Liber ABA



The Way of Attainment of Genius or Godhead considered as a development of the human brain


Chapter III

Yama[1] and Niyama

"Yama" consists of non-killing, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-receiving of any gift.
In the Buddhist system, Sila, "Virtue", is similarly enjoined. The qualities are, for the layman, these five: Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not lie. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt drink no intoxicating drink. For the monk many others are added.
The commandments of Moses are familiar to all; they are rather similar; and so are those given by Christ[2] in the "Sermon on the Mount".
Some of these are only the "virtues" of a slave, invented by his master to keep him in order. The real point of the Hindu "Yama" is that breaking any of these would tend to excite the mind.
Subsequent theologians have tried to improve upon the teachings of the Masters, have given a sort of mystical importance to these virtues; they have insisted upon them for their own sake, and turned them into puritanism and formalism. Thus "non-killing," which originally meant "do not excite yourself by stalking tigers," has been interpreted to mean that it is a crime to drink water that has not been strained, lest you should kill the animalcula.
But this constant worry, this fear of killing anything by mischance is, on the whole, worse than a hand-to-hand conflict with a griesly bear. If the barking of a dog disturbs your meditation, it is simplest to shoot the dog, and think no more about it.
A similar difficulty with wives has caused some masters to recommend celibacy. In all these questions common sense must be the guide. No fixed rule can be laid down. The "non-receiving of gifts," for instance, is rather important for a Hindu, who would be thoroughly upset for weeks if any one gave him a coconut: but the average European takes things as they come by the time that he has been put into long trousers.
iThe only difficult question is that of continence, which is complicated by many considerations, such as that of energy; but everybody’s mind is hopelessly muddled on this subject, which some people confuse with erotology, and others with sociology. There will be no clear thinking on this matter until it is understood as being solely a branch of athletics.
We may then dismiss Yama and Niyama with this advice: let the student decide for himself what form of life, what moral code, will least tend to excite his mind; but once he has formulated it, let him stick to it, avoiding opportunism; and let him be very careful to take no credit for what he does or refrains from doing — it is a purely practical code, of no value in itself.
The cleanliness which assists the surgeon in his work would prevent the engineer from doing his at all.
(Ethical questions are adequately dealt with in "Then Tao" in Konx Om Pax, and should be there studied. Also see Liber XXX of the A?A?. Also in Liber CCXX, the Book of the Law, it is said: "DO WHAT THOU WILT shall be the whole of the Law."[3] Remember that for the purpose of this treatise the whole object of Yama and Niyama is to live so that no emotion or passion disturbs the mind.)

[1] Yama means literally "control". It is dealt with in detail in Part II, "The Wand".

[2] Not, however, original. The whole sermon is to be found in the Talmud.

[3] [WEH footnote] sic, should be: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law."