilya and Vārāha Upanishads, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Svātmārāma,[1] and the Tirumantiram of Tirumular. Patañjali lists only five yamas in his Yoga Sūtras.[2][3]

Five Yamas[edit]

The five yamas listed by Patañjali in Yogasūtra 2.30 are:[4]

  1. Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा): Nonviolence, non-harming other living beings[5]
  2. Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, non-falsehood[5][6]
  3. Asteya (अस्तेय): non-stealing[5]
  4. Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य): celibacy, non-cheating on one's partner[6]
  5. Aparigraha (अपरिग्रहः): non-avarice,[5] non-possessiveness[6]

Ten Yamas[edit]

The ten yamas listed by Śāṇḍilya Upanishad,[7] as well as by Svātmārāma are:[1][8][9]

  1. Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा): Nonviolence
  2. Satya (सत्य): truthfulness
  3. Asteya (अस्तेय): not stealing
  4. Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य): continence
  5. Kṣamā (क्षमा): forgiveness[10]
  6. Dhṛti (धृति): fortitude
  7. Dayā (दया): compassion[10]
  8. Ārjava (आर्जव): non-hypocrisy, sincerity[11]
  9. Mitāhāra (मितहार): measured diet
  10. Śauca (शौच): purity, cleanliness

Other numbers of Yamas[edit]

At least sixty (60) ancient and medieval era Indian texts are known so far that discuss Yamas.[12] Most are in Sanskrit, but some are in regional Indian languages. Of the sixty, the lists in eleven of these texts are similar, but not the same, as that of Patanjali's.[12] Other texts list between 1 to 10 Yamas, however 10 is the most common.[12]

The order of listed yamas, the names and nature of each yamas, as well as the relative emphasis vary between the texts. Some texts use the reverse of Niyamas in other texts, as Yamas; for example, Vairagya (dispassion from hedonism, somewhat reverse of the niyama Tapas) is described in verse 33 of Trishikhi Brahmana Upanishad in its list for Yamas.[12] Many texts substitute one or more different concepts in their list of Yamas. For example, in the ten Yamas listed by Yatidharma Sangraha, Akrodha (non-anger) is included as a Yamas.[12] Ahirbudhnya Samhita in verse 31.19 and Darshana Upanishad in verses 1.14-15 include Dayā as a Yamas, and explain it as the ethical restraint of not jumping to conclusions, being compassionate to every being and considering suffering of others as one's own.[13] In verse 31.21, Ahirbudhnya Samhita includes Kșhamā as the virtue of forgiveness and restraint from continued agitation from wrong others have done.[12] Mahakala Samhita in verses II.11.723 through II.11.738[14] lists many of the 10 Yamas above, but explains why it is a virtue in a different way. For example, the text explains Dayā (or Dayaa) is an ethical precept and the restraint from too much and too little emotions. It suggests Dayā reflects one's inner state, is the expression of kindness towards kin, friend, stranger and even a hostile person, and that one must remain good and kind no matter what the circumstances. This view for the Yamas of Dayā is shared in Shandilya Upanishad and Jabala Darshana Upanishad.[12][15] Atri Samhita in verse 48, lists Anrshamsya (आनृशंस्य)[16] as the restraint from cruelty to any living being by one's actions, words or in thoughts. Shivayoga Dipika in verse 2.9 substitutes Sunrta for Satya, defining Sunrta as "sweet and true speech".[12]

Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Mitahara, Kșhamā, Dayā are among the widely discussed ethical concepts by majority of these texts.[12]

Related concepts[edit]

Yamas are related to Niyamas in ancient and medieval era Indian texts. The former are restraints (the "don'ts") of virtuous life, while the latter are observances (the "dos").

Some texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika use the classification flexibly, where yamas (restraints, the "don'ts") are understood as reverse of niyamas (positive attitudes, behaviors, the "dos"). For example, Ahimsa and Mitahara are called as yama as well as niyama in verses 17 and 40 of Book 1. In verse 1.40, Hatha Yoga Pradipika calls Ahimsa (non-violence and non-injuring anyone by one's actions, words or in thoughts) as the highest virtuous habit, Mitahara (moderation in one's eating and drinking habits) as the best personal restraint, and Siddhasana as the foremost of Asanas.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Svātmārāma; Pancham Sinh (1997). The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (5 ed.). Forgotten Books. p. 14. ISBN 9781605066370. अथ यम-नियमाः अहिंसा सत्यमस्तेयं बरह्यछर्यम कश्हमा धृतिः दयार्जवं मिताहारः शौछम छैव यमा दश १७ 
  2. ^ Ramaswami, Sŕivatsa (2001). Yoga for the three stages of life. Inner Traditions / Bear & Company. p. 229. ISBN 9780892818204. 
  3. ^ Devanand, G. K. Teaching of Yoga. APH Publishing. p. 45. ISBN 9788131301722. Yama is a "moral restraint" or rule for living virtuously. Ten yamas are codified in numerous scriptures, including the Hatha Yoga Pradeepika compiled by Yogi Swatmarama, while Patanjali lists five yamas and five niyamas (disciplines) in the Yoga Sutra. 
  4. ^ Āgāśe, K. S. (1904). Pātañjalayogasūtrāṇi. Puṇe: Ānandāśrama. p. 102. 
  5. ^ a b c d James Lochtefeld, "Yama (2)", The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 2: N–Z, Rosen Publishing. ISBN 9780823931798, page 777
  6. ^ a b c Arti Dhand (2002), The dharma of ethics, the ethics of dharma: Quizzing the ideals of Hinduism, Journal of Religious Ethics, 30(3), pages 347-372
  7. ^ KN Aiyar (1914), Thirty Minor Upanishads, Kessinger Publishing, ISBN 978-1164026419, Chapter 22, pages 173-176
  8. ^ Lorenzen, David (1972). The Kāpālikas and Kālāmukhas. University of California Press. pp. 186–190. ISBN 978-0520018426. 
  9. ^ Subramuniya (2003). Merging with Śiva: Hinduism's contemporary metaphysics. Himalayan Academy Publications. p. 155. ISBN 9780945497998. Retrieved 6 April 2009. 
  10. ^ a b Stuart Sovatsky (1998), Words from the Soul: Time East/West Spirituality and Psychotherapeutic Narrative, State University of New York, ISBN 978-0791439494, page 21
  11. ^ J Sinha, Indian Psychology, p. 142, at Google Books, Volume 2, Motilal Banarsidas, OCLC 1211693, page 142
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i SV Bharti (2001), Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: With the Exposition of Vyasa, Motilal Banarsidas, ISBN 978-8120818255, Appendix I, pages 672-680
  13. ^ Jean Varenne and Coltman Derek (1977), University Of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-0226851167, pages 197-202
  14. ^ Mahakala Samhita Government of India Archives (in Sanskrit), see pages 302 to 304 of the document
  15. ^ K. V. Gajendragadkar (2007), Neo-upanishadic Philosophy, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, University of California Archives, OCLC 1555808
  16. ^ AnRzaMsya Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Koeln University, Germany
  17. ^ Original:
    यमेष्व् इव मिताहारम् अहिंसा नियमेष्व् इव ।
    मुख्यं सर्वासनेष्व् एकं सिद्धाः सिद्धासनं विदुः ॥४०॥
    Note: The verse number is different in different translations, in some this verse is 1.38, in others 1.40; Sanskrit and English translation source: Hatha Yoga Pradipika Brahmananda, Adyar Library Series, Madras