Yoga of Right Conduct
1. Ethics or ethical science treats about Sadachara or right conduct, morality or duty. Ethics is the science of morals, that branch of philosophy which is concerned with human character and conduct.
2. Conduct is behaviour. Deportment, carriage, demeanour, conduct, behaviour are synonymous terms. The way in which rational beings should behave towards each other as well as towards other creatures is dealt with in the science of morals or ethics.
3. To speak the truth; to practice Ahimsa; not to hurt the feelings of others in thought, word and deed; not to speak harsh words to anyone; not to show anger towards anybody; not to abuse others or speak ill of others and to see God in all beings is Sadachara. If you abuse anyone, if you hurt the feelings of others, really you are abusing yourself and hurting the feelings of God only. Himsa (injuring) is a deadly enemy of Bhakti and Jnana. It separates and divides. It stands in the way of realising unity or oneness of Self.
4. That act or exertion which does not do good to others, or that act for which one has to feel shame should never be done. That act on the other hand, should be done for which one may be lauded in Society. This is a brief description of what right conduct is.
5. Lord Manu says in the Smriti: “Achara (good conduct) is the highest Dharma, declared by the Sruti and by the Smriti. Thus beholding the path of Dharma issue from Achara, the sages embrace Achara as the root of all Tapas.”
6. Righteousness, Truth, good works, power and prosperity all originate from conduct. You will find in the Mahabharata: “The mark of Dharma is Achara (good conduct). Achara is the mark of good. Higher than all teaching is Achara. From Achara, Dharma is born, and Dharma enhances the life. By Achara man attains life; by Achara he attains prosperity; by Achara he attains fair fame, here and hereafter. He who is the friend of all beings, he who is intent on the welfare of all with act, thought and speech—he only knoweth Dharma.”
7. Dharma is extremely subtle (Ati Sukshma) intricate and complex. Even sages are perplexed. Dharma gives wealth, satisfaction of desires and liberation in the end. Dharma tops the list of the four Purusharthas, viz., Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Dharma is generally termed as duty, righteousness, etc. Any action that is best calculated to bring Sreyas (Moksha) is Dharma. That which brings well-being to human beings is Dharma.
8. All that is free from any motive of injury to any being is surely morality. For, indeed the moral precepts have been made to free the creatures from all injuries. Dharma is so called because it protects all. Indeed morality saves all creatures.
9. The conduct is the root of prosperity. Conduct increases fame. It is conduct which prolongs life. It is conduct which destroys all calamities and evils. Conduct has been said to be superior to all the branches of knowledge.
10. It is by conduct that one acquires a long life, and is by conduct that one acquires riches and prosperity. It is a means to attain the goal of life. Without good conduct no one can achieve the goal. Good conduct brings in fame, longevity, wealth and happiness. It eventually leads to Moksha. It is conduct that begets virtue, and it is virtue which prolongs life. Conduct gives fame, long life and heaven. Conduct is the most efficacious rite of propitiating the celestials.
11. The good and virtuous are so on account of the conduct they follow. The marks, again of good conduct are afforded by the deeds of those that are good or righteous. Indeed, it is by conduct that one acquires the fame that depends upon great deeds both in this world and in the next. For sooth, one may, by his conduct alone, conquer the three worlds. There is nothing which virtuous persons cannot obtain. A person of good deeds and good, pleasant and sweet speech has no peer. People regard that man who acts righteously and who does good acts even if they only hear of him without actually seeing him.
12. The man whose conduct is improper or wicked never acquires a long life. All creatures fear such a man and are oppressed by him. If therefore one wishes his own advancement and prosperity, one should in this world, follow the path of righteousness and conduct himself properly. Good conduct succeeds in removing the inauspiciousness and misery of even one who is sinful.
13. The man of right conduct has ideals, principles and mottoes. He strictly follows them, removes his weaknesses and defects and develops good conduct and becomes a Sattvic man. He is very careful in behaving with his elders, parents, teachers, Acharyas, sisters, brothers, friends, relatives, strangers and others. He attempts to know what is right and wrong, by approaching Sadhus and Mahatmas and by studying scriptures very carefully and then treads the path of righteousness or Dharma.
14. The man of right conduct always cares for the welfare of all beings. He lives in harmony with the neighbours and all people. He never hurts the feelings of others, never speaks lies. He practices Brahmacharya. He checks the evil tendencies of the mind and prepares himself through the practice of right conduct to attain the Bliss of union with Paramatman.
