Practicing Yoga Ahimsa (Daily Applications of Yoga Series Book 1)

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In different religious schools the definition of ahimsa varies. In Jainism, ahimsa is the central concept and it is understood as both the absence of intention to harm and as actually being nonviolent. Every action is judged from the perspective of Ahimsa. Here we should notice that it is not compassion or emphatic emotions from which ahimsa arises but chiefly a self-centred responsibility of an individual. In Jainism, they believe that life is sacred and thus they expand Ahimsa to humans, animals, plants and beings having life potential. It comes as no surprise that this broad protection of life or abhayadanam involves vegetarianism.

Ahimsa in Jainism is even formalised in a form of a vow as a part of Mahavratas major vows where injury, falsehood, stealing, unchastity, and attachment are all recognised as himsa violence and should be avoided if one is to have a pure soul. Here I notice a parallel with yamas: Jianists obviously recognise that Ahimsa is the major and all-pervading concept. If practiced with devotion, not much additional effort is needed to live satya, asteya, brahmacharya and aparigraha as these are logical extensions of a nonviolent lifestyle.

If anyone truly Living ahimsa, these are Jain monks and nuns who strive to walk, speak, eat, handle things and even dispose feaces so as not to injure any living being. They practice ahimsa with devotion and extraordinary carefulness knowing that every action leaves a trace in their karma, meaning that it either enhances or inhibits the liberation of the soul. Buddhism mentions ahimsa in five precepts where it means the absence of killing. Although it is not as strict as in Jainism, it is again deeply related to karmic importance of each action and to samsara.

Buddhists also emphasise non-violence regarding the objects of trade saying that selling and buying meat, living beings, poisons, intoxicants and weapon should not be performed. Another interesting thing is that sanctions are exercised upon monks who disobey the principle of ahimsa.

If they kill, they are expelled. Mostly from Buddhist and Hinduist beliefs, Yoga has shaped its own system of values, prohibitions and directions. Ahimsa is one of the highest virtues in yoga. There the concept of non-violence or harmlessness is described as the first and the most important out of five Yamas which represent an ethical conduct of a yoga practitioner. In Sutra 2. However, Swami J in his comments on Sutras points out that we should not mix love and ahimsa: here we are rather getting rid of violent impulses so that our inner bliss can shine through, not so directly forcing emotions of love towards someone we otherwise intended to hurt through actions, speech or thoughts.

When a practitioner purposely steps on the yoga mat to do some sort of self-work he puts the seeds of yamas and niyamas into the soil. Moral imperatives and positive virtues are cultivated carefully and with full attention of the practitioner, so that they harden enough to be Lived once we step off the mat or leave a yoga studio. However, it all starts on the mat — it is the place where most of us heard of ahimsa in the first place.

From my observances, the non-violent moves, speech and thoughts in yoga on the mat are most deeply related to nonattachment since it is precisely the attachment to goals, ideals, material and spiritual possessions that drives us towards violent behaviour that restrains from spiritual development. The ego overdrives our moral intentions with lower instinctive desires and by striving to get them, violence often arises at least in thoughts, if not also in words and actions. Application of ahimsa has some obvious nuances which include our bodies and speech and many subtler, more demanding that happen in the mind and sometimes seem to be unattainable.

The asana practice, the bodily dimension of yoga, can be practiced differently. It can be taken to a higher spiritual level by moving consciously with a still breath, while alertly observing if at all and how the mind reacts to different shapes of its outer material shape, the shifts of the point of focus and any emotional responses. The shallower form of yoga practice is perceived as a stress-managing physical exercise which leaves you nicely relaxed and stretched afterwards, and not much more than that.

It is obvious that ahimsa can be truly cultivated only in the first case where also the goal of the entire practice coincides with the one of ahimsa and includes it thoroughly, that is to self-actualise through more subtle forms of yogic practice. Right next to the negative comparison, are expectations of any kind and ego, which often, if unsatisfied, cause frustrations, anger and violent patterns in mind, speech and finally in the body.

