International Journal of Yoga - Philosophy, Psychology and Parapsychology

: 2014  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 4--8

Examining the relevance of Yamas and Niyamas to Toyota

Chandrasekahar Prasad Vemuri, Prasad Kaipa 
 CEO, Vemuri Consultants Private Limited, India and CEO, Kaipa Group, USA

Correspondence Address:
Chandrasekahar Prasad Vemuri
6 3 595/9, Padmavathi Nagar, Kahairatabad, Hyderabad - 500 004


Yamas and Niyamas are the social and personal conduct observances in Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. There were reports in the literature that they came close to the Code of Conduct Guidelines (CCGs) and the basic principles of Toyota. The purpose of this paper is to make an in-depth study of this observation to assess the relevance of Yamas-Niyamas to Toyota over and above its CCGs and basic principles. We carried out this study by tracking the revisions the company made over time in its basic principles and also by mapping the CCGs and principles to Yamas and Niyamas. During the revisions, we found that the principles that emphasize�DQ� happiness at work�DQ� (Santosha) and �DQ�humility and gratitude�DQ� (Easwarapranidhana) took a back seat which got again reemphasized when the company faced the latest recall crisis. The mapping has shown that the tenet asteya of the Yamas and Soucha of the Niyamas could not be directly mapped to any of the CCGs and principles. Yet, these are shown to be relevant to Toyota in its conduct before and during the recall crisis. Thus, it is suggested that it will be useful for Toyota to pay attention to all the Yamas and Niyamas which can supplement the existing CCGs and principles. This can equip the company to face an increasingly complex environment in the future. The study is carried out by an in-depth analysis of the already existing vast literature on Toyota and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali .

How to cite this article:
Vemuri CP, Kaipa P. Examining the relevance of Yamas and Niyamas to Toyota.Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol 2014;2:4-8

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Vemuri CP, Kaipa P. Examining the relevance of Yamas and Niyamas to Toyota. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol [serial online] 2014 [cited 2023 Jun 10 ];2:4-8
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It is well-known that the Yamas and Niyamas of Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are foundational to yogic thought. [1] It was earlier observed [2] that Toyota's Code of Conduct Guidelines (CCGs) and its principles come close to the Yamas and Niyamas of Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The purpose of this paper is to carry out an in-depth study of this observation and assess whether it is useful to augment Toyota's CCGs and principles using the Yama-Niyama guidelines keeping in view the increasingly complex environment the company (or perhaps any company) might be facing in the future.


We used the grounded theory approach for the study [3] by carrying out critical analysis of the changes Toyota made in its principles and CCGs over time, mapping them to Yamas and Niyamas and assessing whether there is additional need for Toyota for using the Yama- Niyama guidelines in its quest for enduring success. All the work is carried out through secondary research from the vast amount of published information available on Toyota as well as on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.


Toyota is one of the few companies that performed consistently well during the latter half of the 20 th century and even during the first decade of the 21 st century although there were a few occasional hiccups such as the recent massive recall crisis. Many scholars [4],[5],[6],[7] attribute such a consistent performance to its management culture. Underlying this culture is the philosophy enunciated by founder Kiichiro Toyoda's father, Sakichi Toyoda. Sakichi formulated these principles based on deep insights as an inventor (while running his loom company), and on the doctrines of Nichern Buddhism. [7] Following are his five Principles: [5]

Always be faithful to your duties, thereby contributing to the company and the overall good of the countryAlways strive to build a home-like atmosphere at work that is warm and friendlyAlways be practical and avoid frivolousnessAlways stay ahead of the times through research and creativityAlways have respect for the presence of a higher spiritual being and be grateful at all times (be reverent and conduct your life in thankfulness and gratitude).After Kiichiro's introduction of these principles in the company in 1935, subsequent managements suitably changed and reinterpreted them to suit the changing times. The modern interpretation of these principles was given by Hino, [7] a Toyota scholar in Japan [Table 1]. The first major revision was in 1992 aimed at expressing Toyota as a good corporate citizen of the world and setting right its earlier image as a "selfish and inward looking company." This was followed by another minor revision in 1997 [Table 1] reinforcing the company's strong concern for the environment and the society. These revisions resulted in the introduction of the first hybrid car, the Prius, which symbolized Toyota's engagement with environmental issues and strongly communicating to the world that it is a responsible corporate citizen of the world. Principles 6 and 7 of the 1992 and 1997 revision were newly introduced and did not map directly to any of the original Toyota principles. [7] The company made another major revision [7] in 2001 [Table 1] aimed at preparing itself for the 21 st century.{Table 1}

