08 Dec What is Ahimsa?
What is Ahimsa? Once upon a time I didn’t even know what that means! There’s eight different limbs, our Asana practice being one of them, but then there’s seven others incorporate what it means to be a Yogi and when we join all these limbs together in a way is what helps complete our whole practice. So when someone might speak about yoga being off the mat or ways that you might live a Yogi lifestyle, that’s what that means.
And the very first one on that list of the eight limbs is the Yamas. And the first one is Ahimsa, which translates to non-violence. A Yama is described as a moral discipline, moral restraint or a moral vow. So a Yama is more about the way that you might live your life and the way that you might want to observe things and think about ways that you can live in the best way possible without causing harm destruction grade to anyone else.
So how does ahimsa relate to living your best life and how also does this relate to veganism? So if anyone has read the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, in one of the chapters it goes into what ahimsa means. It’s when non-violence in speech thought and action is established, one’s aggressive nature is relinquished and others abandon hostility in one’s presence.
What I want to talk about today and going to the website and nanda.com. Uh, the way that they refer to ahimsa is non-harmfulness and to not wish harm to any living creature, not even to any lifeless object, ahimsa is about the intent rather than the action itself. It is an attitude of universal benevolence, and this is why a lot of yogis decide to go down the path of vegetarianism or veganism and. What I find interesting is that a lot of yoga teachers, when they first do a 200-hour training, where they’re going away somewhere and they’re staying somewhere for a month, um, they’ll eat vegan or they’ll eat vegetarian.
So ahimsa is about the intent rather than the action itself. Which I think is really important because it’s not necessarily about what I might physically be doing this very second, but it’s about the intent. And that might be thinking horrible thoughts about someone and, or it might be doing something to get back at someone., it might be all these other combinations of harm going into the world in thought and potentially action. But it’s generally about the thought first and this the way that this weaves into being vegan is about the thought itself about the intent, not so much about the action.
I’ve never gone out and killed an animal to put on my plate, so that action was never actually there for me,. But if I bring it back to the intent of why I wanted to do this and, the intent of what I was eating every day, the intent of potentially the longtime effects on potentially my own health, as well as the long-term effects of animal cruelty, environmental destruction and a whole bunch of other things. That’s where ahimsa me is the intent of non-violence towards animals towards the planet. And I guess towards myself, however, this is where sometimes the Yamas can get quite lost in translation a little bit because we can speak about it being.
An act of nonviolence to oneself. But if we go back to what a Yama is, moral discipline, restraint, and a hymn, some meaning your intent rather than your action, I guess the way I see it, that if you are looking at a himsa as a way of treating yourself as non-violent awesome stuff, but it’s what we project out into the world.
And I guess it’s that way of everything. Comes back around. And also as yogis, we want to be offering peace and we want to be offering good vibes and we want to be offering all of this good energy to the world. So rather than that, just staying internally and I want that to go out and help others be happy and free.
My favourite chant is Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. Which means may all beings be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom for all. I think if we all gave ourselves a chance to maybe stop, think about putting someone else first or putting something else first, then that can obviously help contribute to happiness.
So if you’re wondering what can I do can contribute in some way to hopefully be happiness in the freedom for something else, whether that’s a person or an animal, and this might fall into different categories for you, for you, that might be going vegetarian or might be considering consuming fewer products that cause harm to the environment.
It might be something you write down or you just take a moment to think about it. It might be sitting at your desk and just taking a breath and acknowledging something good in your life. And maybe thinking about someone else, because it can be really easy to focus on the self. And that is the famous line from the Bhagavad Gita that says “yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self”. Now I love that quote. However, I find it a little bit selfish because that all comes down to myself, my being and thinking about me only, and rather than doing that, I want to think about how my journey can potentially help others as well. So maybe after listening to this, you might take a few moments to write down some things that you’re grateful for.
It might be stopping and pausing next time a negative thought comes into your mind about something or someone and just posing for that moment and just letting that violent action or that violent intent definitely slip away.