Even before you get to practice yoga, one can easily feel pressed to look and be fit, strong and lean and even of a certain skin colour, gender or religion. This non-inclusivity of presentation of yoga to masses really gets on my nerves since it is the exact opposite of what yoga is about — a universally applicable discipline meant for everyone. Nonetheless, it is certainly violent to undergo strict unhealthy diet regimes, over-exercise and do any other ideals-oriented procedures on the body to meet the unreal expectations of yoga industry that could not be more further from Yoga.

Asanas are publicly almost always presented in the most eye-appealing way. Numerous yoga books and teachers in yoga classes do not stress enough the importance of bodily safety and comfort. If an individual merely imitates a bodily shape without following precise anatomic instructions and does not adjust asana to her strength, flexibility, past injuries and illnesses, she is clearly doing harm or himsa to her body that can have long-term consequences. Pregnant women and people with chronic diseases can cause a serious harm to their risky condition as well. It is sad to see how the principle of ahimsa is far from included to yoga practice of many people not even on this most obvious level, bringing so much unnecessary risks and suffering because of disconnection from the core ideas of yoga.

If nothing else, quality over quantity should guide an aspiring yogi to have a physically safe practice. Doing a shorter, but mindful and violence-free sequence of asanas can contribute so much more to a well-centred further practice of advanced yogic techniques and conscious, nonviolent coping with everyday situations. In addition, now highly popular hot room flows are rather a burden to already physically challenged body, especially when a person has cardiovascular and similar risky conditions and the heat can mask the limitations of stretches a body can perform, which leads to injuries.

The body should be accepted as it is and treated with respect by acknowledging its limitations and letting go of ego-driven expectations. Each of us is responsible to do yoga safely. You should strive to be a well-informed practitioner rather than an imitator of asanas.

Furthermore, the comparison and expectations I mentioned earlier also fruit violence in thoughts. Self-image and self-worth can be challenged, frustration and negative emotions such as anger and disappointment can arise because of the incapability to e. Even some violent words can be said as a reflection of such state of mind.

Putting yourself down, judging and over occupying with looks, progress and perfection in asana, pranayama or more advanced yoga practices leads to deepened negative feelings and violent behaviour.

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One should bear in mind that the goal of yoga practice is the journey itself and that it is unique for each of us. There is nothing shameful in using a yoga block, holding your breath for a shorter period or performing a less advanced version of asana. It might sound easy, but we all know implementing ahimsa on the mat for start requires a lot of dedication and disciplined work daily. However, throughout the journey we can and should reflect on feelings and thoughts that come out of physical and mental challenges yoga gives.

Am I pushing myself over my limitations? If yes, why? Do I listen to my body or do I imitate? According to Tattvarthasutra , 2nd century CE Jain text, yoga is the sum of all the activities of mind, speech and body. This has led certain Indologists like Prof. Robert J. Zydenbos to call Jainism, essentially, a system of yogic thinking that grew into a full-fledged religion.

Middle Ages saw the development of many satellite traditions of yoga. Hatha yoga emerged in this period. The Bhakti movement was a development in medieval Hinduism which advocated the concept of a personal God or " Supreme Personality of Godhead ". The movement was initiated by the Alvars of South India in the 6th to 9th centuries, and it started gaining influence throughout India by the 12th to 15th centuries.

Viraha bhakti emphasizes one pointed concentration on Krishna. Tantra is a range of esoteric traditions that began to arise in India no later than the 5th century CE. They included also the use of mantras, pranayama, and the manipulation of the subtle body, including its nadis and cakras.

These teachings on cakras and Kundalini would become central to later forms of Indian Yoga. Over its history, some ideas of Tantra school influenced the Hindu , Bon , Buddhist , and Jain traditions. Elements of Tantric yoga rituals were adopted by and influenced state functions in medieval Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms in East and Southeast Asia. Its texts were compiled starting with 7th century and Tibetan translations were completed in 8th century CE.