Notice the spiritual flavor of the lofty Toyoda precepts is not there in any of the revisions. Example; the spirit of the basic precepts 2 and 5 viz. "create a homelike environment at work" and "humility and gratitude" did not quite reflect in any of the revisions [Table 1]. In fact, there were attempts in the later years to reduce the influence of the original Toyoda family and significantly change the culture of the company to meet the rapidly changing needs of the environment and aspirations of the younger employees. [7] However, Akio Toyoda, the current President, did not quite subscribe to this line of thinking. Necessitated by the recession and huge recalls, he emphasized on "10 attitudes" [Table 2] [4] for each Toyota employee to follow. The attitudes 10 and 8 among them brought back the spirit of the basic precepts 2 and 5.{Table 2}

Supporting the principles that govern the personal behavior of the people during work, Toyota released in 1998 the CCGs, which govern the social behavior, which were again revised [8] in 2006. Five of the important CCGs are presented in [Table 3]. In fact, the "10 attitudes" in [Table 2] appear to be a combination of some of the principles and CCGs.{Table 3}

Toyota worked hard over a number of years to develop a culture of behavior across the company, encompassing different contexts in various countries, for implementing Sakichi's principles. Successive leaders passed on the wisdom genes of Sakichi to their successors who added their own genes before passing on to the next leader. [7] Thus, there is an evolution of the wisdom lore in the company that was translated into standardized behavioral patterns through Kata-a method used by Toyota for changing behavior and develop new behavioral patterns-done through a well-developed mentoring process. [9] But, in spite of such well thought out implementation processes, the company could not avoid the occasional problems as briefly outlined above.

The reason, in the words of Liker and Ogden [4] is "Fulfilling demand, expanding capacity, introducing new products and planning for growth, take up all the available energy. There seem to be no negative consequences from taking shortcuts and choosing "good enough" over excellence. These shortcuts create weaknesses that steadily build, and when success starts to drain away, the consequences can be severe and difficult to deal with." Kaipa and Radjou had given a number of examples of how, many "smart leaders" have fallen from grace succumbing to the above weakness. [10]


The different revisions and interpretations Toyota is making in its principles, CCGs and their combination [Table 1] and [Table 2] over the years, clearly indicate that the company is still experimenting with them. Therefore, one cannot be sure whether such changes will continue to serve Toyota adequately in the future that is likely to be riddled with increased complexity in customer demands and the overall business environment. [11],[12] In this context, we examined whether Yamas and Niyamas which are known to have some similarity to CCGs, and Toyota principles [2] would be helpful.

 Mapping of code of conduct guidelines and Toyota principles to Yamas and Niyamas

Yamas are social conduct rules, and Niyamas are personal conduct observances. In all, there are five Yamas [Table 3] viz. nonviolence, truthfulness, continence (working for the larger well), nonstealing and nonaccumulation. Similarly, there are five Niyamas [Table 4] which are: Cleanliness, happiness, forbearance, self-study/reflection, and gratefulness/surrender. The deeper interpretation of all the Yamas and Niyamas was given in the excellent commentaries by different scholars and spiritual leaders. [13],[14],[15] Yamas invite us to "turn around" and take a step towards harmony, whenever we are making a negative impact on the world [1] . On the other hand, Niyamas move us from a social focus to an internal focus and help us develop an inner essence of deep harmony and strength." [1]{Table 4}

[Table 3] clearly shows that the five Yamas could reasonably be mapped to five CCGs although; the fit is not exact in some cases. Example; the Yama, Asteya, meaning "not stealing," is not just "insider trading", but has a much deeper meaning which will be discussed below. Likewise, the first Niyama, saucha, meaning "cleanliness or purity" is not an exact fit to the first Toyota principle. The meaning of the Niyama "Swadhaya" is taken as "staying ahead of the times through research and creativity" [Table 4] whereas, Swadhaya's original meaning is "pursuit of knowing oneself." We took here its contextual meaning as "to know what we do not know and learn for the future." [1]

