Here will I hold — If there is a Pow’r above us (And that there is, all Nature cries aloud, Thro’ all her Works), He must delight in Virtue And that which he delights in must be Happy. Cato
I stumbled upon this quote while reading the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. He included this just before he explained that in order to be a virtuous man, one must strive to adhere to a strict set of principles.
However, these principles are not to be easily mastered and he was surprised at how challenging it was to live by the virtues which he knew were so obviously beneficial. This proves there is a big difference between knowing something intellectually, versus knowing through rigorous practice and experience.
Thus, he created a system, whereby he spent one week on each principle, analyzing at the end of each day his adherence to it. If he followed the virtue, he added a check mark for that day, if he erred, he placed an X. Only when he had completed one week without breaking a virtue, did he move to the next.
What he found was that when he vigilantly focused on one virtue, other bad habits would pop up. It took serious will for him to live by any of these virtues — ultimately he did not succeed.
However, in spite of the results of this practice, he later said that he owed much of his success and happiness in life to the endeavor — regardless of the final outcome.
Over the years, I have studied many teachings on ethical principles and Franklin inspired me to create my own. He noted the importance of maintaining clear definitions of each principle, and I attempt to do the same below (plus for fellow yogis, I’ve added the Yama or Niyama that I believe corresponds to each virtue where applicable).
For now these are just words. But I hope that these principles will serve as guides to my actions and filters through which I can analyze the many problems of life.
Most importantly these are aspirational. I am not so arrogant to believe that I am perfect and know that I will ultimately fail to adhere to all of these principles always without error. However, I hope that through practice, I will become a better student, teacher, friend, lover, brother, son, father and grandfather.
In sharing these publicly, I hope to inspire others, like Franklin did me, to at least bring to light their own sets of values:
PATIENCE — An understanding that all things take time and may not unfold according to my expectations. However, all is as it should be.
HONESTY (SATYA & ASTEYA)— Don’t say it if I don’t mean it. Follow through on promises and use no deceit.
CURIOSITY (SVADHYAYA) — Ask questions, admit to ignorance, sincerely listen, and view all others as teachers.
COMPASSION (AHIMSA) — Choose words carefully when speaking to myself and others. No disparaging speech or actions.
a. Compassionate Diet — Eat no pig or no cow; vegetarian for at least 2 meals per day
RESOLUTION — Resolve to do what I am meant to do; perform without fail that which I resolve.
FITNESS (TAPAS)— Of body, mind, and spirit:
a. Body — 1 hour daily of physical exercise
b. Mind — At least 1 hour daily to read a book, blog or long article; listen to an informative podcast; experience a museum or lecture; or watch an informative video
c. Spirit — At least 10 minutes daily of meditation (kriya, mantra, concentration, or pranayama)
FRUGALITY (APARIGRAHA)— Waste nothing; make no expense but to do good to others or myself; no frivolous spending. Do not waste others’ time or misappropriate others’ resources.
TRANQUILITY (SANTOSA) — Be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or unavoidable. All is as it should be. Do not covet the lives or possessions of others. Avoid thinking and acting jealously.
INDUSTRY (TAPAS)— Lose no time; focus my attention to be always employed in something useful; cut off unnecessary actions.
CHASTITY (BRAHMACHARYA)— Sex is an act to express a deeper connection; it is not an end in and of itself, it is not to be used to objectify others.
TEMPERANCE/MODERATION (SAUCHA) — Avoid extremes. Don’t eat until dull, don’t drink until elevated. No other drugs.
ORDER — Let all things have their places; let each part of business have its time.
DEVOTION (ISVARA PRANIDHANA) — Results are not reflective of self worth; work through devotion by offering the results of actions