This week we are discussing Ahimsa, the principle of non-injury or non-violence. It literally means to not harm and is the first and most basic of five actions to avoid outlined in the Yama’s.
The Yamas and the Niyamas are considered by some to be moral or ethical codes. Though they may serve as such, in reality they are practical guidelines for behaviors that lead to psychological health and spiritual realization. Without some adherence to these behavioral guidelines it is extremely difficult to awaken the Divinity within. The fertile psychological ground needed for spiritual awakening is cultivated through integrating these ways of being into your life.
To follow Ahimsa is to cultivate awareness of the impact of your behavior upon others and to make every effort possible to do the least harm to other people, animals, plants, and the planet. It means to live with a reverence for all life and to be as intentional as you are able in your actions towards others. Naturally we all do harm at times, unintentionally, to one extent or another. But to practice Ahimsa is to do your very best to act with loving kindness and compassion towards all beings and avoid doing harm whenever possible.
The practice of Ahimsa has become well known throughout the East and the West. It was used as a cornerstone of Gandhi’s work to free India from British rule and later picked up by Martin Luther King in the civil rights efforts of the 1960’s in the United States. It was used in South Africa and continues to have strong influence in movements for non-violent communication and non-violent conflict resolution. Its potential for interpersonal and even international application is profound. Imagine a world where everyone did their best to be kind and compassionate to each other. Where people resolved their conflicts with loving kindness and compassion, really listening to each other.
The realization of this vision starts with each of us, here and now. We each have the power to make the commitment to observe, to witness our own actions and to set the intention in all of our actions to do no harm. We have the ability to take the time to notice others, their needs, and to do service to all living beings in our thoughts, in our words and in our deeds.
By setting the intention to live in loving kindness and with care for all, we become the harbingers of a new dawn, a new reality in which all might prosper and be able to realize their full potential. When we practice doing no harm, we automatically move towards compassion. The intention of doing no harm is the first step and the foundation for living love in life.