Christianity and Yoga:  A Series of Studies – Niyamas Part I

The second limb of Yoga as defined by Patañjali is Niyama (inward observance or restraint).  Patañjali identifies the Niyamas as Saucha (cleanliness), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (discipline), Svaadhyaya (study of self), Ishvara Pranidhana (devotion to or union with God).  Would seem, on the surface, to be just as innocuous as the Yamas but the last two are closely related to the meditative aspects of Yoga that some say are leading people away from God.  That being the case, I’ll spend a bit more time dealing with Svaadhyaya and Ishvara Pranidhana than I have with the other items to this point.

Saucha – Cleanliness or Purity

Yoga Sutra 2.40 From purity follows a withdrawal from enchantment over one’s own body as well as a cessation of desire for physical contact with others.

30 For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.

Leviticus 16:30

3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
5 He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

Psalms 24:3-5

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalms 51:10

25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Matthew 23:25-28

Cleanliness, inner cleanliness (clean hands does not refer to no dirt under the fingernails), has always been required of the true followers of God.  Other translations of the Yoga Sutra 2.40 state that purity will cause one to become unconcerned about one’s own body and so become unconcerned with others.  Another interpretation is that as we are purged of our sins, we are no longer enticed by the sins of those around us.

Santosha – Contentment

Yoga Sutra 2.41 As a result of contentment there is purity of mind, one-pointedness, control of the senses, and fitness for the vision of the self.
2.42 Supreme happiness is gained via contentment.

14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.

Luke 3:14

8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

1 Timothy 6:8

5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Hebrews 13:5

24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Matthew 6:24-34

It seems that very few people are truly content with what they have or who they are.  A nip here, a tuck there, a bigger car or house, more hair, less weight, whatever it may be it seems that we are constantly being bombarded with reasons why we shouldn’t be content with out lives.  Obviously, they had similar problems judging by John’s admonition to the soldier.  I find it equally telling that Patañjali devotes two sutras to Santosha.