15. An aspirant went to Veda Vyasa and said: “O Maharshi, Avatara of Vishnu, I am in a dilemma. I cannot properly comprehend the right significance of the term ‘Dharma.’ Some say it is right conduct. Others say that which leads to Moksha and happiness is Dharma. Anything, any action that brings you down is Adharma. Lord Krishna says: ‘Even sages are puzzled to understand perfectly what is Dharma, what is Adharma. Gahana karmano gatih—Mysterious is the path of action.’ I am bewildered. O Maharshi, kindly give me a very, very easy definition of Dharma to enable me to follow Dharma in all my actions.” Maharshi Vyasa replied: “O aspirant! Hear me. I shall suggest an easy method. Remember the following sayings always with great care when you do any action. ‘Do as you would be done by. Do unto others as you wish others do unto you.’ This is the whole of Dharma. Attend to this carefully. You will be saved from all troubles. If you follow these wise maxims, you can never give any pain unto others. Practice this in your daily life. Even if you fail one hundred times, it does not matter. Your old Samskaras Asubha Vasanas are your real enemies. They will come in the way as stumbling blocks. But persevere. You will succeed in the attainment of the goal.” The aspirant strictly adhered to Vyasa’s instructions and attained liberation.
16. This is a very good maxim. The whole gist of Sadachara or right conduct is here. If one practices this very carefully he will not commit any wrong act. ‘To work in accordance with the Divine Will is right; to work in opposition to the Divine Will is wrong.’
17. God, Religion and Dharma are inseparable. All human beings are characterized by righteousness, and they in course of natural progress and improvement attain to the dignity of God. Man evolves through practice of Dharma according to his caste and order of life and eventually attains Self-realisation, the ultimate goal of life, which brings infinite Bliss, supreme peace, unbroken joy, highest knowledge, eternal satisfaction and Immortality. Ethical perfection is a prerequisite to Self-realisation.
18. Metaphysics rests on morality. Morality rests on metaphysics. Morality has Vedanta as its basis. The Upanishad says: “Thy neighbour, in truth, is thy very Self, and what separates you from him is mere illusion.” Sadachara is the basis for the realization of Atmic unity or oneness of life or Advaitic feeling of oneness everywhere. Ethical culture prepares you for the Vedantic realization of: “Sarvam khalvidam Brahma—All indeed is Brahman.”
2. Ethical Discipline
1. ‘Atman or Self is one. There is one common consciousness in all beings. All Jivas are reflections of the one Supreme Soul or Paramatman. Just as one sun is reflected in all pots of water, so also the one Supreme Being is reflected in all human beings. One cannot become many. One appears as many. One is real. Many are illusory. Separateness is illusory. Separateness is temporary. Unity is real. Unity is Eternal. One life vibrates in all beings. Life is common in animals, birds and human beings. Existence its common.’ This is the emphatic declaration of the Upanishads. This primary truth of Religion is the foundation of ethics or Sadachara. If you hurt another man, you hurt yourself. If you help another man, you help yourself. On account of ignorance one man hurts another man. He thinks that other beings are separate from himself. So he exploits others. So he is selfish, greedy, proud and egoistic. If you are really aware that one Self pervades, permeates all beings, that all beings are threaded on the Supreme Self, as the row of pearls on a string, how can you hurt another man, how can you exploit another man?
2. Who of us is really anxious to know the Truth about God or Divine Life? We are more ready to ask ourselves: “How much money you have got in the Imperial Bank? Who said that against me? Do you know who I am? How are your wife and children doing?” and questions of this sort than questions like: “Who am I? What is this Samsara? What is bondage? What is freedom? Whence have I come? Whither shall I go? Who is Isvara? What are the attributes of God? What is our relationship to God? How to attain Moksha? What is the Svarupa of Moksha?”
3. The beginning of ethics is to reflect upon ourselves, our surroundings and our actions. Before we act we must stop to think. When a man earnestly attends to what he recognises as his duties, he will progress and in consequence thereof his comfort and prosperity will increase. His pleasures will be more refined; his happiness, his enjoyments and recreations will be better and nobler. Happiness is like a shadow; if pursued it will flee from us, but if a man does not trouble himself about it and strictly attends to his duties, pleasures of the best and noblest kind will crop out everywhere in his path. If he does not anxiously pursue it, happiness will follow him.
4. The increase or rather refinement of happiness, however, cannot be considered as the ultimate aim of ethics, for pain and affliction increase at the same rate because man’s irritability, his susceptibility to pain grows with the growth of his intellectuality. The essence of all existence is evolution or a constant realization of new ideals. Therefore the elevation of all human emotions, whether they are painful or happy, the elevation of man’s existence, of his actions and aspirations, is the constant aim of ethics.
