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Niyamas And Self-Purification

Updated: November 26, 2011 11:18 am

Five niyamas (personal observances) are second important step in the spiritual journey, as mentioned in the Yog-Darshan of Patanjali. These are the personal qualities, which a spiritual seeker should cultivate, for a successful journey to self realisation. These five niyamas are: Shouch (purity and hygiene), santosh (Contentment), tapah (austerity), swadhyay (reflection of scriptures), ishwar pranidhaan (dedication to God).

Shouch (internal and external hygiene/ cleanliness) is one of the basic personal quality for self purification. External cleanliness entails cleanliness of body, purity of food and behaviour, in all aspects. Internal cleanliness entails sublimation of jeleousy, ego, attachment, fear, anger and uncontrolled desires. Shouch imparts purity of thoughts and actions, essential for the uninterrupted practice of Yoga.

Santosh (self-contentment) is the balance of life, in all situations. In practical life, it denotes the quality of remaining unaffected in gain or loss, success or failure, happiness or sorrow, respect or disrespect, favourable or adverse situations. To attain this unique quality one has to be insightful, cheerful and careful, all the time. It imparts external and internal control over life.

Tapah (Austerity) is uninterrupted, regular and focussed efforts for the control of mind and sense organs. It entails, no compromise with the committed value system and tolerance for the hardships and difficulties faced, while pursuing the path of spirituality. It needs conscious and consistent efforts and attention of the spiritual seeker, to achieve the goals with purity and minimum resources. Hence, tapah imparts simplicity, tolerance, industriousness and rationality in using resources.

Swadhyay (study of scriptures) helps in the learning of authentic divine knowledge, essential for developing faith and clarity of approach, on the path of self-realisation. It entails the study of various spiritual works propounded by learned and realised spiritual scholars, in ancient as well as recent times. Japa (repetitive silent/ frank chanting of selected mantra), regular reading and chanting of selected verses (stotras), group discussions, attending lectures of accomplished spiritual scholars and reflection of the scriptures come under this head. Swadhyay imparts scientific, practical and deep knowledge for a rewarding spiritual journey.


Ishwar Pranidhaan (dedication to God) is essential for identifying oneself with the God-hood. It comprises attitudes and practices which help in developing dedication to God—by thoughts, words and actions. Surrender to God (sublimation of ego) is essential for self-realisation. Such attitude and practices help in developing good personal qualities as well as love, respect and concern for all. Thus, it transforms a yogi into an effective tool of social welfare and social transformation.

A brief account of these niyamas informs, that even in the present age, this approach to life could be scientific and purposeful. It could also be an effective tool for personality development, leading to scientific and integrated growth, in all the sectors. It is an inside-out approach, which could be more effective for lasting and impactful leadership quality of social leaders, in all lands, at all times. Much desired social harmony and cross-cultural understanding can be effectively engineered only by setting value based, inspiring examples of social reformists, as was done by revered Swami Vivekananda, more than hundred years ago.

By Dr Dipak Shukla

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