Yama is a set of five rules one has to observe in interacting with wold, like the social norms one has to adhere with in the path of yoga sadhana. In Hindu tradition Patanjali is not less than the status of god. In The yoga Sutras he presented Ashtanga yoga (eight limb yoga), the first limb as Yama, consists if five rules. The most significant step in the Ashtanga yoga is Yama, more often than not yoga teachers takes this lightly, of the eight angas (limbs) the most important anga is Yama, the substratum of the Ashtanga yoga is in Yama, the great sage presented yoga Sutras in his way of knowing the yoga which was there before Patanjali. The first teacher of yoga is Hiranygarbha ( lord ) Himself, the tradition says "yogasyavaktahiranyagarbha naanyapuratane" means in the beginning the knowledge of yoga imparted by the lord. All the knowledge was with the Lord, He manifest as this universe. Maharshi Patanjali presented yoga in a very systematic way as a tool for samadhi. Some ignorant people start from asanas and doesn't not give the importance of the first two limbs, yoga is the means for self realization. Now all kinds of dances and crazy exercise and what not are using the word yoga for their business promotion. The great sage systematically arranges a list of observances in the day today life of a seeker of the ultimate truth. Business entities are cropping up with the motive of teaching real yoga, I must laugh at it, there are some asanas, purification exercise and breath exercise etc one can scientifically studied its effects on body and mind. But that's not yoga, nor the great sages emphasized yoga for any business reasons.
The power behind every cognition is the atma ( consciousness), its behind all sensory perception, also the power behind the mind, intelligent and memory is all the atma alone. There is no way to objectify it, atma is the one and the only subject which is to be known by words of the Shastras. Yoga Shastras is intended to know the nature of the self, nature of jiiva ( individual being) and the nature of the all pervading consciousness. It's not intended for business purposes, the way yoga is traded these days in many places across the globe. The Yoga Shastras teach us how we may cross over the cycle of birth and death, so that one can attain the ultimate freedom from all forms of limitations and sorrows. Hindu culture is Sanatana ( beginning less) culture, neither it started a few thousand years ago nor it's going to end in a few thousand years time. It's the universal truth of the existence and the essence, it's a religion, it's the universal truth present in every being and substratum of the Universe. The knowledge of yoga also manifest with every creation and un manifest to manifest again in the next creation. Creation, sustenance and dissolution is a cycle like phenomena. The first knowledge of yoga is revealed by the Lord to the great sages and its handed down by mouth to ear, retained in the memory. This yoga of knowledge only now available in the written form is five thousand years only. The great sage Maharshi Vyasa codified all the knowledge of yoga prevailed at that time and systematically arranged in the written form called the Vedas. Rigveda is the first know available written record of the human civilization. The knowledge of yoga is rooted in Rig Veda, Maharshi Patanjali rather summarized yoga shasters and made it simple, easy to follow, short and reproduce the essence of it in a very systematic manner. The ultimate goal of yoga is self knowledge, one can attain it by reaching in samadhi, its the very purpose of Ashtanga yoga according to Maharshi Patanjali. The first and most important Anga (limb) among the eight limbs is Yama, a set of observances one should follow in the path of Samadhi. You can't glass-over the first limb. The adhikaaritvam (qualification) to reach samadhi comes by the strict observance of the first two limbs of the eight limb yoga. This is the most significant part of the yoga sadhana, because knowledge of yoga only takes place in Adhikaara Shariira ( qualified entity), one has to prepare oneself to the path of samadhi. The main practice of yoga is gaining the Adhikaaritvam (Qualification). People generally ignore these two limbs and try practice the rest, they never reach to the state of Samadhi nor can gain the qualifications to receive the yoga of knowledge. A yogi's all karmas ( actions) becomes karma yoga ( yoga of action) dedication to fulfilling the path to Samadhi, yogis understood the fact that Samadhi is the union of inner self with the universal self, also he comes to know that the self is neither doer nor enjoyer, self is as though the doer. He choose to live a life of contemplation and least disturbance to achieve the highest state of Samadhi as envisaged by Patanjali by the emphasizing in does and don'ts delineated in the first two limbs.
Yama is a Sanskrit word, derived from the root "yamu uparame "means to control , a list of five observance Maharshi Patanjali listed under Yama. A sadhaka in the path of yoga is suppose to follow these five Yama's strictly in order to gain the inner stability, avoid mental distraction, inner conflict and confusion. The great sage says "ahimsa satayasteyabrahmacharyaaparigraha yamaah" means non killings, truthfulness, non stealing, continence, non covetousness constitutes Yama. These observance are for the path of self knowledge, human body, mind and intellect has to prepare for the knowledge. The first two limbs are preparation for the hire practices, Patanjali sublimated all the value structure in these five heads.
