|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 195 ]
"Ahimsa is the highest ideal. It is meant for the brave, never for the cowardly… No power on earth can subjugate you when you are armed with the sword of ahimsa. It ennobles both the victor and the vanquished."
~ Mahatma Gandhi
In the Sanskrit language, himsa means "to hurt, injure or cause harm." The particle 'a' means "no," and therefore confers the opposite meaning of "non-violence".
Ahimsa, however, is more than just about avoiding physical violence. It is the development of the virtue which will hinder one from harming, in any way, any being—that is in action and speech, as well as in thought. There is a wider positive meaning here which implies universal love.
The yogis deem that killing or harming in any way a being (meaning all beings, not just people) means to abuse its creator.
"Ahimsa really denotes an attitude and mode of behaviour toward all living creatures based on the recognition of the underlying unity of life... If we understand this principle thoroughly, the application of the ideal [of Ahimsa] in our life will become much easier."
~ The Science of Life, I.K. Taimni
Ahimsa, therefore, means causing no harm by any means. Words also possess potency and can inflict deep wounds upon another. Many consider that they do not condone violence, yet they regularity deride and chastise others with their speech. Their mental attitude is not one of ahimsa.
In many ways, physical restraint is the easy 'non-violence'. Alone however, this does not cut the roots of harmful action. Physical restraint alone can last only in-so-far as one's limits of tolerance. When that limit is reached -- and we all have a maximum level of tolerance for anything -- one might unleash a fury which cancels out any merit gained from their previous efforts at good behaviour.
The one who always manages to 'bite their tongue' will eventually 'blow their top' at some point. Therefore, the roots of violence must be severed. Those roots lie deep within the mind.
The practice of ahimsa, then, involves the study of the inner workings of one's own mind. It is the relinquishing of the ignorance and selfishness that causes one to conceive of negative thoughts towards others, which, if left unchecked, ultimately leads to himsa, or the harming of another.
Thought leads to word, which leads to action. Perfection in ahimsa abolishes this entire triad by severing its roots at the level of the mind. The one who strives for perfection in ahimsa keeps a strict watch over his/her mind, emotions, words and actions, and starts regulating them in accordance with a higher, evolved ideal...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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