Yama and Niyama are Ethico-Religious Principles
1. Moral and ethical principles work in social realms. Yoga [lacks] any social reference. It is individualized, personalized and inward. Where is the field of moral and ethical practices? It is on the plane of behavior. Morals and ethics [refer to] the face value of a person. We don’t need a face value while in adhyatmic spiritual practice, yoga practice.
2. [Each of us] claims to be morally and ethically [superior] compared to another person. That is [based] on a relative concept of morals and ethics. We can be critical of the morals and ethics of others, while deeming ourselves morally and ethically strong.
3.Just because you are not committing himsa (harm), does not mean that you are necessarily ahimsic (non-harmful). If you do not indulge in a-satya (non-truthfulness), it doesn’t mean that you are satyic (truthful). When a person is not bad, it does not imply that he is good, [and vice-versa]. A good person must be a good person….
[Thus,] even if you are not un-ethical, you cannot claim to be ethical. If you are not im-moral, you cannot claim to be moral…. If a person is not ugly, it does not mean that he is handsome, … [and vice-versa].
Yama & Niyama are Vows +4.25
1. If we claim to practice ahimsa and satya, someone might say that we are in ahimsa, …and satya…. But Patanjali is not dealing with moral and ethical principles. He is dealing with ethico-religious principles.
If we practice ahimsa, and do not indulge in himsa (harm), we may be good, but we haven’t taken a vow to be a good person. A person can be noble without taking a vow to be noble.
2. But Patanjali, [after listing the yamas], has immediately [classified] them as a vrata (vow). [Here] it is a great vow (maha-vrata), not an atomic (lesser) vow. That is why there is dharma. These ten principles of yama and niyama are vows…. If you were just practicing them, it would not be sufficient…. Patanjali expects that practice will be a vrata. Vrata means vow.
As rendered into English, vow does not properly connote [the significance of] vrata. Vrata (vow) is a unique concept in the Sanatana dharma (Hinduism). Vratas have great prowess and power. Vratas are culturally… sublime (powerful)… because they are dharmic practices. Why is yoga an achar niti dharma? Because Patanjali immediately [classifies] yama and niyama as a vrata. Vratas only come in dharma.
3. Vratas do not come in moral and ethical principles. Moral and ethical people have not necessarily [taken] a vrata (vow)…. Patanjali expects [moral and ethical principles] to come under the framework of a vrata. That’s why he has immediately mentioned vrata after yama.
4. They are either an anu-vrata (lesser vow), or a maha-vrata (great vow). We should [aim] for an anu-vrata (lesser vow), and not wait for a maha-vrata (great vow). We must take atomic vows (anu-vrata) that can be practiced. Great vows cannot be practiced….
5. There is a dharmic aspect in yama and niyama. If there were no dharma, we would not need to take a vrata. Vrata does not have an English [counterpart]. It is not only a vow. Vows are taken out of resolve. Vrata is taken out of a dharmic practice. That is why yama and niyama are aspects of achar dharma niti pranali (ethico-religious principles and practices). They are not moral and ethical practices.
6. Even in PYS II.28, which begins with yoganga-anusthanat (dedicated practice of the limbs of yoga), anusthana cannot be [accurately] rendered into English. Reverential practice does not carry the proper connotation. Anusthana only comes in karma. There is karma–anusthana, jnana–anusthana, mantra–anusthana, and yoga–anusthana.
Today we are not aware of yoga–anusthana, only yoga practices. Although we think of yoga as something to practice…, it [requires] a framework of anusthana. Patanjali speaks of anusthana when it comes to the ashtanga yoga: yoganga (limbs of yoga) – anusthanat…. The sutra did not state yoga–sadhanat (practice). There are arduous… preparatory stages prior to anusthana — such as sadhana, practices, disciplines, etc.
Yama and niyama come under anusthana. So there is dharma. Anusthana applies only to karma, jnana, mantra, and yoga….
What is Meditation?+11.20
1. Meditation has become so fashionable that [doctors] have begun to prescribe meditation for coronary management, stress management, etc…. Although everyone wants to try meditation, no one wants to know what it is. This is a very strange scenario. If you intend to meditate, why not try to understand it…?
A student stated, “Guruji stated that his yoga was a dynamic meditation….” [One must] question how Iyengar’s yoga could be a dynamic meditation. Usually one imagines sitting quietly, relaxing, and closing the eyes…, as meditation…. It is important to know what meditation is.
2. Meditation is a psychological, or psycho-mental, act. I am not talking about dhyana. Meditation is not dhyana. Meditation is a component of the wider concept of dhyana…. Dhyana [entails] a wider scope. Westerners, particularly, are interested in meditation, as opposed to dhyana. They are unfamiliar with dhyana, but have been told that dhyana is meditation. Therefore they want to go for meditation.