The 10 attitudes emphasized by Akio Toyoda during the 09-10 recall crisis could be mapped to three of the Yamas and four of the Niyamas [Table 2] [4] The Yamas that could not be directly mapped are: Nonviolence (ahimsa) and nonstealing (asteya). The niyama that could not be mapped is cleanliness (Soucha). But, ahimsa meaning "nonviolence" could be mapped fairly easily to one of the CCGs as shown in [Table 3]. In fact, the importance of nonviolence in the corporate context was also well emphasized by other scholars. [16] Therefore, we discuss below only the tenets which could not be directly mapped to either CCGs or principles which are: asteya (nonstealing) and Soucha (cleanliness) so as to understand their relevance to Toyota's context.

Asteya is nonstealing, [1],[13],[14],[15] in the broader sense, this means not claiming anything that is not deservedly earned. [13] It is the opposite of greed. Greed tempts people toward the path of "undisciplined pursuit of more" [17] without developing the commensurate competence for the same. In fact, according to Patanjali, greed hinders the practice of Yamas and Niyamas. [13] Toyota tried to race to #1 position without apparently putting adequate effort in its human development matching the speed of its business development as indeed admitted by its president. The asteya attitude would have helped Toyota avoid this mistake.

Soucha is "cleanliness" that is both physical and mental. [13],[14],[15] Toyota is known for its attention to exceptional physical cleanliness. [10] However, mental cleanliness is lot more beneficial since it reduces clutter and heaviness and brings about brightness and clarity in one's essence. [13] This clarity enables one to understand any problem with "integrity and freshness." [1] It was observed that Toyota was "deaf to real world customer use, customer worries and concerns and to input from Nonengineers." It always felt that its engineering is so good that the problems are more with the customers than its own understanding of the customers. [4] It did not understand at the beginning that safety, which can be assured through exceptional engineering is different from giving peace of mind to the customer. But, giving peace of mind to the customer needs an adequate explanation about its safety particularly when there were adverse reports in the press. [4] This is cluttered thinking. Saucha in mind would have enabled Toyota to react differently to customer complaints. Thus, one can see that there is high relevance of the tenets, asteya and saucha to Toyota.

In addition, Yamas and Niyamas are interrelated and have a cause and effect relationship. The inner life which is influenced by the Niyamas generates thoughts that lead to words and actions in the external world; the outer life fashioned by Yamas creates circumstances and experiences which have an impact on the inner life. [13] Example, no one can practice nonviolence (Ahimsa) without having the inner discipline of mental cleanliness, happiness, forbearance, and self-study and surrender. Similarly, true happiness is not possible without being truthful (Satya) and nonviolent (Ahimsa). Without forbearance (tapah) which gives the determination and will power, deep self-study and reflection is not possible. Thus, there is an interrelation not only between the Yamas and Niyamas, but also within them. Recognition of this fact can obviously help Toyota in improving the effectiveness of implementation of its CCGs and principles. However, Toyota already seems to know about this interrelationship Considering that the 10 attitudes introduced by the company [4] in 2009 could be mapped to a combination of CCGs and principles [Table 2] although we did not come across any explicit mention of it in Toyota literature.

From the above discussion, it is clear that the Yamas-Niyamas tenets as a complete framework can be helpful to Toyota particularly because the company is already inadvertently following bulk of these tenets in the form of its CCGs and principles.


Further, well planned primary research is required to firmly establish the need for the Yama-Niyama framework for companies like Toyota, who are engaged in continuous improvement philosophyWhat is its relevance to companies like Apple and Google who follow the breakthrough innovation philosophyAre there other ways of achieving enduring growth for companies without following the personal and social conduct guidelines as discussed in this paper?


The discussion is based on the commentaries and interpretations of different scholars of Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and therefore may have some element of subjectivity although we tried to minimize it by ensuring that the interpretations we picked up are more are less uniform across different commentators.


Critical reviews of the very early version by Prof. Amit Nandkeolyar of Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, India and the recent version by Prof. P.N. Murthy, former advisor, Tata Consultancy Services, India and the editorial improvements made by Mr. Sharat of Washington, USA are gratefully acknowledged. The work was supported by the Biocon cell for innovation management at the Indian School of Business Hyderabad (ISB), India The authors thank the management of ISB for permission to publish this work.


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