Ahimsa ( non killing/non hurting/non violence)
Ahimsa literally means non killing, it's a very comprehensive term indicating many value structures such as non violence, non hurting etc. A sadhaka in the path of yoga not kill or assist in killing or appreciate any killing of any living being knowingly or even suppose unknowingly also, more over hurting a living being at any levels also is considered as a papa karma ( sinful action). Any action rooted at the intellectual level, we first think, then verbalize or do a physical action. In the yoga sadhana a sadhaka is not suppose to even entertain a thought which has any intention to hurt any one. Killing is very big deal, not even entertain a thought intended to hurt any being, this is what one suppose to follow in the path of yoga sadhana. It looks very difficult in deed !!! In yoga Shastras Maanasam karma ( mental action) is also qualified enough to accumulate good or bad karmas into ones account, not jest verbal or physical actions alone. Every action has a drshta bhala ( visible result) and an adrshtabhala ( invisible result), this is governed by the universal laws. If i physically or verbally hurt some one, the direct result is, if the opponent is physically capable, he may hurt you or may use uncomfortable language, according to yoga Shastras, every karma has a invisible result also. You may ask me, if somebody hurt you what will we do ? , I would say, human being is capable to discriminate the right and wrong, do actions accordingly so that one can avoid certain unwanted situations in life, so that one avoid hurt and guilt. Human being only capable to attracting attracting punya or papa ( grace or dis grace ), animals or other organisms not blessed with the faculty of discrimination or free well, therefore they are not accumulating any punya, papas. No animals do a pre meditated killing other than humans, it only hunt for food which is acceptable by nature, more over their body constitution is made for hunting and meat digestion. You may ask why humans can't kill animals for food then ? There are two kinds of beings in the creation one is herbivores and the other is carnivores. Humans only mis uses its facilities of discrimination and kill the innocent and poor animals for appeasing their demonic traits. Humans are herbivores by nature and by creation and by body constitution. Human teethes are not ment for hunting, nor the intestines are not meant for digesting the meat. Human interference cause the highest distraction to the nature and all other living beings in particular. All environmental problems now facing the world is the direct consequences of unjustifiable human interference with the nature, more over theologians unethical mandate causes considerable loss to all living beings. Rightful thinking and proper action with discrimination and compassion towards all living beings is needed more than ever before. Pain is universal, my pain and the pain of a cow, pain of a pig or pain of a dog or a bird is one and the same. Who give this mandate to kill these innocent living beings ? We would think over it.
Hindu tradition believe that plant and tree also has life and is considered as a life form, some trees and plants are also worshiped, Thulasi (basil) plant and peepal tress are worshipped, a tree is not suppose to cut , the trees are even shifted from one place to another if needed to avoid cutting a tree, more over, before cutting a tree one has to chant certain mantra to relieve the tree and the one who cut the tree. We all knows well tress are the most integral part of human existence, we are closely inter knitted by nature, they provide us life giving energy we provide them life by our breathtaking mechanisms. Every aspect of this creation is closely connected to each other, we need an eye to look into it properly. In Ayurveda, it's said that before plucking a plant for medicine one is suppose to do a prayer and seek permission from the plant and also permission from the Lord who gives us those herbs. The nature provides all kinds of food also it gives the different food at different seasons. No need to kill a tree to get the fruits, once a fruit properly ripe it naturally dis connects from the mother code, more over the tree can't eat those fruits it produces. A paddy grass when ripe it fully, the plant dies, the plant won't eat its produce, more over one plant produces thousands of seeds not for its consumption. It is very clear indication from the side of the nature we should not interfere with the creation and the creator. If you rub against the universal laws you only get rubbed in the process. Green leaves in the presence of sunlight only can produce food, this process is called photosynthesis. These leaves animals eat and gain their body, meat eaters eat those dead bodies. Is there any compassion or logic in it ? Why don't we take the food produced by the nature directly from the nature through vegetation? There will be no killing involved then, much of environmental problems can be solved in the process too. Theologians teaches Everything for human consumption. This thinking is the most destructive thinking, it must change, !!! Some argue if we don't eat meat they lack of proteins, proteins are in abundance in beans, pulses and lentils, dry fruits etc. direct proteins without any side effect. Now WHO also recognized red meat consumption as source of cancer. India is the only culture in the world were large percentage of the ethnic Hindus are following the great tradition of non supporting the killings of innocent animals by not consuming dead animals.
