Most people have heard of the Kama Sutra, but there is also the Yoga Sutra, written by Pantanjali. He was a physician that became one of the world's greatest sages. In the text, he introduces five principles of ethical behavior. Choosing to neglect these yamas results in nothing more than pain and suffering. So it is in each of our best interest to follow these guidelines closely.
Some of us have become so accustomed to suffering that it seems like a natural part of life. We blame it on a bad mood or an unlucky circumstance. After all, suffering doesn't last forever, so why should bliss? And as Pantanjali says, practicing boat pose for the sole purpose of getting flat tummy is missing the boat.
In the Yoga Sutra, Pantanjali explains how to take control of our lives. He outlines the Eightfold Path; the eight ways to live a better life through yoga and they include yamas (principles of ethical behavior), niyama (self discipline), asana (yoga poses), pranayama (breath), pratyahara (meditation), dharana (concentration), dhyana (uninterrupted meditation), and samadhi (absolute bliss).
The first yama is nonviolence. In a world of war, weapons, and hatred, it's no wonder this is difficult to achieve. Even words and thoughts can be as potent as knives and daggers, causing harm to ourselves and others. It is possible to lead a life of nonviolence by making better choices and bringing ourselves into awareness.
However, it is important not to misunderstand this concept. There is a famous story from India about a wondering monk. He entered a village where he found a large snake that was terrorizing the people. The monk taught the snake nonviolence, and the snake changed its ways. About a year later, the monk returned to the village and the snake was very bruised and beaten. When the monk asked what happened, the snake said that since the people were no longer afraid of it, they started to throw rocks to torment it. The monk explained that just because the snake wasn't supposed to bite didn't mean that it shouldn't hiss.
Pantanjali includes truth as another way to end suffering. Of course honesty is always the best policy. Maintaining a sense of integrity is crucial if suffering is to be avoided. Deception might prolong suffering, but it will only be a matter of time until the truth starts to show.
The third yama is non-stealing, which means not taking things belonging to others or more than what is truly needed. It is also possible to steal from ourselves, such as neglecting a talent or not working to our potential.
The fourth yama originally translated to mean celibacy, but more recently it has been interpreted to mean walking with God. Some people sacrifice sexual energy so it can be transmitted into a deeper relationship with God. For other people, this yama might represent the devotion between spouses.
The final yama is non-greed, which can be a great cause of suffering for those of us in the Western world of consumerism. It is easy to avoid greed by simply being grateful. Remember greed is not limited to material goods; people might also crave more happiness, enlightenment, and even power. Pantanjali calls the yamas "the great vow" to be practiced at all times, Namaste.