Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ahisma goes beyond mere action....

All of the talk about accountability and hate speech in the wake of the Arizona shooting reminds me of how difficult (and important) it is to adhere to the ethical roots of raja yoga.

The ethical roots are known as the Yamas, which are:

-ahimsa or non-violence
-satya or truthfulness
-asteya or non-stealing
-brahmacharya or celibacy
-aparigraha or non-greed

The Yamas are so profound and difficult to adhere to because they are meant to be practiced in word, thought and deed.

In other words, it is a given that ahimsa or non-harming means that one should not act on an impulse to harm another being (for example, one should refrain from kicking in someone's car window while in throes of road rage, however justified). This is relatively easy for most of us to accomplish in most situations.

It's a bit harder to practice ahimsa in word or speech. In other words (ha!), one should not flip off the other motorist or call them names (even under the breath) or suggest that others engage in violent acts towards them. Even though it's "just" speech, there are repercussions for all kama (action).

Far more difficult is practicing ahimsa in thought, because thoughts are even harder to control. This means not only refraining from violently engaging the other driver, but also from speaking badly of them OR thinking bad thoughts about them (such as imagining what you'd like to do to them). Even though it's "just" a thought, thoughts are incredibly powerful and there will be repercussions. To paraphrase Chandra, you can be certain that if you have a negative thought about someone, it will find its target.

And as Amma says, anger is like a knife with two blades; it harms both parties.

So if you follow the raja yoga system, which is the one outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, then at some point, hopefully, there comes the realization that one must be responsible and accountable not only for their actions, but also their speech and their thoughts.

The difference is just a matter of degree.



There are ten Yamas in traditional Hinduism:

1. Ahimsa
or Non-injury
2. Satya or
3. Asteya
or Nonstealing
4. Brahmacharya
or Sexual Purity
5. Kshama
or Patience
6. Dhriti
or Steadfastness
7. Daya or
8. Arjava
or Honesty
9. Mitahara
or Moderate Diet
10. Saucha
or Purity