Success is when we are able to break through the chain of karma. In other words, success is being able to retrain ourselves not to repeat the same pattern of conditioned behavior which makes us unhappy. The reason we are not happy comes from the fluctuations of the mind and the constant replaying of its unhealthy patterns. Swami Vishnudevananda said that we will not be born if we are not attached to something. Otherwise, we experience the roller coaster of our mind and emotions and miss out on the rewarding and fulfilling experience of being our own peaceful, loving, happy, and blissful Self.

The yoga masters have given us guidelines called the yamas and niyamas for conscious self-development by mindfully correcting our actions. By endeavoring to apply these foundational guidelines in life, we elevate ourselves and become happier as our mind becomes clear, simple and equanimous.

The Yamas (restrictions) and Niyamas (observances) are to be consciously practiced in thought, word and deed.

Yamas: Restraints (The Things Not to do)

Ahimsa: Ahimsa means restraining oneself from the reactive tendency to be angry when one’s desires are not met, or the tendency to abuse others and enter into conflicts or wars. Here the antidote to anger is contentment or letting go of expectation, accepting that “It is not my will, but God’s will”.

Brahmacharya: Brahmacharya is control or sublimation of the sensual and sexual drive and deals with the emotion of lust. Hence by practicing brahmacharya, we can restrain the tendency to seek sensual pleasures as the goal of life, and to misuse our sexual energy – which is to be converted into spiritual energy.

Asteya: Asteya means non-stealing or non-covetousness. Therefore, observing this guideline will counteract our tendency to give in to our desires, or think that satisfying material desires is the goal of life.

Aparigraha: Aparigraha means non-accumulation and control of greed, so much at the root of our societal ills. Thus, observing this guideline counteracts our tendency to think that the more we attain or possess, the more we will be safe and secure.

Niyamas: Observances (The Things to Observe or to do)

Saucha: Saucha is purity. This observance will help us to counteract impurities in our bodies, minds, and outer environments, and to come into deeper contact with our true Self. By purifying the emotions and thoughts, which are like coverings over our eyes, we can begin to see more clearly and gain a more true perspective.

Santosha: Santosha is contentment. This practice will help us counteract the tendency to look externally for happiness and instead we find that happiness comes from within.

Tapas: Tapas means austerity. This practice will help us to counteract the belief that comforts of the body and mind are the goals of life.

Swadhyaya: Swadhyaya is the study of scriptures. Doing this will help us to counteract the idea that only what we can see and what people tell us about ourselves is true.

Ishwarapranidhana: Ishwarapranidhana means self-surrender to God or a higher power. Self-surrender counteracts our tendency to think that we are the best and the top. Practicing self-surrender will help us work through our karmas by cultivating acceptance and knowing that everything happens for a reason.