When we think of concepts like nonviolence we often think of historical figures like Gandhi or Mother Teresa. Ahimsa, commonly referred to as “nonviolence” but more literally translated from sanskrit as “absence of injury” is an ancient concept originating in the Vedas. Ahimsa is part of the first of the eight yoga limbs known as yama or practices if self regulation designed to free us from beign victims of our own human impulses. Great leaders such as Ghandi lived by the teaching “Ahimsa parama dharma” – Non violence is our greatest walk of life. But with our modern day responsibilities and jobs we may not live ahimsa as a sole way of life. Instead there are ways we can live day to day that allow us to see the benefits of ahimsa in practice. Like anything else, before we begin to make a huge impact in the community or the world, good practices should begin at home. Different people have varying interpretations of what Ahimsa means to them. More importantly, we must note that we should be able to practice Ahimsa at any given situation.
- Ahimsa within self
I believe and try to teach myself that ahimsa is foundational in yoga but also is a foundational principle of the other 4 yamas. For example with the yama “satya”, truth is relative and embodies ahimsa.This means, be honest but not if it’s causing unecessary harm. Before we go all out of our way in trying to be in line with our authenticity and speak our truth, ask youself, ” Am i looking to speak my truth or should i stop at the moment of possibly causing harm?” Another way ahimsa is practised in the yoga community is by becoming vegan or vegetarian. While having a mostly vegetarian diet is good, going completely meat and dairy free does not work for every individual. A kinder option is to teach people to discern what is best for their bodies and their health. And not to shame people for their choices.
- Ahimsa within collective humanity
When i was still teaching as a primary school teacher, i was inspired by a fellow colleague who seemed to practice ahimsa in her classroom management. Of course at that time, before taking up this course, i did not think to label her practices as an effort to practice ahimsa – i simply took it as kindness. Mrs Loo would practice a Ghandian model of non violent classroom management that centers on equality and mutual respect. While the rest of the teachers would resort to shouting and threatening strategies to instill fear in their students (some even throwing things in the classroom), Mrs Loo would always seem to choose the kindest and gentlest option in dealing with difficult students, no matter how difficult they might be.
When we see ahimsa in action, it keeps us in positive connection with ourselves and the world. I see ahimsa in a news story about an eight year old boy helping another eight year old boy with autism feel better on the first day of school. I see it when my neighbour helps his wife through illness or when i learn that a friend is organizing plastic clean-ups on beaches. Its there when i choose a nourishing meal to serve my body in the midst of a busy work day. Ahimsa is present and relevant to all, in each of our unique lives.
Bringing awareness to it as a practice is truly important.
Love and light from my heart to yours,