अहिंसाप्रतिष्ठायां तत्सन्निधौ वैरत्यागः॥३५॥Yoga Sutra II.35
ahiṁsā-pratiṣṭhāyaṁ tat-sannidhau vairatyāghaḥ ॥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.
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: