The last couple of weeks, the first 2 weeks of 2013, I have been trying to reflect on ahimsa. The first Yama in Patanjali’s eight-limb path toward enlightenment means non-violence or non-harming. What if you encounter a vicious cobra or a total b-i-t-c-h (as my sisters and I did last week at a YOGA studio?) Ahimsa. Always… non-harming.
Yesterday I was reminded of this lesson with some beautiful words from Osho:
“The world is an Echo-ing place. What ever we put into the world is what will come back to us.”
We have contemplated Ahimsa in terms of being kind to OURSELVES, and with being kind towards ANIMALS, but what is the primary function of this Yama? To be kind to those around us… to be kind to the world. No matter what.
In his book Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda asks Mahatma Gandhi about the definition of ahimsa. Gandhi said, “The avoidance of harm to any living creature in thought or deed.” Yogananda asked him if it was alright to kill a vicious cobra in order to protect an innocent child. Gandhi said that he would practice ahimsa, non-harming… but he then added, “I must confess that I could not serenely carry on this conversation were I faced by a cobra.”
The reason for not harming anything seems simple enough- it is the Godly/Spiritual thing to do. Is it anymore complex then that?
In the book Shantaram, the protagonist Linbaba is taught by his teacher Abdel Khader Khan, that sometimes it is necessary to do the wrong thing for the right reasons. Would you kill a cobra of it meant saving a child? My guess is that most people would. This is a great example of doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Bhaskar, our yoga teacher in Rishikesh, would say as Gandhi did and suggest we should ALWAYS practice ahimsa.
It is the first Yama listed for a reason. It serves as the backbone for all the other life suggestions made in Vedic texts, therefore, a must. Bhaskar would also probably argue that one should not get involved with the will of the universe. Attacking cobra or not… What do you think?
Here in the west…we probably won’t be encountering any cobras in the near future, the closest thing we might meet is the “Yoga Bitch” (THEY EXIST!) This is where AHIMSA is an absolute MUST.
The Yoga Bitc%.
Last week I visited a local studio with my two sisters Andrea and Leah along with a young Ugandan man, Haril, who had NEVER practiced yoga before. We wanted to try out the studio* with a 7 day special priced package. We were greeted by a fiery, abrasively honest, hot yoga teacher. The first couple of days we were astounded by her gruffness and a couple of times we left the studio wanting to say, “Excuse me! Do you realize you are an expletive expletive expletive!?” We prayed. We were KIND. We did NOT cause harm to the yoga cobra…we kept our mouths shut. This provided us with a small miracle. We were given the opportunity days 3,4, 5 and 6 to see that she was a FANTASTIC teacher (especially for the intense type of yoga she was teaching) despite her harshness. She motivated her students, and she was the same with EVERYONE. Her attitude, personality, wasn’t personal, it was a part of her plan to motivate and inspire… and we ended up enjoying (loving) the classes.
Sometimes HUGE lessons can be learned from the cobras in our lives by not doing anything!
ACTION STEP: Be kind towards others always.
*The studio was The Hot Room in South Denver. We recommend it 😉