The five vows of ahimsa, satya, achaurya, brahmacharya and aparigra, are the very base, the foundation [of Yoga]. They have to be understood as deeply as possible because there is a possibility to move without fulfilling these five steps which constitute the first step of yam [inner discipline, direction, centering].
You can find yogis and fakirs all over the world who have moved without fulfilling these five steps of the first step. Then they become powerfulg but their power is violent. Then they are very, very powerful, but their power is not spiritual. Then they become sort of black magicians; they can harm others. Power is dangerous; it can help, it can harm. Not only to others is it dangerous, it is dangerous to the person himself. It can destroy you; it can give you a rebirth. It depends. These five vows are just a guarantee that the power which arises out of discipline is not misused.
You can see “yogis” displaying their power. That is impossible for a yogi, because if the yogi has really fulfilled these five vows he will no longer be an exhibitionist; he cannot display. He can no longer try to play with miracles; that is not possible for him. Miracles happen around him, but he is not the doer.
These five vows kill your ego completely. Either the ego can exist or these five vows can be fulfilled. Both are not possible. Before you enter the world of power – and Yoga is a world of power, infinite power – it is very, very necessarily needed that you drop the ego outside the temple. If the ego is with you there is every possibility that the power is going to be misused. Then the whole effort becomes futile, a mockery...in fact, ridiculous.
These five vows are to purify you, to make you a vehicle for the power to descend and for the power to become a beneficial influence, a blessing to others. They are a must. No one should bypass them. You can bypass them; in fact to bypass them is easier than to go through them because they are difficult. But then your building will be without a foundation. It is going to fall any day, collapse any day. It may kill your neighbors; it may kill you yourself. This is the first thing to be understood.
The word yam has to be understood. It means the god of death; it also means inner discipline. But what necessary connection can there be between death and inner discipline? There seems none, but there is.
On the earth, up to now, two types of cultures have existed – both lopsided, both unbalanced. Not yet has it been possible to develop a culture which is total, whole, and holy. In the West. right now, sex is given total freedom; but you may not have watched: death is suppressed. In the East sex has been suppressed, but death is talked about freely. Exactly like the sexual, obscene pornographic literature, in the East a different type of pornography exists. I call it the pornography of death...as obscene and morbid as the pornography of the West about sex.
But why? It always happens: whenever a society suppresses sex, it expresses death; whenever a society suppresses death it becomes expressive of sex. Because death and sex are the two polarities of life. Sex means life, because life arises out of it. Life is a sexual phenomenon, and death is the end of it.
If you think about both together, there seems to be a contradiction; you cannot reconcile sex and death. How to reconcile them? It is easier to forget one and remember the other. If you remember both it will be very difficult for your mind to manage to see how they exist together...and they do exist together; they do cohere. They are not, in fact, two but the same energy in two states: active and inactive, yin and yang.
A man of awareness will become immediately aware that death and sex are one energy, and a total culture, a whole culture, a holy culture, will accept both. It will not be lopsided; it will not move to one extreme and avoid the other. Each moment you are both life and death. To understand this is to transcend duality. The whole effort of Yoga is how to transcend.
Yam is meaningful because when a person becomes aware of death, only then is a life of self-discipline possible. If you are only aware of sex, of life, and you have been avoiding death – escaping from it, closing your eyes to it, keeping it always at the back, throwing it into the unconscious – then you will not create a life of self-discipline. For what? Then your life will be a life of indulgence – eat, drink. be merry. Nothing is wrong in it, but, in itself, this is not the whole picture. This is just a part, and when you take the part as the whole, you miss; you miss tremendously.
Animals are there without any awareness of death: that’s why there is no possibility for Patanjali to teach animals. No possibility because no animal will be ready for self-discipline. The animal will ask, “For what?” There is only life, there is no death, because the animal is not aware that he is going to die. If you become aware that you are going to die, then immediately you start rethinking about life. Then you would like the death to be absorbed in life.
When death is absorbed in life yam is born: a life of discipline. Then you live but you always live with the remembrance of death. You move but you always know that you are moving towards death. You enjoy but you always know that this is not going to last forever. Death becomes your shadow, part of your being, part of your perspective. You have absorbed death; now self-discipline will be possible. Now you will think, “How to live?” because life is not the goal now: death is also part of it. How to live so that you can live and die also beautifully? How to live so that not only does life become a crescendo of bliss, but death becomes the highest? – because death is the climax of life.
To live in such a way that you become capable of living totally and you become capable of dying totally. That’s the whole meaning of self-discipline. Self-discipline is not a suppression; it is to live a directed life, a life with the sense of direction. It is to live a life fully alert and aware of death. Then your river of life has both the banks. Life and death, and the river of consciousness flows between these two. Anybody who is trying to live life denying death its part is trying to move along one bank; his river of consciousness cannot be total. He will lack something; he will lack something very beautiful. His life will be superficial; there will be no depth in it. Without death there is no depth.
The life of yam is a life of balance.
These five vows of Patanjali are to give you a balance. But you can misunderstand them and you can create again an unbalanced life.
Yoga is not against indulgence; Yoga is for balance. Yoga says, “Be alive but be always ready to die also.” It looks contradictory. Yoga says, “Enjoy. But, remember, this is not your home. This is an overnight stay.” Nothing is wrong: even if you are enjoying in a dharmasala and it is a full-moon night, nothing is wrong. Enjoy it, but don’t take the dharmasala to be your home, because tomorrow we leave. We will be thankful for this overnight stay, we will be grateful – it was good while it lasted – but don’t ask it to last forever. If you ask that it should last forever, this is one extreme; and if you don’t enjoy at all because it is not going to last forever, this is another extreme. In both ways you remain half.
If you try to understand me...this is my whole effort: to make you whole and total so all the contradictions are absorbed and a harmony arises. I don’t want you to become monotonous. A life of ordinary indulgence is monotonous. A life of ordinary Yoga is also monotonous, boring. A life which comprehends all contradictions in it, which has many notes in it but, still, all notes fall in a harmony; that life is a rich life. And to have that rich life, to me, is Yoga.
These five vows are not to cut you off from life, they are to join you. That emphasis has to be remembered because many people have used these five vows to cut themselves from life. They are not meant for that; they are meant for just the opposite.
Osho, Yoga: A New Direction, Talk #7
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