A life of Lest disturbance is the yogic life. Physical Ahimsa (Non killing ) at absolute level may be not possible, while inhalation many micro organisms may go into our system and get killed which we can't avoid, also while walking or ploughing the ground for cultivation many lives of tiny creatures, bacteria or viruses can get killed, this is unavoidable in the life process, non violence at verbal and and intellectual or mental level is possible at absolute level once we trained ourselves. Ahimsa is a very broader term in Yoga Shastras, not jest refrain from killing alone, or assisting the killing or appropriate a killing, non hurting at verbal and mental levels also is a part of the sadhana. Sadhaka must consciously choose the food, food and mind is very closely connected. In Jainism Ahimsa is the highest dharma, they say "Ahimsaparamo dharmaha" , non hurting is the highest dharma. Ahimsa is the core of Jainism, a religion established in Ahimsa. Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation of Indian of modern India, established in ahimsa and satya, his two weapons for freedom fight were only ahimsa and satya with which he conquered the imperial colonial rule of the British in India. Once a person live with it and strictly adhere to it one can achieve perfection in it. Maharshi Patanjali says the result of Ahimsa, once a person establish in it "ahimsapratishtaayam tatsannidhau vairatyaagaha" means hostility no more exist in the presence of a person who established in ahimsa. There are many stories told about it in the ancient Indian tradition that even wild cruel animals live together in a very friendly manner in the presence of yogis. A sadhaka should observe at most care and alertness at every moment in his life while engaging each sense organs of perception and action. While speaking, ones words should be very appropriate and convey what one wanted to say in the most direct manner, not exciting, disrespectful, diplomatic, nor should use adjectives unnecessarily. The very look can sometimes reveal what a person is going convey, our body language should also not reveal any intentions to hurt, this is the highest form of yoga sadhana.
The second Yama is Satya ( truthfulness) one should observe truthfulness in his all engagements in life, speak as you know, as you here it, as you seen it, as you experience it, more over one should say the truth without adding or subtracting from ones side, truth also should not be spoken if that hurt others. Though its difficult, bearing the difficulties in following the path of truth is the real effort one is put in this. This is very big austerity, one should observe truth at all situations pleasant and unpleasant. Truth also should not be spoken if that hurt others, truth also should not be spoken if that is not good to others. This is how inner conflict occurs in a person who speak lie, the multiple personalities born in one, I know the truth but say it differently. The knower is one and the one who do or say it is differently. This pileup forms a typical personality problems. The spoken words are very valuable in Vedic tradition, it's equally acceptable as a deed. Maharshi Patanjali says once a person establish in the path of truth as " satyapratishtaayam kriyabhalashrayatvam" means once a person established in truth his actions become true, what ever comes from a persons mouth becomes true once he established in truth. By practices truth in ones life actions, word and thinking becomes in one line and spontaneous. If such person blesses you it becomes a reality. Ancient Hindu history has numerous evidence of it.
Asteya (non stealing)
Literally asteya means non stealing, it's a very common discipline to every human being in a social set up. Stealing is a criminal offense also. In yogic tradition even using anything belongs to others without their proper permission is regarded as a stealing. This is a story in Mahabharata, two monks lived on either side of the river bank in their huts in the forest, they used to get together quiet often by crossing the river, both were entrusted to the path of righteousness. At one visit, the monk did not see his friend in his hut, he was away for some work, he sat there for a length of time in his anticipation, he pick up some fruits from the garden and eats, by the time his friend came back, of seeing him eating the fruits he ask his friend, with whose consent you pluck the fruits? He also said picking the fruits without proper permission is a punishable offense. The forest belongs to the king, go to the king and get your punishment. This monk went to the court and told what he did, the king told him , you are a monk and live in the forest on the bank of the river you could eat the fruits and it won't need any permission nor any punishment for it. The monk won't be happy with that and keep on insisting the king to give him due punishment for picking the fruits with out his permission. The king get angry ordered to cut his both hands, kings men severed his both hands, he went back to his friend and show him, of seeing his friends honestly he become happy and told him with out permission not even touching others thing also is a punishable offense, he also blessed his friend giving him back his both hands as it was before. Stealing is regard as a papakarma ( sinful or disgraceful action) in the tradition, stealing others things as a universal crime, every cultures in the world accept it as a crime. A yoga sadhaka is suppose to maintain conflict free life by maintaining the value of the value of non stealing strictly at mental, verbal and physical levels. Maharshi Patanjali says asteyapratishtayam sarvaretnopasthanam" means once a person establish in the path of non stealing or honestly, all hidden treasures reveals to him by virtue. It's said in the tradition once a person established in asteya he may be able to know what's deep underneath the ground. One gets extra sensory perception.
