Ahimsa or non-violence seems like an abstract concept. Many wonder if it even applies in modern life, given the violence and hate all around us. Here are eight things to know:
1. Core of Yoga- The aim of yoga is to silence all thoughts. The root of thoughts is the ego-identity. This is also the root of intolerance and violence. This is why ahimsa (non-violence) is a core value in Yoga. When we quiet our mind and allow space for tolerance and non-violence, our heart melts and love flows out. This soothes and calms the mind-body and allows us to further quiet our mind. Our yoga deepens.
2. Violence does more damage to perpetrator- The notion that we can get away with violence unscathed is silly. The fact is violence does more damage to the doer than the receiver. This is because our actions have ripples that flow out for a long time afterwards. Most of these ripples flow back into our life. The way the Universe is designed is that whatever we do multiplies and comes back in our life. If we plant love, love in our life multiplies. If we plant hate and intolerance this too comes back and poisons our life.
3. Non-Violence is not just in action – There are many levels for non-violence. The unseen, hidden levels are usually more important. So non-violence has to be present in thought, feeling, and action. It is not enough that our actions are non-violent, while internally we wish harm to the other person. Violence in thought or action is equally bad. Also one cannot remain “clean” and have somebody else do the dirty work. This means both direct and indirect violence is equally damaging.
4. Non-retaliation is possible – The natural instinct is to retaliate. If somebody uses harsh words against us we too want to shout back. If somebody harms us, how can we keep quiet? Is it right to allow somebody to walk all over us? The truth is that alternative paths are available. We must open our minds to the possibility that immediate retaliation is not always the answer. We must give ourselves space to frame a proper response. If we allow ourselves this room, we will find that sometimes silence is the best response. Sometimes a more measured response is the best one. Sometimes it is better to walk away from the poison. A commitment to non-violence gives us the freedom to explore all options and choose our response wisely rather than instinctively.
5. Love is always the answer – Sometimes we indeed have to stand up and defend ourselves. In such rare instances we must always, first explore all alternate options, and we must always wish our opponent well. Even as we duel our opponents we must love them with all our heart and wish them well. Our duel should always be symbolic and we should never take the contest to heart at an emotional level. This allows us not to be consumed by the fight and always be open to walk away or seek compromise.
6. Forgiveness is the key – Non-forgiveness is also a form of violence. Why allow seeds to remain in our hearts that will later germinate into trees of violence and mistrust? Every seed of non-forgiveness that we keep in our heart consumes our energy. It strengthens our ego-identity and takes us away from the silence and inner peace of yoga. Violence breeds violence. Hate breeds hate. The only way out of this cycle is forgiveness. By walking away from the past we allow a new future to be born where love replaces hate, where cooperation replace conflict, and where joy replaces sorrow.
7. Violence kills creativity – One of the roots of violence is intolerance. This is our inability to process opposing thoughts. By allowing opposing ideas to contest in our mind, rather than rejecting new ideas instinctively, we can become creative. All creativity arises from the contest of opposites. A new whole is created from the fusion of opposites. Violence and intolerance divides and contracts. Non-violence and tolerance unites and expands.
8. Recognize the connection – Violence comes about because we consider ourselves as separate and disconnected. Violence provides an easy path out. It allows us to believe that because we are different our interests are also different. Non-violence on the other hand requires us to think above our differences and find out common interests. For example when we do violence to the environment we somehow believe that we are disconnected from it. This allows us to believe that the harm we do to it can be done without harming ourselves. But when we expand our thinking to see our interconnection with the environment, we see that we can no longer hurt the environment without hurting ourselves. A commitment to non-violence allows us the freedom to belong to the whole rather than restrict ourselves to a part.
It is clear from all this is that non-violence or ahimsa is not an impractical and somewhat idealistic notion. Rather it is a roadmap and a blueprint that allows us to open our hearts to the deep love, joy, and connections of life.
Related: True Meaning Of Non-Violence
Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah.