Although ‘make love not war’ may be the key to a better life it’s sadly not what we see when we look around us. Imagine, as John Lennon said, what a wonderful world it would be if there were no wars and no suffering! How cool it would be!
There is nothing that could be more significant, helpful, or honoring of human existence and dignity than harmlessness, or non-injury, called ahimsa in yoga.
This may sound so simple, but ahimsa requires a complete shift in attitude. Few of us get through life without causing harm, whether by ignoring someone’s feelings, by using more of the earth’s resources than we need, or by buying products made by underage and underpaid workers. What to do when insects invade the kitchen or slugs eat away at the vegetable garden, yet we don’t want to harm them? And how often do we think things that are hurtful or harmful to ourselves?
How many times a day, consciously or otherwise, do we put ourselves down, reaffirm our hopelessness, dislike our appearance, or see ourselves as incompetent or unworthy? How much resentment, guilt, or shame do we cling to?
If there is one yoga that that leads to Self-Realization it is non-injury or ahimsa. Sri Swami Satchidananda
In a world where selfishness and self-interests are the norm, it takes great courage not to react with greed or anger, which can easily lead to violence. Yoga teaches us to be honest, respectful, to take care of ourselves and others, and ahimsa is integral to these teachings. Simply through the intent to cause less pain each of us can bring greater dignity to our world, so that harm is replaced with harmlessness and disrespect with respect.
Gandhi, one of India’s greatest yogis, was the champion of ahimsa. He changing the course of history by showing how harmlessness is more powerful than violence, inspiring millions of others to follow his lead. This showed that human dignity through non-injury is the essence of human decency.
By developing a sense of respect for others and a concern for their welfare we reduce our own selfishness, which is the source of all problems, and enhance our sense of kindness, which is a natural source of goodness. The Dalai Lama
Practicing mindful yoga, sitting in quiet reflection, meditation or prayer is immediately calming. When we get off the cushion the peace stays with us, highlighting any tendency to cause harm and making such behavior far less likely. It becomes even more improbable as we deepen awareness of our fundamental interconnectedness, for then violence toward another is causing harm to ourselves.
Try this: throughout your day silently repeat: “May I be well, May others be well, May I practice harmlessness toward myself and toward all others.”