Foundations Of Yoga Part 2 Ahimsa Harmlessness

Foundations Of Yoga Part 2 Ahimsa Harmlessness

Ahimsa: non-violence,​ non-injury,​ harmlessness

In his commentary on​ the​ Yoga Sutras,​ Vyasa [Vyasa was one of​ the​ greatest sages of​ India,​ author of​ the​ Mahabharata (which includes the​ Bhagavad Gita),​ the​ Brahma Sutras,​ and the​ codifier of​ the​ Vedas.] begins his exposition of​ ahimsa: "Ahimsa means in​ no way and at​ no time to​ do injury to​ any living being." Shankara expands on​ this,​ saying that ahimsa is​ "in no capacity and in​ no fashion to​ give injury to​ any being." This would include injury by word or​ thought as​ well as​ the​ obvious injury perpetrated by deed,​ for Shankara further says: "Ahimsa is​ to​ be practiced in​ every capacity-body,​ speech,​ and mind." we​ find this principle being set forth by Jesus in​ his claim that anger directed toward someone is​ a​ form of​ murder (Matthew 5:21,​22),​ and by the​ Beloved Disciple's statement that hatred is​ also murder.(I John 3:15)

Even a​ simple understanding of​ the​ law of​ karma,​ the​ law of​ sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7),​ enables us to​ realize the​ terrible consequences of​ murder for the​ murderer. as​ Vyasa explains: "The killer deprives the​ victim of​ spirit,​ hurts him with a​ blow of​ a​ weapon,​ and then tears him away from life. Because he has deprived another of​ spirit,​ the​ supports of​ his own life,​ animate or​ inanimate,​ become weakened. Because he has caused pain,​ he experiences pain himself.... Because he has torn another from life,​ he goes to​ live in​ a​ life in​ which every moment he wishes to​ die,​ because the​ retribution as​ pain has to​ work itself right out,​ while he is​ panting for death."

Ahimsa is​ interpreted in​ many ways-which is​ to​ be expected since Sanskrit is​ a​ language that abounds in​ many possible meanings for a​ single word. But fundamentally ahimsa is​ not causing any harm whatsoever to​ any being whatsoever,​ including subhuman species. (Ahimsa is​ not usually considered in​ relation to​ plant and mineral life,​ but certainly wanton destruction of​ such life would be an​ infringement of​ ahimsa,​ partly because it​ would eventually have a​ detrimental effect on​ animal life as​ well.) to​ accomplish this ideal it​ is​ self-evident that violence,​ injury,​ or​ killing are unthinkable for the​ yogi. And as​ Vyasa immediately points out,​ all the​ other abstinences and observances-yama and niyama-are really rooted in​ ahimsa,​ for they involve preventing harm both to​ ourselves and to​ others through either negative action or​ the​ neglect of​ positive action.

"The other niyamas and yamas are rooted in​ this,​ and they are practiced only to​ bring this to​ its culmination,​ only for perfecting this [i.e.,​ ahimsa]. They are taught only as​ means to​ bring this out in​ its purity. For so it​ is​ said: 'Whatever many vows the​ man of​ Brahman [God] would undertake,​ only in​ so far as​ he thereby refrains from doing harm impelled by delusion,​ does he bring out ahimsa in​ its purity.'" And Shankara explains that Vyasa is​ referring to​ delusion that is​ "rooted in​ violence and causing violence."

Ahimsa includes strict abstinence from any form of​ injury in​ act,​ speech,​ or​ thought. Violence,​ too,​ verbal and physical,​ must be eschewed. And this includes any kind of​ angry or​ malicious damage or​ misuse of​ physical objects.

Ahimsa is​ a​ state of​ mind from which non-injury will naturally proceed. "Ahimsa really denotes an​ attitude and mode of​ behavior towards all living creatures based on​ the​ recognition of​ the​ underlying unity of​ life,​" the​ modern commentator Taimni declares. Shankara remarks that when ahimsa and the​ others are observed "the cause of​ one's doing harm becomes inoperative." the​ ego itself becomes "harmless" by being put into a​ state of​ non-function. And meditation dissolves it​ utterly. However,​ until that interior state is​ established,​ we​ must work backwards from outward to​ inner,​ and abstain from all acts of​ injury.

In actuality,​ we​ cannot live a​ moment in​ this world without injuring innumerable beings. Our simple act of​ breathing kills many tiny organisms,​ and so does every step we​ take. to​ maintain its health the​ body perpetually wars against harmful germs,​ bacteria,​ and viruses. So in​ the​ ultimate sense the​ state of​ ahimsa can only be perfectly observed mentally. Still,​ we​ are obligated to​ do as​ little injury as​ possible in​ our external life. in​ his autobiography Paramhansa Yogananda relates that his guru,​ Swami Yukteswar Giri,​ said that ahimsa is​ absence of​ the​ desire to​ injure.

Although it​ has many ramifications,​ the​ aspiring yogi must realize that the​ observance of​ ahimsa must include strict abstinence from the​ eating of​ animal flesh in​ any form or​ degree.

Though the​ subject is​ oddly missing from every commentary on​ the​ Yoga Sutras I have read,​ the​ practice of​ non-injury in​ relation to​ the​ yogi himself is​ vital. That is,​ the​ yogi must do nothing in​ thought,​ word,​ or​ deed that harms his body,​ mind,​ or​ spirit. This necessitates a​ great many abstensions,​ particularly abstaining from meat (which includes fish and eggs),​ alcohol,​ nicotine,​ and any mind- or​ mood-altering substances,​ including caffeine. On the​ other side,​ it​ necessitates the​ taking up of​ whatever benefits the​ body,​ mind,​ and spirit,​ for their omission is​ also a​ form of​ self-injury,​ as​ is​ the​ non-observance of​ any of​ the​ yama or​ niyamas. it​ is​ no simple thing to​ be a​ yogi.

Next: Satya (truthfulness,​ honesty)

Foundations Of Yoga Part 2 Ahimsa Harmlessness

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