Ahimsa: Kindness and Compassion Towards All Sentient Beings
” Ahimsa does not simply mean non-killing. Himsa means causing pain to or killing any life out of anger or for a selfish purpose or with the intention of injuring it. Refraining from so doing is ahimsa. Ahimsa means not to injure any creature by thought, word or deed. True ahimsa should mean a complete freedom from ill- will and anger and hate and an overflowing love for all. Ahimsa is the attribute of the soul and therefore to be practiced by everybody in all the affairs of life. “
— Mahatma Gandhi
Ahimsa is also known as compassion for all living beings (fellow humans, animals, insects, etc.) when it comes to the practice of Yama (Universal morality) in the Eight Limbs of Yoga. In other words, ahimsa is the conscious action of treating all sentient beings with kindness and compassion through the acts of non-violence. This revolves around the undeniable notion that everything and everyone are a part of the non-dualistic, universal consciousness. All living and breathing sentient beings are connected together as one.
Ahimsa is the essence of non-violence within our own hearts and minds. The violence we inflict on ourselves and on those around us is an outward manifestation of the reality that we hold from within. The practice of Ahimsa first begins with the simple act of being aware. Once we are aware, we can begin by going within. As I often like to tell my students, “Go within, or go without.” Once we are able to realize and accept our inner turmoil, only then will we be able to apply change in our lives through the practice of non-violence.
When it comes to the root of violence or non-violence, our own thoughts are the seeds for creation in our manifested reality. Therefore, thoughts revolved around disappointment, jealousy, doubt, fear, negativity, resentment, shame, and guilt are vibratory manifestation of violence towards ourselves and those around us. These thoughts might take longer than actual words and actions in order to mold our reality in the relative world, but they do manifest. In other words, negative thinking is another manifestation of violence towards our own self and others. Like the saying goes, “In order to change your life, you must first change your mind.
Ahimsa is the essence of true, undeniable compassion and unconditional love. This love also includes love for ourselves. For if one is unable to love oneself, how can he or she love another? Non-violence begins with love and acceptance of our true Self. Instead of running away from or denying some aspects of ourselves that we deem undesirable or negative, it is better to face our own demons, our own violence, with non-violence. A way to do this is through the acceptance and expression of our own negativity without harming others and ourselves. When we learn to face our inner demons, we will then be ready to spread peace in our relative world through kindness and compassion.
In my every day life, I practice Ahimsa in many ways. One of the most evident is through the conscious choice of Vegetarianism and purchasing products that are cruelty-free. When dealing with negative people, instead of lashing out at them, I simply approach them politely and express my feelings calmly and firmly with no hurtful words or actions. When it comes to myself, my thoughts, and my actions, instead of beating myself up for whatever I said, did, or thought, I approach myself with forgiveness and kindness. When it comes my own yoga practice on the mat, I don’t allow my ego to come over me by practicing and breathing through each asana mindfully and without force; respecting, loving, and accepting my own body’s limits and capabilities.
Thus, I believe that having the conscious intention to practice non-violence in my mind is essential in my daily life. Being aware of my own thoughts to see if there are any that may be harmful to myself and others is a way I practice Ahimsa. Through mindfulness and awareness, one does not need to push such violent, harmful, and negative seeds because what you resist, persists. Instead, allow them, accept them, and just watch them pass on by. They will come and go. When one holds on to them and grasps on to them, they manifest as violence through words and actions in our reality in the relative world. When you just watch and observe, detach instead of emotionally react and attach, one can see that they will leave as easily as they came.