March 18, 2011

Ahimsa: Love in all of its Strength & Glory. ~ Brittany Irwin

Most of us believe that non-violence means not going around and starting bar fights…

Through yoga, we strive to reach the ultimate truth, which I like to call divine love. Self-awareness, selfless service, non-judgment, freedom from attachment to the physical…

A fruitful, fulfilling lifestyle includes much effort in these practices, along with what I believe to be the ultimate practice: non-violence or ahimsa.

In his book Bliss Divine, Sri Swami Sivananda describes the meaning of ahimsa:

In its comprehensive meaning, Ahimsa or non-injury means entire abstinence from causing any pain or harm whatsoever to any living creature, either by thought, word, or deed. Non-injury requires a harmless mind, mouth, and hand.” Ahimsa is not mere negative non-injury. It is positive, cosmic love. It is the development of a mental attitude in which hatred is replaced by love. Ahimsa is true sacrifice. Ahimsa is forgiveness. Ahimsa is Sakti (power). Ahimsa is true strength.

Where there is love, there lies ahimsa. They simply go together. Also mentioned in Bliss Divine, man possesses what is called Pasu-Svabhava, or bestial nature. Why must we disconnect from such ‘beastly nature’? According to Sivananda, and many other spiritual philosophers, if you seek to truly love all things and find ultimate peace, then you simply must.

During a yoga class some time ago, I was introduced to the conscious practice of ahimsa. The instructor spoke about disengaging in violent acts.

“Violent acts?” I though,. “I certainly don’t need to concern myself with violence, I live a peaceful lifestyle… I don’t go around provoking fights, getting into bar brawls or anything over the top.” So, I dismissed his silly non-violent, preachy rant. Or so I thought.

Days went by and I really could not stop thinking about this ahimsa. As I continued returning to this yoga class, the realizations slowly crept up on me. We think we are not violent, but it is that belief which makes us ignorant to when we are. Just as I thought that the practice of non-violence meant to not go around inflicting physical pain on anyone, most of us believe the same idea.

I’ve come to learn that through close inspection of one’s self, we will find the love we’ve been searching for. Though, instead of suppressing it in times we foolishly think it isn’t necessary, we should live through it. This alone is the practice of ahimsa.

The difficulty comes when we are no longer meditating, practicing yoga. It is there when it is so easy to strip down your barriers, your burdens, your frustrations. When you step out into the real world, can you live through that same lens you saw through on your mat?

Yes, we should practice ahimsa in its purest forms, but we should also be careful to not set an unrealistic goal for ourselves in an impulsive search for divine love. Instead, we must be aware of ahimsa first.

Contemplate your life, the activities or thoughts you engage in. Do you engage in even the subtle forms of himsa? Maybe you harbor anger or hatred from a past relationship or unfortunate event in your life. This is himsa.

We all strive to attain love. In its many forms, love is supreme. Beyond knowledge or intellect, love has an importance to the well-being and nourishment of one’s soul that runs deeper than any learned fact or acquired skill. Most of all, love signifies strength. Love signifies the ability to withstand criticism, insults, or negativity. The ability to resist violence by using a harmless hand, a harmless mouth. The mind is resilient, but only if we love.

It should be noted that absolute ahimsa is impossible. It is just not possible to sit, breath, eat, sleep, or drink without destroying a life.  There is the idea that although ahimsa should be the focus, man will not falter if he defends himself with the use of little violence if he is in danger. This is not considered himsa. Motive is the ruling factor that underlies everything.

Ahimsa is never a policy. It is a sublime virtue. It is the fundamental quality of seekers after Truth. No Self-realization is possible without Ahimsa. It is through the practice of Ahimsa alone that you can cognize and reach the Supreme Self. Those with whom it is a policy may fail many a time. They will be tempted to do violent acts also. On the contrary, those who strictly adhere to the vow of Ahimsa as a sacred creed or fundamentals of Yoga, can never be duped into violence.

Truly, it is a beautiful idea to be free from negativity. It might not be completely possible to live this way all of the time, but to acquire the mindfulness of ahimsa is a perfect way to start letting your mind feel more peaceful; your heart feel more open.


Brittany Irwin is a passionate practitioner of yoga. Through it’s healing & strengthening abilities, yoga has truly transformed her life. Brittany is currently taking a 200 hr YA teacher training & can’t wait to share her gratitude for this beautiful practice with the world around her. When she’s not on the mat, Brittany is most likely sharing her journey & inspirations on her blog, theheartofayogi.blogspot.com

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