यम, yama

etymologically related to the root यम् (yam) – to restrain, curb, maintain order;
also, यम (-आ or -ई) is a twin, one of a pair.

There are two main meanings of word Yama: 
  1. Rule of conduct.
  2. God of justice and death.

1. Yamas – the rules of conduct, self-control, and adherence to moral principles. The first part of Ashtanga-yoga.

Yogi must adhere to them otherwise practice of hatha yoga can result into problems. Without observing these principles or considering them simply as moral precepts that have nothing to do with practice, there is very little chance that yoga sadhana will be holistic and that asanas and pranayama will bring positive results in spiritual life. Therefore, one should adhere to the principles of Yama-Niyama and constantly ask Guru for upadeshas associated with them. Thus, one can establish oneself in these principles and attain siddhis that are mentioned in “Yoga Sutras”.

Yamas are considered as paths to vratas, special guidances (ahimsa-vrata, satya-vrata, asteya-vrata, etc.). Each can be seen at a different level, for example, ahimsa – at the level of the body, at the level of speech (vachaka-ahimsa), at the level of mind (manasika-ahimsa). Ahimsa is considered the most important of Yamas. Manasika-ahimsa means that for a person there is no such thinking that destructively affects himself and the world around him. In fact, manasika-ahimsa is not just moral rule, but a certain perception and state of consciousness – ability to live in harmony with the world. Living in harmony with the world means being empty, not projecting anything onto it from your ego, always being ready to perceive everything in this world as it is, and not as our karmic ego wants it to be. A person can also have superficial ideas about himself and violate ahimsa in relation to himself too. Only a being with a very pure consciousness and flexible worldview can avoid harming oneself and others. This worldview is not just social morality, more than that morality can be far away from ahimsa. One is able to realize full ahimsa in a state of complete renunciation of all limitations in samadhi.

Yama principles:

  • Ahimsa – non-violence
  • Satya – truth
  • Asteya – non-stealing
  • Brahmacharya – following God
  • Kshama – forgiving the faults and guilt of others
  • Dhriti – patience and perseverance in all circumstances
  • Daya – compassion for all people and other creatures, help in need
  • Arjava – honesty or straightforwardness
  • Mitahara – moderation in diet
  • Shaucha – purification of body and mind

In addition to the general rules of Yama and Niyama, Guru can assign special vratas to the disciple.

"Yoga Sutras" of Patanjali
II.30 Yama (self-control and restraint) includes ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-appropriation of others), brahmacharya (celibacy and chastity), and aparigraha (non-acceptance of gifts).
II.31 These five vows, not limited by position of a person, place, time or circumstance, form a great vow (mahavratam).
II.35 When a person is established in nonviolence (ahimsa), hostility weakens in his presence.
II.36 When a person is established in truthfulness, the consequences of his actions are subject to him.
II.37 All treasures come to one who is established in honesty.
II.38 One who is established in brahmacharya gains strength.
II.39 One who is established in the lack of possession of property acquires knowledge of what rebirths have been and will be.

Translated from Sanskrit by K. Svensson

"Hatha Yoga Pradipika"
I.16 (b) Do not commit violence, be sincere and honest, do not steal, adhere to abstinence in sex (being immersed in pure states of consciousness), be able to forgive, be able to endure, be able to be compassionate, be humble, adhere to a moderate diet and keep clean – here are ten rules of conduct that will contribute to yama.

“Hatha Yoga Pradipika” with commentary by Swami Satyananda Saraswati

78. Nonviolence, truth, non-appropriation, following to God, mercy, honesty, forgiveness, patience, moderation in food, purity – these are the ten principles of yama.

32. Eight parts: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi. Yama is calmness, control of all indriyas, independence from food, sleep, cold, wind and heat. It should be practiced gradually.

2. Yama, Yamaraj - God of justice and death, the ruler of the ancestors

Probably, in Rig Veda Yama originally represented one of the forms of the Sun. His name, as an appeal to the Sun, is found even in rather late Isha Upanishada. But he is best known as the son of Surya, the effulgent Lord Vivasvat; Yama and his sister Yami are twins, which is reflected in their names.

Yama also acts as the keeper of Dharma, the law of Truth, which is a condition for immortality, thereby he is the keeper of immortality; later, in the post-Vedic period, – the God of death; revered as one of the guardian deities of the world. Considered the guardian of the south side.