The first was yam, self-discipline. You must have observed – the five great vows, ahimsa, satya, et cetera, they have a peculiar quality about them: you can practice them only in the society. If you are living alone in a forest you cannot practice them; then there is no need and no opportunity. You have to be true when somebody else is there. When you are alone on a Himalayan peak there is no question of truth because how can you lie there – to whom? The opportunity does not exist.
Yam is a bridge between you and others, and that is the first thing: that you should settle things between you and others. If things are unsettled between you and others they will constantly create worry. “Close all accounts with others” – that is the meaning of the first, yam. Hmm?…if you are fighting with people, the tension, the worry will be there; even in your dreams it will become nightmares. It will follow you like a shadow. It will be wherever you are. Eating, sleeping, meditating – the anger, the violence will be there. It will discolor everything. It will destroy everything. You cannot be at peace, at home.
So Patanjali says, first, with yam, you settle things with people. Don’t be untrue, don’t be violent, don’t be possessive, so that between you and others there exists no conflict – a harmony. This is the first circle of your being – your periphery, where you touch others’ peripheries. This has to be calmed down so you are in a deep friendship with the whole. In that deep friendship only, growth is possible. Otherwise, worries from the outside will be too many, and they will attract attention and they will distract and they will dissipate energy, and they will not leave you at peace and alone. If you are not at peace with others, you cannot be at peace with yourself. How can you be?
So the first thing is to be at peace with others so that you can be at peace with yourself. The periphery has no waves; suddenly a calm, collected phenomenon happens to your being. The first is between you and others.
Now is the second step: niyam. Niyam means “the law.” This has nothing to do with others; you have done that. Now, something you have to do with yourself. So if you move to a Himalayan cave, the first step will not be possible because others will not be there. But you will have to follow the second step there also because it doesn’t belong to a social situation – it belongs to your aloneness. Yam is between you and others; niyam is between you and yourself.
Purity, contentment, austerity, self-study, and surrender to god are the laws to be observed.
Each has to be understood deeply. First is “purity,” shauch. You exist in the world as a body; embodied, you exist here. If your body is ill how can you be healthy? If your body is poisoned you are poisoned. If your body carries too many toxins, is heavily burdened, you cannot be light, you cannot have wings. So now you have to work on your body and its purity.