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The eight limbs of ashtanga yoga by Maharshi Patanjali are yama, niyam, asana, pranayam, pratyahar, dharana, dhyan and samadhi. The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj – to unite with or realize Paramatma.


This comprises of five ritual disciplines of self-restraint, namely ahimsa (non-injury), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-theft), brahmacharya (non-lust) and to remain engrossed in Paramatma and aparigrah (living with minimum requirements).
Personal rituals of ahimsa involve dignified speech, avoiding thoughts wishing ill for others or physically hurting them, including other creatures. The latter necessarily means avoiding animal slaughter to observe a plant-based diet. Rituals of satya mean to speak the truth and avoid deceitful and fraudulent behaviour. This includes gaining money by lottery, gambling and betting. For children and young students, this means to avoid cheating or copying in exams and to study sincerely with the awareness that Bhagwan is omniscient and that cheating does not please one’s spiritual guru.
Asteya means to avoid theft or even taking an object without permission of the owner. Children should not even pick a neighbour’s flower or fruit to offer in a mandir without their consent. For adults asteya means to honestly pay tax.
Brahmacharya for the young means to study diligently until the age of 25 years without dating, or watching or reading material which induces lustful thoughts. For the married, brahmacharya means to remain loyal to one’s spouse. Bhagwan Swaminarayan and all the Gunatit gurus voiced the sentiment of ek nari sada brahmachari for householders. Brahmacharya brings one closer to Bhagwan (Vachanamrut Gadhada II 33).
Aparigrah is simple living, the key to peace. More possessions lead to greater mental burden. Hoarding leads to ashanti – misery. The fewer one’s possessions, such as clothing, gadgets, property and so forth, the greater is one’s detachment from the mundane world. In practice, this means to simplify one’s living and to make do with minimum requirements. The time and energy saved is spent in devotion to Bhagwan and seva of his devotees.


This second limb involves rituals of external and internal purity, comprising five factors: shauch (purity), santosh (contentment), tapas (austerity), swadhyay (regular study of truthful shastras) and ishwar pranidhan (bhakti of Bhagwan). Shauch involves rituals of physical purity such as bathing daily in the morning since sleep renders impurity to the mind and body. Ideally, bathing in a holy river or lake accrues great punya. Water washes away the karmic impurities deposited in the mind by unholy dreams. Chanting sacred mantras or Bhagwan’s name while bathing is an even greater purifier.
Santosh means contentment. One remains content with whatever Bhagwan has destined in our prarabdha karmas. This involves factors such as intelligence, health, wealth, possessions and longevity. Striving for more than what is karmically destined leads to asantosh – discontent and misery. Tapas means austerity. In addition to ritual fasting and fasting for atonement (prayaschitt), tapas also means willingly tolerating hardships and the dualities of heat-cold, hunger-thirst, joy-unhappiness, honour-insult, gain-loss and so forth. A practical form of tapas involving diet is to eat less, thus leaving the stomach partially empty. Children often take vows of avoiding their favourite food items such as chocolate, etc. to donate the money saved for constructing a new mandir in their city or region. A current example is of the Swaminarayan Akshardham in Robbinsville, USA. Such rituals of tapas strengthen the atma to gain control over the indriyas (senses) and mind.
Swadhyay is the daily study of true or authentic shastras such as those written by Bhagwan Ved Vyas as cited by Bhagwan Swaminarayan in the Shikshapatri (93–95). In the BAPS, this also includes all literature about the guru parampara. A recent addition is Satsang Diksha by Mahant Swami Maharaj.
Ishwar pranidhan means devotion to Paramatma. The rituals of such devotion were cited in article three, rituals of navdha bhakti.

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