Ahimsa: Living Nonviolence
“There is no virtue higher than non-injury.”
The Yamas, the first limb of yoga, tell us how to live a life of respect and accord with others. They are the ethical guidelines for right living, goals for life. The Yamas include ahimsa (nonviolence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (non-excess), and aparigraha (non-greed).
These yogic goals are just that: goals. Perfection is not the aspiration of yoga poses or the other limbs of yoga. The Yamas, like all of yoga, is a process or a practice. We will fall, whether out of a pose, or into angry words, or into excess of some sort, etc. We are human, after all. In this first edition blog post on the Yamas, I will discuss ahimsa or nonviolence.
Living yoga “off the mat” entails striving to live at peace and in harmony with others. Does this mean that we have no conflict? That we cannot disagree? Ahimsa does not dictate that we constantly agree with the ideas or theories of others, but rather that we approach our relationships with love and kindness, without malice or self-serving motives. Listening to the opinions of others and accepting them without judgement is a piece of nonviolence.
Building a nonviolent and peaceful life begins with nonviolence directed inward. We ourselves deserve to be the recipients of our own kindness and love. How often do we engage in self-deprecating thoughts or statements? How many times do we tell ourselves that we are not enough? These comments, spoken or not, are violent speech and cause ripples to expand out from us into the world.
Creating a loving dialogue with oneself is a perfect place to start on your own journey toward living a life of peace. Why not compliment yourself for your strengths, rather than berate yourself for your challenges? The kindness that you direct inward will grow and develop into compassion that you can share with the outside world. That compassion you share with those around you can bring about peace in your home or community, again spreading like ripples on the water. All because of a loving thought.
Beginning with our own inner conversations, we can create ahimsa in our lives. Allowing the peaceful words we think to guide our actions is one way to live this philosophy. Sadhguru wrote, "The way you think is the way you feel..." (Inner Engineering: A Yogi's Guide to Joy, page 192). And further, from our thoughts, come our actions. While there are many ways to embody ahimsa, thoughts and ideas are a beneficial starting point as they set the stage for our feelings, actions, and interactions. Striving for nonviolence in all aspects of our lives builds a framework on which we can construct a peaceful existence both on and off the mat.