Achaara (Discipline & Harmony)


Holistic Health Series

Resource Note # 7

Achaararefers to good conduct and positive demeanour. It implies moral and ethical conduct as well as the practice of benevolence in behaviour. Achaaramay essentially be looked upon as behavioral medicine, which helps people to find and maintain balance in life. This helps to bring about rejuvenation in the body-mind system, and also reverses the disease process.

The two main elements of Achaaraare: a) YamaNiyama, and b)Parikarmas.

1.      Yamaand Niyama

A moral and disciplined lifestyle based on the higher laws of nature is an absolute necessity for a healthy and balanced life. As the first step towards mental discipline, the individual is required to undertake a total reconditioning of one’s attitudes towards life and the behaviour patterns that go with these. This is accomplished through the moral and ethical practices of Yama(Abstinences) & Niyama(Observances). These are the disciplinary principles that a person must follow if the body and mind are to be regulated, disciplined and made steady. 

1.1.    Yama

There are five restraints or abstinences, which are prescribed as Yamas. These are to be practiced in thought, word and deed without any compromise to time, class, place or circumstance. This five-fold abstinence refers not merely to certain outer patterns of behaviour and conduct, but also to the habits and tendencies of the body and mind. The five Yamasare:

i.          Ahimsa(Non – violence / non-injury)

ii.         Satya(Non-falsehood)

iii.        Asteya(Non-stealing)

iv.        Brahmacharya(Continence)

v.         Aparigraha(Non- possessiveness)

Ahimsa

It means non-desire to hurt or injure any living being in thought, word and deed. Ahimsadoes not only mean not doing physical injury to another. The acts that negate Ahimsainclude indulgence in carping criticism, to use offensive language, and even to subject the other person to a process of comparison. One is guilty of violence even if one merely approves of such acts by another without directly participating in the same. For example, living in opulent luxury while many others in society are starving, or wasting wood products while the world is facing an ecological crisis, are also subtle forms of violence. In order to build up an attitude of ahimsa, it is helpful to acquire a store of positive feelings that can heal and conserve life.

Satya

Satyarefers to staying away from falsehood. To exaggerate, to deliberately use equivocation, to be evasive, to be pretentious are all expressions of falsehood. Saying or doing things, which are not in strict accordance with what one knows to be true is falsehood. Untruthfulness, in all its various forms, creates all kinds of unnecessary complications in our life (e.g. telling ten more lies to cover up for one) and is a constant source of disturbance to the mind.

Truthfulness, on the other hand, may be defined as congruence in one’s thoughts, words and deeds. It is absolutely necessary for the unfolding of one’s intuition and higher consciousness.

Asteya

Its literal meaning is abstaining from stealing. One who is established in asteyahas a feeling that he or she is in possession of all the wealth of the world. Of course, this is possession without acquisition, or enjoyment without possession – apparently a contradiction in terms! 

Most people are not given to stealing or theft in a gross manner. However, there are deeper aspects of stealing from which we may not be free. All manner of imitation, as well as exploitation in any form whereby one uses the other person for one’s own satisfaction, may be classified as stealing. All kinds of misappropriations (money, people or resources) come under stealing, as also the taking of credit for activities that one may not have done in actual practice.

Brahmacharya

It is commonly translated as celibacy, or staying away from sexual indulgence. In its wider sense, Brahmacharyaactually refers to the freedom from craving for all kinds of sensual enjoyments or the cessation of the frittering away of one’s energies, through offering resistance to things painful and indulgence in things pleasurable. Sexual moderation within marriage is recommended as a way to facilitate a smooth relationship between the man and the woman, whereby each of the partners is freed from the selfish desire to possess or dominate the other.

Aparigraha

The tendency to accumulate material goods appears to have become a basic instinct in modern life. Not satisfied with the necessities of life, people crave for luxuries and also amass undue wealth and items. These extra things satisfy our childish vanity and desire to appear superior.

The individual is now required to spend extra time and energy in maintaining and guarding the things accumulated, thus increasing worry and anxiety. The constant fear of losing things, coupled with the pain and anguish of occasionally losing some of these, add up to a colossal waste of time, energy and mental force. Thus, undue greed or accumulation is best avoided.

1.2.    Niyama

The Niyamasrefer to certain regimens that may be observed or followed in daily life. They help to bring about a sense of order & discipline to a person’s life. Niyamasare also five in number: 

1.         Saucha(Absolute purity)

2.         Santosha(Contentment)

3.         Tapa(Austerity)

4.         Swadhyaya(Self-study)

5.         Isvarapranidhana(Resignation to the will of the Absolute)

Saucha

Purity refers to the maintenance of internal and external cleanliness. Physical purity is accomplished through the practice of Yogic postures, diet and other practices. Mental purity is the cleansing of the mind from ignorance and selfishness, and the maintenance of positivity. This helps the person to become one-pointed, and facilitates the exercise of sensory control. 

Santosha

Santoshsais the quality of contentment and equanimity. Contentment springs from a deep peace that remains unruffled even under stress, strain and pressure. It also stems from hope.

Contentment permits one to be happy with what one has, rather than continuously hanker for more. This acceptance of life in all its facets helps the person to have a balanced and controlled frame of mind that brings about objectivity in one’s judgment and life.

Tapa

The meaning of the word “Tapa” is austerity. In the orthodox sense, it connotes specific exercises adopted for the control of the physical body and the development of will power. 

Swadhyaya

Swadhyayameans self-study through a process of disciplined reflection. It also refers to the development of self-awareness, and a spirit of continuous improvement. Spending time with constructively oriented people, and reading the scriptures, are considered as acts of Swadhyaya.

Isvarapranidhana

Literally means “Resignation to the Will of the God”, Isvarapranidharequires the person to believe that everything happens according to the Will of the Absolute. Having faith in a Higher Reality allows one to concentrate (without distraction) upon the flawless performance of one’s duty. One can thus accept the result of one’s deeds with a sense of poise & equanimity.

2.Parikarmas(Embellishments)

The two basic qualities that are critical towards the pursuit of a balanced way of life are: a) perseverance and b) detachment. By perseverance is meant the continuance of effort towards the goal without any distractions or laxity. Detachment refers to the mastery over the attraction that the objects of the external world normally hold over us.

Life consists a series of events, situations and interactions with diverse people, day after day. Without our knowledge, we actually help several people crossing our life path at various times. Similarly, we also receive help from others at numerous points in our life – without realizing it.

However, one of the greatest sources of disturbance for the human mind is the behaviour of the people around us. When individuals encounter unpleasantness in situations & relationships wherein they are involved, they often react haphazardly and sometimes lose self-control too. As a result, they experience all kinds of violent emotions. Finding these affective upheavals troublesome, many people gradually become cold, hard-hearted & indifferent towards others.

To a large extent, the Yamas(restraints) and Niyamas(observances) guide people in how to conduct themselves in any given situation. The Yamasprovide the necessary values that may be adopted as the basis of routine decision making in our interactions with other living beings, while the Niyamashelp to discipline and orient our personality in the right direction.

In addition, the pursuit of balance in life requires an entirely new approach to human relationships that goes neither with violent reactions, nor with cold indifference. It requires a balanced approach, whereby our reactions are in harmony with the great law of Love.

In that light, Parikarmasare prescribed as the correct attitudes to be adopted in various situations that arise in relationships with other people within the family & in the larger society.

The practice of these four parikarmasof maitri, karuna, mudita, upeksaenables the person to be become tranquil. All the distortions that result from conflict and disharmony in relationships are thereby combed out. The individual thus remains calm, happy & free from disturbance.

2.1Maitri (Friendliness towards the happy and prosperous)

Maitrimeans being able to share in another person’s happiness or good fortune. 

When we encounter the success of others, the usual response is a feeling of jealousy and envy and an attempt to destroy their joy through a bitter attitude or negative comments.

There is also a desire to exploit the prosperous condition of the other person for one’s own benefit.

On the other hand, the appropriate response towards people who have gained happiness, material wealth or social status is that of intense friendliness.

To be a genuine friend of the prosperous individual, without any idea of exploitation, is to show a remarkable quality in human relationships.

2.2Karuna (Compassion towards those in misery)

Towards a person who is in a miserable or unhappy situation in life, the display of compassion and tenderness is recommended. When someone is upset, try to help or comfort the person. Do not take pleasure in seeing someone else suffer.

Many people like to pity or humiliate unhappy individuals. On the other hand, to be tender means to understand the suffering by placing oneself in the situation of the other. One must be careful to avoid causing offense by thought, word or deed, to any person who is facing rough weather for the time being. If they need space, then leave them alone after letting them know that you will be available when they are ready. The practice of Karunahelps to overcome fear.

2.3Mudita (Joy and delight towards the virtuous)

Muditarefers to a feeling of joy and positivity. It is the ability to share our own happiness with others, and to appreciate the good fortune of others as a source of joy for our own selves.

When we meet a virtuous person, there is often a feeling of envy. Instead, one should feel delighted. Appreciate, admire and rejoice in the virtuous qualities of the other person, and try to cultivate them in your own life. It is inspiring to know that such greatness is possible. 

While people generally find it difficult to bear the moral success of another person with grace, a spirit of goodwill should be displayed towards those who are treading the path of virtue. 

2.4Upeksha(Spirit of benevolent indifference towards the vicious)

The word “upeksha” is usually translated as indifference or neglect. It would be wonderful if all the people in the world would always act conscientiously, and with honour. However, it does not always happen the way. We ourselves may have acted, spoken, or thought unkindly towards another person many times in our own life. People are often found to overlook their own failings, but are unable to tolerate even the slightest failing in the other person.

Upekshamandates showing due regard or consideration towards those who have chosen a path different from our own. We need to develop equanimity towards those whose actions oppose our values. Thus, it is advised that one should become indifferent to the person who has become vicious or wicked at the moment.

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