Yoga Sutra 2.30 harmlessness, truth-speaking, no stealing, brahmacarya, not holding possessions

Sūtra II.30

Of these, harmlessness, truth-speaking, no stealing, brahmacarya, not holding possessions, are the restraints

Of these, harmlessness means, in no way and at no time to do injury to any living being. The other restraints and observances are rooted in this, and they are practised only to bring this to its culmination, only for perfecting this. They are taught only as means to bring this out in its purity. For so it is said: Whatever many vows the man of Brahman would undertake, only in so far as he thereby refrains from doing harm impelled by delusion, does he bring out harmlessness in its purity.

Of these methods, first of all the restraints are described: Harmlessness, truth-speaking, no stealing, brahmacarya, not holding possessions, are the restraints. Of these, harmlessness (a-hiṃsā) means in no way in no capacity and in no fashion to do injury to any living being, to give pain to any being, whether immobile or active.

That harmlessness, most important among the restraints and observances, is to be practised in every capacity – body, speech and mind – he shows by saying, The other restraints truth-speaking and so on are rooted in this, they have harmlessness as their goal, have this as their purpose, and they are practised only in order to bring this to its culmination, only for perfecting this. Perfection in harmlessness is their culmination. He further explains: They are taught only as means to bring this out in its purity, to bring about harmlessness in all its purity. For so it is said: Whatever many vows the man of Brahman would undertake, only in so far as he thereby refrains from harmful actions impelled by delusion, rooted in violence and causing violence, does he bring out harmlessness in its purity.

Truth-speaking is said to be speech and thought in conformity with what has been seen or inferred or heard on authority. The speech spoken to convey one’s own experience to others should be not deceitful, nor inaccurate, nor uninformative. It is that uttered for helping all beings. But that uttered to the harm of beings, even if it is what is called truth, when the ultimate aim is merely to injure beings, would not be truth. It would be a sin.

Undertaking various vows of truth and the others, and also other vows not in conflict with them, the cause of one’s doing harm becomes inoperative, inasmuch as one is withdrawn from the excitement which causes it; then in the absence of that cause, a very pure harmlessness arises. As, for instance, if vowed to a life of begging, occasions of injury like ploughing cease for him.

Truth-speaking is said to be speech and thought in conformity with what has been seen or inferred or heard on authority. That is truth. When there is knowledge arrived at through accurate means of knowledge, the communication of that knowledge just as it is to another by speech and mind is the very operation called truth-speaking. He continues: The speech spoken to convey one’s own experience to others should not be deceitful, as when one states what one knows to be a fact, but this very truth is being spoken with the aim of tricking some other person. So Yudhiṣṭhira said, ‘Aśvatthāman is killed – I mean the elephant.’ (The second sentence was spoken in a low voice, and the hearer believed it was his own son Aśvatthāman who had been killed – Tr.)

Nor inaccurate, as when one speaks what is untrue in the belief that it is true, nor uninformative, inappropriate to enlighten the hearer, as when the speech is characterized by ambiguous expressions and inconclusive arguments, dark sayings or archaisms and the like.

That which is thus free from defects, and spoken with sincerity uttered for helping all beings makes truth glorious; but that uttered to the harm of beings though it may have the force of fact, does not amount to truthfulness. even if it is what is called truth, being without defect in what is said, when the ultimate aim is merely to injure beings, that would not be truth, for what is based on injuring others, even though free from the three defects of speech, does not amount to truth.

It would be a sin. And furthermore, by that hypocritical gloss of righteousness, the appearance of truthful utterance, the deceiver will come to regions of deep darkness. Therefore let one take care that his speech is for the welfare of all. As it is said:

Let one speak what is true, let one speak what is kind, Let him not speak what is true but unkind;

Let him speak what is kind and not untrue – That is the eternal righteousness.

(Manu 4.138)

Stealing is the improper appropriation to oneself of others’ things: refusal to do it, in freedom from desire, is non-stealing.

Stealing is the improper appropriation to oneself of others’ things under the impulse of desire: refusal to do it is non-stealing. The stealing cannot exist in those whose desire has been cut off, and the refusal of that stealing arising from absence of the desire is non-stealing.

Brahmacarya is restraint of the sex organ and other senses.

Brahmacarya is restraint of the sex organ, the sexual and other senses, by a man who frees himself from urgings, whether verbal or mental, to break the vow.

Seeing the defects in objects involved in acquiring them, and defending them, and losing them, and being attached to them, and depriving others of them, one does not take them to himself, and that is not holding possessions.

Seeing the defects in objects involved in acquiring them and defending them, and losing them and being attached to them, and depriving others of them, one does not take them to himself, he does not appropriate them to himself, does not take them, and that is not holding possessions. It does not mean failure to appropriate them because of impossibility of doing so. The above are the restraints.

But these,

 

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