1st Yama Ahimsa (Non-Harming)

One of the first observances in Yoga is ahimsa, non-harming. How many times do we consciously act or respond keeping this in mind. At least, I rarely did it. Here, harming not only means a physical hurt but hurting others through our unconscious actions, speech, and even by thoughts.

While folding the yoga mat, my teacher will suddenly yell at me, “what are you doing? You are hurting the mat. Fold it carefully…” I gave him a puzzled look and wondered if the mat can really ‘feel’ anything. Before, I never thought twice in plucking a flower but here, we were strictly told not to do so… as they have the same life force that resides in us. Agreed! But still is it so wrong to pluck a flower? Swami Rama says enjoy the beauty of the flower the way the bees and butterfly enjoy; why do we need to hurt the flower for our own pleasure?

So G was actually trying to create a sensitivity that can prevail in all the actions we do 24×7. I still don’t know if the mat can feel or not; but  that’s really not the point, by being conscious, the awareness seeps deep in our latent mind and it becomes a part of our nature.

Now, here I come in the external world, trying to employ all the yamasniyamas in my day-to-day life. And Ahimsa being first, on the list, thought, it will be a cakewalk; that must be the reason, Sage Patanjali put it first on the list, right? So at my work place, and at home, I started being “nice” and all good (consciously). Before saying or doing anything, I’ll be cautious if my action or speech will hurt anyone. I would keep my temper in check all the times and just won’t do anything that will offend anyone. I was mighty pleased with my swift progress.

 Before I realized, I had started to suffer from a ‘pleasing syndrome’. Now that was an alarming call for me. Because in the process of this ‘non-harming’ business, people, mistake your non-reaction as your weakness and instead start hurting you. And in the practical world, I found it impossible to apply it because you can’t live as a hypocrite.  At times, you need to call spade, a spade.

 So I again tried to grasp the meaning from practical aspect on

 how to practice Ahimsa:

“First and foremost Ahimsa should be applied to yourself. Don’t harm yourself or allow yourself to be harmed by others. While it is not helpful to be egotistical or me-centered, it is not beneficial to be exclusively you-centered but still believe in the principle,  All in One. “(Sacred Journey by Swami Rama)

Pleasing others for their sake is not Ahimsa. So you need to speak your mind. Don’t kill your conscience at any cost.

Ahimsa doesn’t mean in doing good, but we really need to cease to hurt and not to add to anyone’s suffering. The easiest way to do this is to mind your own business (that all of us rarely do). Unless it’s really your business, don’t go and interfere in other people’s affairs. That’s the biggest favor that can be done.

A small story that is always in my back pocket (as narrated by G):

Once there lived a snake nearby a village, it would bite any villager passing through the area, he lived in. The villagers were very troubled by the snake and they stopped using that route. Once a wise sage, was passing through that village, they narrated him their plight; the sage promised to help. He went to the snake and asked him – why was he harassing and biting so many innocent villagers? The snake replied that he does it for his self-protection, as the villagers threw stones at him and tried to hurt him. The sage assured that no villager from now on would trouble him. He can live peacefully here and let the villagers use this area without fear. The snake promised. Sage told the villagers same condition, they also happily agreed. Few years later, the same sage happened to cross the village. He went to see the snake, the snake was in a very poor state and badly injured. The sage asked him how did it happen. Snake replied, “I kept my end of the promise but the villagers never did.” Sage told the snake, I told you not to bite but you could always hiss!

So, Don’t bite; but never forget to hiss.

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