3. Let me give a little explanation of what meditation is. Meditation is a psychological, or psycho-mental, act. It is of the brain, in the brain, from the brain, and by the brain. That is why it is a psychological, or psycho-mental, process. Meditation always has a thought.
Absolute thoughtlessness is not meditation. It is something else, when the mind is restrained. It is what Patanjali called chitta-vritti nirodhah, cessation of (nirodha) the movements (vritti) of consciousness (chitta). It is a different state. [By contrast] meditation is not bereft of thought.
4. When we worldly people only know about thought, we are in the thinking [process]. We think. Then there is a thought…. We [continue] thinking. Then there is more thought…. We are thoughts.
Thoughts are inward and outward movements that come and go. Thoughts arrive, and thoughts depart. So there is thought traffic.
5. Meditation differs from our thoughts that occur in a mundane, worldly, wakeful state…. Meditation is a thought process that can only take place in particular realms. Not every thought…, qualifies for, or culminates in, a meditative state. Only a few sublime, transcendent thoughts are suitable for a meditative state. So, meditation depends on how transcendent and virtuous a thought is…. [Not just] any thought can land in a meditative state.
6. When there is thought, there is, invariably, thinking. When there is thinking, there is a thinker. There is a triad — thinker, thinking, thought — that constitutes the process of our thought, whether meditative or non-meditative….
[Although] we worldly people are only used to thinking… about a thought, it will never land us in a meditative state.
7. So, what, then, is meditation?
There is this tripartite constitution that tells the thinker that there is thinking and a thought…. We are used to having a process of thinking about a thought. We don’t have a process of thinking about thinking. It is essential to have a thinking process about 1) thinking itself; and 2) the thinker. We have to also find a thought in 1) thinking itself; and 2) the thinker….
Meditation — Thought About Thought +20.00
1. Don’t just think the thought. Investigate the very thought. What is this thought? Why is this thought needed? Where has this thought come from? What is the subject matter of this thought? What is the realm of this thought…? Investigate the thought.
What is the agency from which I got this thought? What is the purpose of this thought? Should I keep thinking about this thought?
2. That thought persists under scrutiny is implied in meditation…. Is this thought good for me? Should I continue with the thought or do away with it? Is the thought harmful? Is the thought… nourishing, helping me go inward…?
3. Let there be thought about the thought content, the thought container, thought resource, thought source, subject matter of thought, purpose of thought, worth of thought, value of thought.
4. You would not likely be thinking of something if you were convinced… it would be worthless…. Therefore, if it were to disturb or annoy you, you would not continue to encourage the thought.
5. There should be scrutiny. There should be thought about the thought, and not just thinking the thought. Thought about thought is a component of meditation.
Meditation — Thought About Thinking +22.55
1. How am I thinking? Why am I thinking? What are the tools I am using for thinking?
Perception, cognition, sensation, memory… constitute your thinking…. So, investigate about the very thinking.
How is thinking taking place? What is the data supporting my thinking? What underlies my thinking…? There will be perception, cognition, and sensations…. Thought about thinking is a component of meditation….
2. Even if thought and thinking are good processes, sometimes they [occur] at the wrong place and time. Is it the right time to think about the thought? Is it the right time, space and situation…?
3. Look at this objectively. Don’t just keep on thinking and keep on thinking…. Is it worthwhile at this time to think about it? We have to objectify this. Is it the right time to be thinking this thought? There should be thought about thinking.
Meditation — Thought About Thinker +25.45
1. What is the state of the thinker? Am I in the proper state of mind to be thoughtful? Am I vexed, …tormented, …angry, or …prejudiced? There’s no point of having a thought process when you are prejudiced about that particular thing.
2. Investigate the thinker…. Does the thinker have the proper state of mind and profile [capacity] to be thoughtful then and there? It is not the right to be thinking of the thinker if you are vexed, agonized, tormented, or if malaise has [arisen]….
Meditation — Analyze & Scrutinize Thought, Thinking, Thinker +27.05
1. Meditativity means having a thought about the thinker, the thinking, and the thought…. If you don’t analyze your thoughts, some thoughts may be potentially stressful or anxiety-provoking…. Veer away from such thoughts that vex your mind.
2. Thought, thinking, and the thinker must be analyzed and scrutinized…. Thinking about the thinker, and thinking, rather than thinking about the thought object, are components of meditation….
3. You have to select aproper thought object, or thought content,for meditation. [Just] any thought content cannot lead towards meditation…. The thinking process should be scrutinized….
4. In short, a definition of meditation is primarily thought on the thinker, the thinking, and the thought.
Evolvement will take place in the reverse manner: Thought about thought, thinking, and the thinker. The culmination is when the thinker is known, and the thinker can be objectified, assessed, investigated, and understood.
