We are going to focus in this chapter on the first of the Yamas as the key attitude to open the doors of enlightenment. As I said in chapter one, Yama means death, since Yama was a god of death in Indian mythology. Death is the ultimate restraint, but also the ultimate liberator. We need to kill, through restraining, the attitudes that have led us on the road to ruin in the past. These attitudes have not only led us to ruin personally. They have also led our species to the brink of ecological collapse, killing trillions of other creatures, and annihilating species and systems in the process.
The Yamas are the first of the eight limbs of yoga, and in true ecologically aware style, we can think of these as limbs of a tree (or a body, like that of a spider). The spider analogy is not used much in yoga probably because people don’t really like spiders, but spiders are an essential part of ecosystems. They have been around for about 400 million years and are one of the oldest land animals. Their appetites for small insects keep in check many of the mites and bugs that would otherwise make our homes uninhabitable. Their webs are marvels of engineering precision, chemical brilliance, and mathematical and artistic wonder. The tensile strength of a spider’s silk is ten times as strong as steel.