A sadhaka in the path of yoga should be a brahmachary, in order to preserve energy for the higher spiritual pursuits. It also means a contemplative life devoted in the pursuit of knowing the Brahman (Lord). In ancient Hindu tradition one has to spend the first twenty five years as a celibate and during this time he should spend with the teacher in his home named as Gurukula. The life of a Brahmachary is highly disciplined, he is suppose to sleep on the floor with out even a pillow, should get up at Brahmamuhoorta ( the time between 3 am to jest before Sun rise) do a cold shaver and engage oneself in the study of the Shastras also partake in the rituals and other day today work in the Gurukula to help the teacher. In return to his service in the Gurukula, the Guru teaches all the disciplines and scriptures. Once a brahmachary learned the knowledge of the Shastras he returns to take the responsibility of home or choose the path of a renunciate depends upon the wishes and maturity of each Brahmachary. Brahmachary intended for a highly disciplined life with no indulgence in sensual pleasure so that the energy could be saved and conserved for study and spiritual purposes. In any field of human endeavor a disciplined life style would be a boon. One has to mentally withdraw from indulging in sensual stimulating thoughts. If any kinds of thoughts occurs one should neutralize that thoughts with opposite thoughts. Verbally also one should refrain from doing anything that can break his vow of celibacy, more over one should not physically indulge in any form of actions which may break his vow of continence. This way the mental and physical energy conserved and diverted toward the pursuit of study. Celibacy is a very important part of the yoga sadhana. Ayurveda says the essence of blood is semen, which is known in yogic tradition as viirya ( the power) preserving it is very important for strength, vitality, vigor, intelligence and brilliance. In observing Brahmachary One can achieve mental sharpness, better memory, clarity in vision and strength in absorption, prevention in physical erosion, inner stability, enthusiasm,courage, determination, will power, motivation, lightness, spiritual elevation. Maharshi Patanjali indicated the benefits of Brahmachary as " Brahmacharypratishthayam viiryalabhaha" means being established in Brahmachary one gains power.
Aparigraha (Non covetousness)
It is not accumulating things beyond ones bare needs, accumulation of things beyond ones needs is a mental attitude. This is became of ones feelings of insecurity, keeps him hoarding things beyond ones requirements, one has to change ones attitude towards this attitude. A sadhaka in the path of yoga totally submitted to the feet of the Lord, what ever situations comes in he made himself to accept whole heartedly. A sadhaka is only suppose to keep those things in his possessions which are barely needed him in his life. Insecurity is main reason behind hoarding things, one should always think about future, trying to make the future brighter, better, secure in the process one forget to live in the present. Life only is in the present, future is jest an imagination, if comes true it's well and good, yoga teaches us to live in the present always unconcerned about the past and forget the worries of the future. Hindu Shastras says do what's to be done in the present, so one has to live always in the present and live every moment fully well with contentment and devotion. Hoarding things only makes the life more miserable, loose of things, theft, worry of the market conditions, enmity and danger from known and unknown sources all the accompanying results of hoarding. A life of least possessions are advised in yoga sadhana. No worldly things can give you the security which you are looking for, holding things only can further bind you to insecure world of material things . Going by possessing any amount of worldly thing you are not going to be poornaha (complete). The human body itself is accumulated over a period of time, food transforms as the body , we are suppose to get rid all the material possessions as well as our mental possessions, like hatred, jealousy, anger, passion, greed, longing, fear, ego, hypocrisy, ostentation, arrogance, etc. for progress in yoga sadhana. hoarding always a hurdle in the pursuit of self knowledge. A mental urge for possessing any material things also one has to renounce in yoga sadhana. The advantage of non possession stated by Patanjali is that " Aparigrahasthairye janmakathantasambodhah" means by establishing in non possessiveness one may regain the knowledge of past lives. Mind of the yogi became crystal clear and ready to gain the knowledge of the previous births once he established in the path of aparigraha.
These five Yama's are great vows , all sadhaka's irrespective of gender one has to fully adhere to it, there is no male female differences in yoga sadhana. These are the universal values structure laid down by Patanjali, at every time and at every place one should observe it. In some religions beliefs, they only observe a disciplined life in a few days or a months time in a year,also they don't kill or eat meat in certain time or certain date. Patanjali instructed to those in the pursuit of samadhi should observe these rules strictly at all times, and all places, all genders. The doubt is cleared from the minds of sadhaka' s here. If you are a yoga sadhaka and you live in a country were culture, customs, habits and commitment may be different, irrespective of it you should follow strictly the five rules mentioned above in interacting with the world he live. These Yama's balances ones inner faculty with external faculties, body and the environment were he live, more over ones commitment to the spiritual pursuit became smooth, stable and clear.