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My stepson married his fiancé two weeks ago and now they are celebrating a rather unusual honeymoon at the ‘art festival’ called Burning Man in the U.S. The couple put together their own vows, which I think all the wedding guests found inspiring to hear. Daniel and I repeat our wedding vows to each other on our anniversary; it’s our way of seeing how we are travelling in our relationship and also to recommit to our promises if we have wavered. I hadn’t thought about the word ‘vow’ for some time until I came across Patanjali’s Sutra II-31. The dictionary definition of vow is a set of solemn promises committing one to a prescribed role, calling, or course of action, typically to marriage or a monastic order. It’s a serious thing! On top of it, this Sutra speaks of a ‘mahavratum’ – a great vow – that is said to be unconditionally valid. A yogi who is conscientious, whether high-born or low, will be obligated to follow the Yama, never mind place or time; the commitment to non-harm, truth, non-stealing, continence, and non-acquisitiveness will be adhered to. Of course, marriage partners, like noviciates, and unseasoned yogis take time to mature and evolve. The kindly Desikachar says we don’t begin with success, and even if we did, it might not last. But, if we look for and try to eliminate the obstacles to our development, any barriers will gradually give way. Our attitudes and behaviour will change.

jata desa kala samaya anavacchinnah sarvabhaumah mahavratum

Yamas are the great, mighty, universal vows, unconditioned by place, time and class.* *Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, B.K.S. Iyengar