Ahimsa :: Non-Violence

Ahimsa is the cornerstone of the ‘Yamas’ in the Ashtanga Yoga teachings. Of the 8 steps (8 parts:: Ashta-=8, anga=parts/steps), Yamas describe the first step, of which Ahimsa forms the base.
So what does it have to say about being non-violent?

For a practitioner of Yoga, stillness of the mind is supreme. The sadhaka aims to keep the mind devoid of any agitation.

Himsa or violence can be of 3 basic types- 1. through thoughts 2. through words and 3. through actions. It can be self inflicted or inflicted on others.

Life presents us a lot of opportunities to practice ahimsa.

I have come across many others (and myself too) cursing during difficult times. A small unplanned change from the schedule or routine shakes us up completely, and we tend to start thinking negative.

We get irritated with others as well as the situation, and mentally abuse and swear.  This swearing could be for a human or even a non living object! For instance, I have caught myself cursing the road signal being red for a long time! And then I ask myself- is there any point cursing a machine which has been programmed to do something mostly for the better of others (in this case, controlling traffic and preventing accidents)?  I get my answer and then calm down.

We speak harsh, in a rude way when we are uncomfortable in a situation. We get angry and the words tend to be violent. The boss has asked for some documents which you haven’t completed for some. The office boy has come in late as the trains were not functioning on time. Without knowing the situation you tend to yell at the office boy for getting the tea late.

It’s the frustration of someone being pulled out on another. Why, even talking in a very high pitch is disturbing and can be considered ‘himsa’.

And the worst of all, getting embroiled in a fist fight. Someone scratches your car, in a rage you lose your mind, step out and abuse the person. Unfortunately, the other party is as abusive, and hence you decide to teach them a lesson by raising your hands, hitting the other person. This could snowball into a big fight, with one or both (or people around) of you getting badly injured. Instead, had we kept calm, we could have dissipated the incident by thinking ‘now that the car is scratched, let me see how I can reason with the other party to pay for the damages’.

We need to be aware of ourselves and observe the situations in which the mind could get agitated.  Awareness of the situation and our reaction itself is half the battle won.

So, what is the solution to it?  It has been described that if we start cultivating a feeling of non-violence, a non-harming attitude every time we are inclined to harm, the impact is such that we start living ahimsa. Letting go of dislike towards a person or a situation helps us overcome the disturbances that it may have otherwise caused in our mind. Living this is so impactful that even others around us give up hostilities!

So why not practice ahimsa to the best of our ability? Why not have a calm body and mind?! So that we can calmly say “We Live Yoga”!

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