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


  1. Hear, hear! Well said.

  2. I have to work on not hating my landlord. (c-i-l-l, my landlo')

  3. Let's talk about this (again, but in greater depth) at the March retreat.

    Ralph from DeKalb

  4. Yes, of course!

    Please bring any other questions you have to the retreat.

  5. That's a great idea rhh! I have to work on not hating the X Governor of Alaska.

  6. One trick is to replace your negative thought with the exact opposite one.

    Instead of hating Frank Murkowski (is that the one you mean?), you could send love and compassion.

  7. i love X. did you know exene has MS?
    i'm working on what you are talking about. it's not easy. painful past like you. one of the most difficult ones to master.

  8. It's so funny that you say that, Bindi. I've been writing about my past recently, and it's dredging up all kinds of junk; I find the mind flaring up at things that would not normally bother it. I try to watch it but not fall into the same old traps. Not easy.

    I did not know that about Exene. I will say a prayer for her.

  9. No Bindi Boo, not Exene from X but that Dingy Broad from Alaska.

  10. exene has ms. they couldn't tour for awhile but she seems to be doing well lately. ck-i contacted my sister after 10 years. she still hates me, which is weird since she is the one who got half a mil & i got the hook. i thought it would make me feel better but it makes me feel worse.

  11. Anonymous5:03 PM

    my my mcgp does not get it.

  12. Bindi,

    Dharma says to love the bad man, but keep the distance. You did your part; good for you. The practice is to not hate her back!

  13. Ah yes ANONYMOUS I do get it, I just don't like racist violent people and ol' Sarah Palin is just that!

  14. Ahem....

    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)

  15. what bbb said!
    i do a fair job at not hating or holding a grudge..something i sort of trained my brain to do over a long period. it's on the road and in shops ( like say, jewel) where the little frogs fly out. the only person it hurts is me. still a work in progress.

    what retreat?!

  16. .

    Click on the "retreats" tab at the top of the page.

    Or go here.

  17. For MLK day, here is a yoga quote from Yoga International that fits your blog.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. on Ahimsa:
    "Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

    Peace and Love from Ralph on MLK day.

  18. Anonymous8:47 PM

    I am a new reader of your blog, a new vegetarian, and the primary cook for a family with kids. I've discovered that I can sub seitan for meat in some dishes and they eat it enthusiastically. But if asked, they say they don't like seitan/tofu/tempeh/etc.

    In the interest of truthfulness, am I obligated to provide full disclosure before dinner? Can I remain silent unless asked? Or am I sacrificing one principle (truthfulness) for the sake of another (not harming others) in a way that's bad? Or is it harming them not to fully disclose up front what's for dinner?

  19. Thank you for the quote, Ralph!

    Anon - that is a very good question.
    If they ask, tell them the truth.

  20. Also... the way I understand it, the Yamas are ranked in order of importance - and Ahimsa comes before Satya.

  21. Anonymous12:34 AM

    Thank you! I was feeling guilty about serving seitan noodle casserole but they devoured it and asked no questions. I could never lie but they were clearly fooled (thus it feels dishonest). And no, I don't use the canned mushroom soup (Go ahead and laugh!).