Inner and Outer Restraint

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

The various aspects of yoga need to be applied in your life in a practical manner to derive the maximum benefit from your yogic involvement. The yamas and niyamas help in this process. The first two yamas are manahprasad, happiness, and, kshama, forgiveness. The two niyamas of yoga are japa, acquiring the ability to disconnect with your external associations and to look inside, and namaskara, becoming humble, in behaviour, action and thinking.


In this sequence, the third yama is danti and the third niyama is indriya nigraha. Danti means inner restraint, holding the mind in check. When you ride a horse, you are holding on to the reins so that it follows your instructions and guidance. That is danti. If you leave the reins of the horse and allow it to run here and there without your control, then that is not danti. You have to imagine that you are a horse-rider to know the meaning of danti: the hands have to be on the reins always.

What is the test of danti, mental restraint? You are living in the ashram for three months and for three months you have khichadi, simple food. Then one day, you have kheer, poori, halwa, spaghetti, pizza, everything together. Can you look at it without the eyes of greed and desire? Can you enjoy it and eat it without the eyes and the mentality of greed and desire? The moment you say, “Aaaah! Pizza! Spaghetti!” there is no danti. Your desire is screaming and there is no restraint of your mind. That is the test.

When something new comes, are you able to maintain your equipoise? When the same old thing comes, are you able to maintain your equipoise? You have to be a witness to your cravings, and a witness to your personal restraint, just as you are aware of your craving and your restraint. Therefore, danti is inner restraint.

Indriya nigraha

Indriya nigraha is the outer restraint. Outer restraint can be defined in many ways, however the final outcome is your equipoise. Somebody comes and abuses you left, right and centre. Can you, without frowning, without expressing your anger and without feeling agitated, just smile, relax and withdraw? Can you control your senses to that point? Can you stop their reactions and just maintain their balance point? When you stop the reaction and maintain the neutral point that is indriya nigraha.

In certain families the children are told, “No, I won’t buy you that. You need to learn to live without it. I am teaching you sanyam.” However, sanyam, control and restraint, is a quality that you have to develop. It is not something that you can educate somebody into. Sanyam is not something that you can learn or be taught by anybody. It is something that you have to cultivate yourself by being watchful.

16 February 2016, Ganga Darshan, Munger