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Le mois d'Ahimsa (Non-violence). The month of non violence.

March 2020 : The month of Ahimsa

अहिंसाप्रतिष्ठायां तत्सन्निधौ वैरत्यागः॥३५॥
ahiṁsā-pratiṣṭhāyaṁ tat-sannidhau vairatyāghaḥ ॥35॥

Yoga Sutra II.35

When one becomes steadfast in his absence of desire of harming others, then all beings cease to feel hostility in his presence – Yoga Sutra II.35

Once upon a time, a great sage came to a village and saw that a snake was terrorizing the village. Being conversant in the language of the snakes, he taught the snake the path of Ahimsa. A year later, he returned to the village. The village was peaceful, but the snake had grown thin and was grievously injured.

“What happened to you?” asked the sage.

“I learned the path of ahimsa,” replied the snake. “Now, I no longer eat rats or terrorize the villagers. But sometimes, for they no longer fear me, the children of the village throw stones at me.”

“I taught you the path of nonviolence, my child,” sighed the sage. “And I asked you to stop biting people out of spite. But I never asked you to stop eating. And I never asked you to stop hissing…”

हिंसा (hiṁsā) : Violence, to hurt, to injure. अ- (a-) : Prefix that denotes the absence of what follows

Ahimsa is the greatest virtue (Mahabharata 13.117.37) and perhaps the essence of the entire corpus of Hindu philosophy. But it is also a concept easy to misunderstand. For Ahimsa can’t be equated to pacifism. It is much deeper than that. Much subtler. It isn’t just about “absence of violence”. It is “absence of desire to injure”, whether another, or oneself.

What is Ahimsa? (video in French)

There are three ways of causing injury: through what we do ourselves, through what we incite others to do, and through that which we permit to be done. Behind each is either desire to obtain something, or anger at something that was done to us, or ignorance of the true nature of the act.

To follow the path of ahimsa, it is important that we cultivate opposing thoughts to the ones that incite us towards violence. But in order to do so, first we must be conscious of the thoughts that lead us towards violent actions.

The month of March of 2020 is dedicated to helping our students and readers better understand the concept of Ahimsa and develop a practice based upon nonviolence. Here is what we will work upon during the classes during this month:

Program for Ahimsa

Develop mindfulness of breath, movement and thoughts for it is only through mindfulness of breath that we gain an insight into our own thoughts. During this first week:

  1. All the classes will start with a small discourse upon Ahimsa before drawing our attention to our breath.
  2. During the asanas, we will seek to link breath to movement in a more concentrated manner.
  3. During the practice of pranayama, we will pay  special attention to the moment of transition between inhalation and exhalation.
  4. All classes will end with mindfulness of breath after the chant of Aum, shanti, shanti, shanti.

Suggested routine for both our students and our readers:

  1. 5 minutes of mindfulness of breath upon waking up.
  2. Three mindful breaths before breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  3. Before going to bed, concentrate upon the transition between inhale and exhale for 2 minutes.

The path of ahimsa requires both courage and perseverance. For to remove the desire to injure, whether ourselves or others, we must learn to forgive. And learn to be patient! This week, the focus will be upon adding sankalpa (vow) to our practice, learning to concentrate our thoughts, and following the path of forgiveness.

  1. All classes with start with mindfulness of breath followed by trataka (concentration) upon the flame of a candle.
  2. Before beginning the practice, in tadasana, we will speak out the following vow: “I will not cede to the desire of hurting others or myself”.
  3. During both asana and pranayama, we will concentrate upon the transition between breaths instead of performance during the practice.
  4. The class will end with mindfulness of breath followed by:
    1. Forgiving ourselves for any violence that we may have done to others or to ourselves.
    1. Forgiving others for any violence they may have done to us.
    1. Thanking the five elements for being present during our practice.
    1. The chant of Aum, shanti, shanti, shanti.

Suggested routine for both our students and our readers:

  1. 5 minutes of mindfulness of breath upon waking up while concentrating the vision upon an object in front of us. Thank the five elements and the breath for their presence.
  2. Three mindful breaths before breakfast, lunch and dinner. Silently thank all the people who must have worked so that we have food to eat before us.
  3. Before going to bed, concentrate upon the transition between inhale and exhale for 2 minutes. Forgive ourselves for any violence we may have done to others or to ourselves. Forgive others for any violence they may have done to us.

It isn’t just anger that leads to violence, it is also greed. In many ways, we become slave to our greed. This week will be dedicated to the practice of aparigraha (non-greed) through the addition of a simple ritual.

  1. All classes start with mindfulness of breath and concentration upon a candle. With every breath, allow every desire, every fear to be burnt by the fire of the candle.
  2. Sankalpa in tadasana before starting the practice: “Today, I will practice without seeking any results from my practice.”
  3. During asana and pranayama: concentrate upon the flow of breath between the heart and the base of the spine.
  4. The class ends with:
    1. Mindfulness of breath.
    1. Forgive oneself and others
    1. Thank the five elements and breath.
    1. Practice aparigraha by giving the desires to fire.

Suggested Routine: same as week 2.

This final week of practice of ahimsa is dedicated towards developing opposing thoughts to the ones that incite us to injure others and ourselves. But the opposing thought to hate is not love! The opposing thought to hate is understanding the futility of hate, and how that hatred will harm us and our practice.

  1. All classes will start with mindfulness of breath, concentration upon candle and the practice of aparigraha.
  2. Sankalpa in tadasana before starting the practice: “Today, I will practice without seeking any results from my practice.”
  3. During asana and pranayama: concentrate upon the heart chakra and transition between exhale and inhale.
  4. Meditation after every class:
    1. Mindfulness of breath.
    1. Contemplation upon what happens when we allow emotions like hatred or greed to guide our path.
    1. Thank the elements and forgive oneself and others.
    1. Chant of asatoma.

Suggested routine for both our students and our readers:

Add to routine of week two:  2m of contemplation upon the results of violence towards oneself or others in the morning. One day on a weekend: contemplate upon the need and results of violence towards others and oneself.

This post is also available in: Français

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