5. The Socratic formula: “Virtue is knowledge,” is found to be an adequate explanation of the moral life of man. Knowledge of what is right, is not coincident with doing it, for man, while knowing the right course is found deliberately choosing the wrong one. Desire tends to run counter to the dictates of reason; and the will, perplexed by the difficulty of reconciling two such opposite demands, tends to choose the easier course and follow the inclination rather than to endure the pain of refusing desire in obedience to the voice of reason. Hence mere intellectual instruction is not sufficient to ensure right doing. There arises the further need for chastisement or the straightening of the crooked will, in order to ensure its cooperation with reason in assenting to what it affirms to be right, and its refusal to give preference to desire or the irrational element in man’s nature when such desire runs counter to the rational principle.
6. The pure reason urges a man to what is the best. The Asuric nature of a man fights and struggles against the man. The impulses of a man who has not undergone the ethical discipline runs counter to his reason. All advice, all rebuke and exhortation, all admonition testify that the irrational part is amenable to reason.
7. The basis of good manners is self-reliance. For such reasons have the great founders and eminent teachers of all religions repeatedly proclaimed the need for recognising the Godhead within and for self-reliance in the last resort rather than any texts and persons and customs. Self-reliance is the basis of behaviour.
8. Self-control is the greatest in the man whose life is dominated by ideals and general principles of conduct. The final end of moral discipline is self-control. The whole nature of man must be disciplined. Each element requires its specific training. Discipline harmonises the opposing elements of his soul. The self-control will enable the aspirant to know the Truth, to desire the good and win the right and thus to realise the Reality.
9. Discipline is the training of our faculties, through instructions and through exercise, in accordance with some settled principle of authority. You must discipline not only the intellect but also the will and the emotions. A disciplined man will control his actions. He is no longer at the mercy of the moment. He ceases to be a slave of his impulses and Indriyas. Such mastery is not the result of one day’s effort. One can acquire the power by protracted practice and daily self-discipline. You must learn to refuse the demands of impulses. A self-controlled man will be able to resist the wrong action to which a worldly man is most strongly impelled.
3. Ethics is a Means to Yoga
1. All aspirants commit mistakes now in jumping to Samadhi and Dhyana all at once as soon as they leave their houses without caring a bit for ethical perfection. The mind remains in the same condition although they have practiced meditation for fifteen years. They have the same jealousy, hatred, idea of superiority, pride, egoism, etc. Meditation and Samadhi come by themselves when one has the ethical perfection.
2. Sadachara or right conduct is the foundation of Yoga. Yoga is rooted in virtue. Ethical discipline is very necessary for success in Yoga. Ethical discipline is the practice of right conduct in life. One should be well established in Sadachara to begin with. Sadachara is the practice of Yama-Niyama. Yama and Niyama are the two moral backbones of Yoga, which the aspirant must practice in his daily life. These correspond roughly to the ten commandments of Jesus or to the noble eight fold path of Lord Buddha. Practice of Yama-Niyama will eradicate all impurities of the mind.
3. Yama is the very foundation of Yoga, without which the superstructure of Yoga cannot be built. Yama is the practice of Ahimsa (abstinence from injury and killing), Satyam (truthfulness), Asteya (abstinence from theft or falsehood), Brahmacharya (continence) and Aparigraha (abstinence from avariciousness or greed). Patanjali Maharshi mentions the above five chief items for practice in Yama. In every religion you will find this to be the foremost. Great emphasis is given in every chapter of the Gita on the practice of Yama.
4. Niyama is the observance of the five canons, viz., Saucha, Santosha, Tapas, Svadhyaya and Isvara Pranidhana. According to Sandilya Rishi, the practice of Saucha, Daya, Arjava, Dhriti and Mitahara is included in Yama. Saucha is external and internal purity. Washing the hands, taking baths, etc., are for external purity. Filling the mind with pure divine thoughts is internal purity.
5. “The mind becomes pure by cultivating habits of friendliness, compassion, complacency and indifference towards happiness, misery, virtue and vice.” Whosoever shows friendliness towards all those who are found in the enjoyments of pleasures, the dirt of envy leaves him. When the mind shows compassion towards those who are suffering from pain and the wish to remove the miseries of others as if they were his own, the dirt of the desire to do evil to others is removed. Whoever shows complacency towards those who are virtuously inclined beings, the dirt of envy is removed from his mind. Whoever shows indifference towards the vicious and taking to the middle path and not taking sides, towards the viciously inclined, the dirt of the impatience is removed from his mind.
6. By this removal of the characteristics of the qualities of disturbing energy (Rajas) and inertia (Tamas), the characteristic of essential purity (Sattva) manifests itself. He becomes possessed of a very high manifestation of essential purity. His mind becomes inclined to the side of the restraint of mental modifications, because this enlightenment is natural to that state. When the mind becomes pure it attains the state of steadiness and becomes one-pointed. If these moral qualities are not cultivated, the means cannot lead to steadiness. Therefore, one should be well established in Sadachara if he wants to attain perfection in yoga. When one is established in it perfectly, then Samadhi or Nishtha will come by itself.
