I was struck but the differences in the translations this week. I also have been fascinated with the niyamas as the religion I was raised in has no such rules. We had the ten commandments which are more closely aligned to the yamas.
Iyengar: Cleanliness, contentment, religious zeal, self study and surrender of the self to the supreme Self or God are the niyamas.
Niyamas are individual practices to build character, Iyengar says. He notes there is both internal and external purification. Iyengar asks in his commentary “What is true religion?” He says “It is eternal and has no denominations or boundaries. It is a method knowingly designed to lift each individuals awareness so that he may experience the vision of the core of his being.”
Bryant: The observances are cleanliness, contentment, austerity, study [of scripture], and devotion to God.
Bryant writes that Harihrananda says that “meat and intoxication cause the mind to be agitated and stimulated – they incite rajas and tamas”… when discussing internal cleanliness. Contentment, he writes, come from finding happiness with whatever one has. Tapas is the “ability to tolerate hunger and thirst as well as all the dualities of life”. Study refers to studying the scriptures and repeating devotional mantras like Om. Devotion to God has received a lot of discussion on our Sutras study group because many people don’t believe in God. And how to approach this sutra with your students where discussion of religion is usually shunned?
Taimni: Purity, contentment, austerity, self-study and self surrender constitute observances.
Taimni points out a key difference between the yamas and niyamas. A student can live as a hermit and not be challenged to live by the yamas. But the niyamas “which involves practices which have to be gone through regularly, day after day, whatever the circumstances”.
Carrera: Niyama consists of purity, contentment, accepting but not causing pain, study, and worship of God (self-surrender).
I found Carrera’s translation of tapas, most interesting. He says it “asks us to recognize and accept life’s inevitable occurrences of pain”. And later “there is an acceptance of pain as the teacher of vital lessons”.