2. Explicate and assess Patañjahli’s ethics. What specific moral obligations are encoded in the yama rules and what is their character? Does Patañjahli characterize these rules of moral conduct as hypothetical imperatives, or categorical imperatives? Is it possible and/ or obligatory for everyone to abide by the yama rules, or are they only requirements for those who are attracted to the Yogic lifestyle? Do you agree with Patañjahli’s ethics? Why or why not?
Being a tradition with rich and deep roots within either Indian or world culture, Yoga has become an integral part of daily lives of millions of people globally and their only acceptable life pattern. It is not just a practice of trainings related to self-improvement, but also a precious way of life filled with a range of high moral norms and values. Yama rules are the central pillars of this ideology that call for self-perfection both inside and outside of the body and appropriate behavior to be worth liberation as the final stage of becoming a better, kinder and true self.
Therefore, the paper argues that Patañjahli’s ethics is a set of categorical imperatives that should be obligatory followed by yogi and promoted to others on the basis of their own life examples. In this regard, the essay provides conscious explication and evaluation of the yoga rules of moral conduct. The next point highlighted is devoted to the explanation concerning why yama rules are not hypothetical but categorical imperatives in yogi lifestyle that ought to be strictly obeyed by the followers of this philosophical doctrine and provoke critical thinking about eternal principles of non-harmfulness in the individuals around yogi. Apart from that, the author’s position with respect to the issue under analysis is described and justified. Afterward, conclusions are drawn upon findings of the essay.
First and foremost, it is to be noted that the centerpiece of all rules of yogi moral conduct is related to non-harmfulness in this way or another. For instance, the most salient requirement that determines the other four involves “abstaining from harm” (Ranganathan, 2008, p. 166). It is the most notable aspect of yoga ideology. Specifically, in case an individual opts not to harm any living thing around, one is able at least not to spoil one’s bodily nature by such potentially harmful deeds. In any case, whereas yogi are called to perfect their inner nature through improvement of their bodies, the rule “do not harm” can ensure their balance with the environment in all dimensions possible. This non-harmfulness includes either verbal or physical level of existing: namely, words and deeds, where any potential harm to surrounding may be embodied. Therefore, by obeying this rule, a person makes sure that multi-level relations with respect to human-to-human, human-to-animal, and human-to-environment ratios are maintained. As a result, it will be possible for yogi to stay pure from within.
Truthfulness is the next significant yama rule that is based on non-harmfulness principle, as well. In particular, this concept means “do not harm through lies,” paying special attention to intra-human relations. It follows that the aforementioned moral norm of yoga is aimed at making perfect human-to-human correlation as a way to achieve higher and purer moral state of one’s body and, subsequently, self.
“Abstinence from theft” is an important implication for yogi referring to non-harmfulness with regard to property of another individual or in general (Ranganathan, 2008, p. 166). Indeed, it is absolutely logical to connect the primary focus of the philosophical ideology under consideration with non-living objects. What is more, oneness with the environment, which derives from Yoga Sūtra, would not be complete if material objects would be disregarded in this structure oriented on maintenance of positive relationships and behavior. Hence, this rule combines bodily, spiritual and mind perfection of the individual and respect to material objects as they are in essence. It rejects stealing or other wrongdoing in the name of pureness of soul in perspective.
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On the contrary, the issue of sexual restraint is an extremely arguable point in the prism of Patañjali’s interpretation of yoga, but Ranganathan (2008) links it to non-harmfulness, as well. To be more precise, this principle may be understood from different positions. On the one hand, sexual restraint seemingly involves complete and irreversible abstinence from sexual intercourse and related issues. On the other hand, Ranganathan (2008) connects this rule to “do not harm” perspective. It follows that the satisfaction of sexual desire for yogi is possible in case it is non-harmful in multiple dimensions. To put it in other words, such an act must be free of any potential implications of harm, including manipulation or, what is the worst, violence. For example, in this regard, flirting can be considered manipulation of sexual restraint grounds; thus, this behavior should be avoided. This yama rule also is concerned with establishing a balance in human-to-human relations.
Unacquisitiviness is another norm of yogic moral conduct that is concentrated on non-harmfulness. Undoubtedly, this principle is not less important as the other ones since it correlates with human-to-human and human-to-environment dimensions of existence. Basically, following four previously indicated rules simply excludes a possibility to acquire any material gains. To specify, excess possession of things, consumerism, may be referred to as harm for others whereas they will not be able to meet their basic needs due to someone else’s overconsumption. Hence, this issue is directly connected with potential harm, which has to be thoroughly avoided by yogi. Moreover, complying with this principle ensures human-to-human and human-to-environment relations as well, which is another mode to perfect the body and inner nature of individual simultaneously or in sequence.