The YAMAS and NIYAMAS, combined, constitute the personal and social aspects of good conduct. These are to be practised individually, as well as, in relation to the society.
Yamas are broad based social and universal virtues which are in the form of moral and social obligations for an individual. These are five, as follows:-
(i) AHIMSA: Broadly speaking, Ahimsa means non-violence. In other words, to treat all beings with love and without anger, hatred and injustice is AHIMSA. As hatred can not remove hatred, only love can win over hatred, jealousy, animosity, etc. It involves complete elimination of evil thoughts and enmity of all types. Ahimsa is linked with peace and progress but it does not mean weakness or non-action or laziness. One should practise Ahimsa, as far as possible.
(ii) SATYA: 'To speak of, write about, and believe in a thing as it really is' constitutes truth. In actual life, one should first establish reality, then accept and believe it and thereafter practise it in thought, word and action. One should not think, speak and act differently. However truth in daily life should be practices with caution and right understanding.
(iii) ASTEYA (Non - Stealing): One shoudl not take awat something unjustly, deceitfully or without permission of the rightful owner. In other words, one should be honest in one's all dealings.
(iv) BRAHMCHARYA (Celibacy): In common practice, it means observance of strict discipline in sexual indulgence. It also means a conduct, which leads to God. The observance of Brahmacharya enables a person to achieve control over mind and body. In short it involves absence of lust and practice of self control.
(v) APARIGRAHA (Non Greed): It means absence of a tendency and greed to acquire more and more of material possessions. One should limit one's desires and practise restraint in the use of daily requirements and avoid the use of objects of pleasure, as possible.
Niyamas are also five and are means of personal discipline. These tell us how to interact with ourselves. While the yamas consists of prohibitions and abstentions, niyamas are positive in nature. The five niyamas are as follows:-
(i) SHAUCH (Cleanliness): It is of two types external and internal. One should be clean internally by renouncing possessions and vicious desires and externally by appropriate use of water and other cleansing agents.
(ii) SANTOSH (Contentment): It means the absence of desire to possess more of the necessities of life than are necessary for its preservation. It implies that one should work honestly and to one's full capability and then be satisfied with the result of one's efforts. It is a state of mind and inner mental peace. Contentment is the greatest wealth.
(iii) TAPA (Austerity): It is the capacity to face all odds and difficulties in the performance of righteousness. It implies that one should have the strength and fortitude to remain unaffected by the opposites of life. In short, the practice of good conduct, in the face of all difficulties is TAPA. However, it does not imply willing infliction of pain to the body.
(iv) SWADHYAYA (Study of good literature, etc): It means study of scriptures, other religions literature, etc. In general, study of all good literature which guides a person towards moral values, good conduct, righteousness mat be deemed as SWADHYAYA. It also mens study of the self or self analysis which leads to progress moral and spiritual life. It is the nature of self education and self improvement. It purifies the mind and spirit by enhancing true knowledge, right understanding and discrimination.
(v) ISHWAR PRANIDHAN (Surrender to God): It means total dedication of all thoughts and actions to the SUPREME. In other words, it involves absolute faith in God. It means resignation to the will of God. One has to first understand the true concept of God, his nature and attributes and then accept Him as Guru and Guide. In includes true and sincere worship of God and complete dedication to him with full faith, love and devotion.
The YAMA and NIYAMA present a complete package of personal, social and spiritual discipline which leads to desirable conduct. They are the first and second stages of UPASANA YOG. The worship of GOD will be a mere ritual without practice of Yamas and Niyamas in real life.