Yogic subject matter is the best subject for meditation.
Iyengar’s Yoga — Dynamic Meditation +30.25
1. Why did Guruji call his yoga dynamic meditation? Let me clarify that Iyengar Yoga is not dynamic meditation, but Iyengar’s yoga was dynamic meditation. Just because we Iyengar students are doing Iyengar yoga, we should not complacently [presume] that we are doing dynamic meditation. His yoga was spiritual meditation because yogasana [can be] a wonderful condition to enter into the academy of meditation.
2. Address the body, mind, and breath. Set right the subjective entity. Set right the asana. Set right the instruments. In the classic rendition of asana, there is a subjective entity, an objective entity, and an instrumental entity.
3. Sometimes the subjective entity comes on the anvil. This started happening to Guruji in his practices. He was not just trying to perfect his Sirsasana. He was [placing] his subjective entity on the anvil, on the operating table. He carved, sculpted, and cultured the subjective entity.
He objectified the subjective entity. That is called becoming a self-witness…. He had the ability to auto-witness in his yoga. That’s how he set right his subjective entity.
We have mistaken that process for just going on to correct our Sirsasana, Sarvangasana, and Trikonasana without correcting our [own] subjective profile. That is the implication of asana. Guruji would be [objectifying his own subjective entity].
4. There will be a thought process in any asana. This is an adhyatmic thought process. Usually there is an external limit for us when we are in our thought process. Whereas, in yoga there is no external limitation.
5. There is karma kriya, jnana kriya, and dhyana kriya in yoga asana. Guruji didn’t only scrutinize his asana, but he also scrutinized his instrument. What would be the point of doing a [visually] perfect Sirsasana by hook or by crook? The instrument should be… scrutinized.
How am I doing? How are the instruments doing? Are they being used justifiably? Are they being used properly? We [mistakenly] don’t bother about the instruments in [the pursuit of] perfection because we think of posture as a spectacle, not as an… internal process….
6. Guruji would have thought about the instruments… and the subjective entity because you get reflections in meditation… The higher faculty functions [through] the processes of pensivity, reflectivity, and meditativity. You can’t meditate if there is no reflection and no reflectivity.
You don’t meditate on a thought. You meditate on the reflection of a thought. If there is no reflectivity, then there is no meditation. It should be pensive. These are higher faculty functions. That’s why I said at the outset that these are psychological and psycho-mental processes.
7. [The ability to] meditate arises out of pensivity, reflectivity, and meditativity. But we have messed up our understanding. We [mistakenly] think that we must first concentrate, and that concentration will lead to meditation… through the triad of concentration, meditation, and trance. That is faulty.
Concentration will never give you meditativity. Concentration is always on an object. Can you imagine concentrating without any sensory object? You must have a sensory object to concentrate…. Thus, concentration is psycho-sensory. That is why education is so important — to have the proper crystallization…. That will escalate to a higher state.
8. Concentration, involvement, and then absorption. You can become absorbed in a sensory object.
We have wrongly brought in meditation as a link because of the mistaken [translation] of dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (trance). Dharana, in that sense, is not concentration. Dhyana, in that sense, is not meditation. Samadhi, in that sense, is not trance. They happen progressively in the psycho-mental realm. Meditation is not a link….
10 When does meditation come? It comes in higher-faculty functions — pensivity, reflectivity, and meditativity. There must be reflectivity for meditativity. An object must be worthy of reflection… to [bring about] meditativity.
Pensivity, reflectivity, and meditativity are churned out by the process of thought, thinking, and thinker. Identify them. Classify them. Recognize them.
What is churned here? The thought about the thought, the thought about the thinking, and the thought about the thinker, and, again, [in reverse order]…. Reflectivity and meditativity [evolve] out of this churning. This rotary process does the churning.
From an educational perspective, note that meditativity does not come from concentration. You don’t need concentration to be meditative. You need a good, noble object for thought to move around. Not every object is worthy of meditation.
11 Then you must dissect the thought, thinking, and thinker…. Identify each one of them. Objectify each one of them. Analyze each one of them. Investigate each one of them. Scrutinize each one of them. Cyclically doing that will end up in meditativity.
12 Guruji’s yoga was a dynamic meditation because he was dealing with aspects from the core to the periphery, and the periphery to the core — all aspects of me and mine, objectivity, instrumentality, and subjectivity.
That’s why there was thought about thinking… and the thinker. It was a meditative process. Guruji was not just perfecting asana. He was trying to carve, sculpt, and also set right the instrumental and subjective entities. That’s why there was meditativity in his asanas.
13 How will you embark upon this process in your practices? As I said earlier in Lesson 4, try to understand the syntax — “I am doing Trikonasana. Trikonasana is being done. Trikonasana is being done on me.”