4. Glory of Sadachara
1. A man, who has attached ethical perfection by the continued practice of right conduct or Yama and Niyama, has got a magnetic personality. He can influence millions. Character gives a strong personality to man. People respect a man who has good character. Moral people command respect everywhere. He who is honest, sincere, truthful, kind and liberal-hearted always commands respect and influence at the people. Sattvic virtues make a man Divine. He who speaks truth and practices Brahmacharya becomes a great and dynamic personality. Even if he speaks a word there is power in it and people are magnetized. Character building is of paramount importance if a man wants to develop his personality. No development of a strong personality is possible without celibacy. Personality can be developed. But the practice of virtue is indispensable.
2. A man may die but his character remains. His thoughts remain. It is the character that gives real force and power to man. Character is power. They say knowledge is power but I say with all the emphasis at my command that character is power. Without character the attainment of knowledge is impossible. That man who has no character is practically a dead man in this world. He is ignored and despised by the community. If you want success in life, if you want to influence others, if you want to progress well in the spiritual path, if you wish to have God-realisation, you must possess an unblemished or spotless character. The character of a man survives or outlives him. Sri Sankara, Buddha, Jesus and other Rishis of yore are remembered even now because they had wonderful character. Character is a mighty soul-force. It is like a sweet flower that wafts its fragrance far and wide. A man of noble traits and good character possesses a tremendous personality. Personality is character only. A man may be a skillful artist, a clever songster, an adorable poet or a great scientist, but if he has no character he has no real position in the society.
3. You must be polite, civil and courteous. You must treat others with respect and consideration. Good manners and soft words have brought many a difficult thing to pass. He who gives respect to others gets respect. Humility brings respect by itself. Humility is a virtue that subdues the hearts of others. A man of humility is a powerful magnet or loadstone.
4. Note carefully how the Rishis had given instructions to their students when they had finished their course of study: “Speak the truth. Do your duty. Do not neglect the study of the Vedas. Do not swerve from Truth. Do not swerve from duty. Do not neglect your welfare. Do not neglect your prosperity. Do not neglect the learning and teachings of Vedas. Do not neglect the duties towards God and forefathers. May the Mother be thy God (Matri-devo bhava). May the Father be thy God (Pitri-devo bhava). May the preceptor be thy God (Acharya-devo bhava). May the guest be thy God (Atithi-devo bhava). Do such actions as are blameless. Those that are good works to us, they should be performed by thee, and none else. Those Brahmins that are superior to us, they should be comforted by thee with seats, etc. Give with faith. Do not give without faith. Give with joy, with modesty, with fear, with kindness.”
5. Righteousness is eternal. Do not leave the path of righteousness even if your life is in danger. Do not leave righteousness for the sake of some material gain. A virtuous life and a clean conscience give great deal of comfort to a man while living and at the time of death also. A holy man with piety is far superior to the mighty potentate. God is much pleased with a pious man. Lord Krishna says: “Even if the most sinful worshipeth Me, with undivided heart, he too must be accounted righteous, for he hath rightly resolved.” There is a great hope even for a cutthroat, if he makes a strong determination and takes up the spiritual path.
6. Dear friends! Do your duties in a satisfactory manner in accordance with Sadachara. Apply yourself diligently to all kinds of your daily duties. Consult the Sastras and Mahatmas whenever you are in doubt. Build up your character. This will give you success in life. Practise daily to remove old evil habits. Establish daily virtuous healthy habits. Character will help you to attain the goal of life. Character is your very being. Evolve. Expand. Grow. May the character take you to the Atmic Bliss and Self-realisation.
7. Nectar’s sons! Children of Immortality! Shake off all weaknesses. Stand up. Gird up the loins. Have Sadachara satisfactorily in accordance with your caste or stage in life. Evolve quickly in spiritual path. Eternal Bliss, Supreme Peace, Infinite Knowledge can be had only in God (Atman). Practice of Sadachara will surely lead you to the attainment of God-consciousness. There is no happiness in finite objects. Infinite alone is Bliss. Understand the Truth through the practice of Sadachara. This world is unreal. It is like a mirage. Senses and mind are deceiving you at every moment. Wake up. Open your eyes. Learn to discriminate. Do not trust your Indriyas. They are your enemies. It is very difficult to get a human birth. Life is short. Time is fleeting. Walk in the path of Sadachara. Those who cling to unreal things of this world are verily committing suicide. Struggle hard to practice Sadachara.
Keep up the ideal always before your eyes. Attempt to realise the ideal. Stick to Sadachara with leech-like tenacity. Practise it and realise Sat-chit-ananda state right now in this very second.