Trikonasana is done by the breath and by the mind. Trikonasana is done for the breath and for the mind. I’m doing Trikonasana [differs from] Trikonasana being done on me.
This classical process will bring you to the horizon of meditativity in your process. You will begin to understand how an asana can be a meditative state.
14 In asana we will go for a state of mind, and a state of mind is always a thought matter. You can’t have a good state of mind without any thought matter, scheme of thoughts, or content of thought. They must be there, behind the state of your mind.
In a natural, organic yogic process, a state of mind always has an underlying [foundation of] thought matter, and thought structure [built on top of it]….
Only in an inorganic process can you have a state of mind without a thought substrate. If you [consume] a psychedelic drug, it does not require a thought scheme to have a psychedelic state. The drug will do that. That is an unnatural, inorganic process.
In yoga you naturally and organically work on your state of mind….
15 Bear in mind that there is always a thought pattern, a thought scheme, and thought arrangement behind that state of mind. Sirsasana and Savasana are not like a psychedelic pill that [brings about] a sublime state.
It is turned out auto-genetically [self-generated], biochemically, electro-chemically….
There is always a thought, and a thought process. That’s why asana requires the perception of action and the thought process.
Most lay practitioners think yoga is an activity process, and then go overboard with that activity. They don’t identify the thought processes…. The brilliant thought process is the… basis for meditativity.
Meditativity is not based on activity. Meditativity is based on thought. Improve the thought process. Let us objectify the thought processes. Let us scrutinize the thought processes. Let us address the thought processes psychologically to improve the thought processes. Then you will certainly head toward meditativity and dynamic meditation in the Iyengar system.
 [Each of us] claims to be morally and ethically [superior] compared to another person. That is [based] on a relative concept of morals and ethics: As pointed out in a prior footnote, morals are guided by subjective interpretations of right and wrong. Ethics standardize and codify behavior that emphasizes moral “rightness.”
 Patanjali, [after listing the yamas], has immediately [classified] them as a vrata (vow): PYS II.31 [Yamas are the] universal vows (mahavratam) unconditioned by class, place (or) time. As Prashant will go on to explain, the great vow of yama transforms yoga into a dharmic practice. Beyond individual morality and societal ethics, the vrata is an essential component of the dharma that upholds the entire cosmos.
 That is why yama and niyama are aspects of achar dharma niti pranali (ethico-religious principles and practices): See discussion of this phrase under Yama and Niyama are Ethico-Religious Principles in Lesson 4.
 Even in PYS II.28, which begins with yoganga-anusthanat (dedicated practice of the limbs of yoga): See discussion of this phrase under Classical Yoga—Knowledge Process in the midst of Lesson 1. anusthana: anu (subsequent follow up to something that occurred before) + sthana (standing firmly; being fixed in; continuing in a state) = continuing to remain firmly fixed in
 Absolute thoughtlessness… is chitta-vritti nirodhah, cessation of (nirodha) the movements (vritti) of consciousness (chitta): PYS I.2; Yoga is the cessation of (nirodha) the movements (vritti) of consciousness (chitta). In other words, meditation is not yoga.
 Evolvement will take place in the reverse manner: Thought about thought, thinking, and the thinker: Evolvement, progressing from gross to subtle, does not have the negative connotation of evolution, moving from subtle to gross. Evolution is used to describe the generation of the tattvas, or evolutes, of prakrti, culminating in the five gross elements. In this context, meditation connotes a process of involution: the thought is gross matter, an object of the senses; thinking is the function of the less gross manas, or mind; and thinker is the subtle buddhi, or intellect. This reverse process of involution, culminates in the merging of buddhi back into the root of unmanifested prakrti.
 In the classic rendition, there is a subjective entity, an objective entity, and an instrumental entity: See Doer, Doing, & Done by in Virasana in Lesson 3: “I am the doer of Virasana, is the antithesis of yoga. The practitioner is supposed to be the beneficiary — sculpted and carved [by yoga]. However, if you were the doer, then you would have become involved in the activity of it, and never could become the witness. If ‘I am being done when Virasana is being done on me,’ then the subjective entity is sculpted, carved, and cultured by [Virasana].” Thus self is the subjective entity that must become an object to be examined and reshaped. Prashant will go on to analogize that examination using the metaphors of an anvil used to shape metal and an operating table.
 You don’t meditate on a thought. You meditate on the reflection of a thought. If there is no reflectivity, then there is no meditation: In yogic perception, the inner face of the buddhi is said to reflect, like a mirror, the image of purusha that shines upon it. Similarly, although the eye may perceive an object, the image of that object, a vrtti, is reflected in the outer face of the buddhi. Thus mind is literally meditating on a reflection.