These tantra yoga texts were the main source of Buddhist knowledge that was imported into Tibet. The tantra yoga practices include asanas and breathing exercises. The Nyingma tradition practices Yantra yoga Tib. Yoga practices integrally exist within the Zen Buddhist school. The earliest references to hatha yoga are in Buddhist works dating from the eighth century. Various yogic groups had become prominent in Punjab in the 15th and 16th century, when Sikhism was in its nascent stage.

Compositions of Guru Nanak , the founder of Sikhism, describe many dialogues he had with Jogis , a Hindu community which practiced yoga. Guru Nanak rejected the austerities, rites and rituals connected with Hatha Yoga. He propounded the path of Sahaja yoga or Nama yoga meditation on the name instead. Listen "O Yogi, Nanak tells nothing but the truth. You must discipline your mind. The devotee must meditate on the Word Divine. It is His grace which brings about the union. He understands, he also sees. Good deeds help one merge into Divination.

Yoga came to the attention of an educated western public in the midth century along with other topics of Indian philosophy. In the context of this budding interest, N. Paul published his Treatise on Yoga Philosophy in The first Hindu teacher to actively advocate and disseminate aspects of yoga, not including asanas, to a western audience, Swami Vivekananda , toured Europe and the United States in the s. Hegel — , the brothers August Wilhelm Schlegel — and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel — , Max Mueller — , Arthur Schopenhauer — , and others who had to varying degrees interests in things Indian.

Theosophists including Madame Blavatsky also had a large influence on the Western public's view of Yoga. Mircea Eliade brought a new element into the reception of Yoga with the strong emphasis on Tantric Yoga in his seminal book: Yoga: Immortality and Freedom. Modern yoga is a physical activity consisting largely of asanas, often connected by flowing sequences called vinyasas , sometimes accompanied by the breathing exercises of pranayama, and usually ending with a period of relaxation or meditation.

It is often known simply as yoga, [] despite the existence of multiple older traditions of yoga within Hinduism where asanas played little or no part, some dating back to the Yoga Sutras , and despite the fact that in no tradition was the practice of asanas central. The flowing sequences of salute to the sun, Surya Namaskar , were pioneered by the Rajah of Aundh, Bhawanrao Shrinivasrao Pant Pratinidhi, in the s. Iyengar created Iyengar Yoga , and systematised the canon of asanas in his book Light on Yoga ; [] Indra Devi taught yoga to many film stars in Hollywood; and Krishnamacharya's son T.

Desikachar founded the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandalam in Chennai. Modern yoga spread across America and Europe, and then the rest of the world. The number of asanas used in modern yoga has increased rapidly from a nominal 84 in , as illustrated in Joga Pradipika , to some in Light on Yoga and over performed by Dharma Mittra by Yoga has developed into a worldwide multi-billion dollar business, involving classes, certification of teachers, clothing, books, videos, equipment, and holidays.

The United Nations General Assembly established 21 June as " International Day of Yoga ", [] [] [] celebrated annually in India and around the world from Yoga is practised with a variety of methods by all Indian religions. Classical yoga incorporates epistemology, metaphysics, ethical practices, systematic exercises and self-development techniques for body, mind and spirit.

Buddhist yoga encompasses an extensive variety of methods that aim to develop key virtues or qualities known as the 37 aids to awakening. The ultimate goal of Buddhist yoga is bodhi awakening or nirvana cessation , which is traditionally seen as the permanent end of suffering dukkha and rebirth.

In early Buddhism , various yogic practices were taught including:. These meditations were seen as being supported by the other elements of the eightfold path , such as the practice of ethics , right exertion , sense restraint and right view. It is also associated with samadhi mental unification, focus and dhyana a state of meditative absorption. Later developments in the various Buddhist traditions led to new innovations in yogic practices.

The Theravada school, while remaining relatively conservative, still developed new ideas on meditation and yogic phenomenology in their later works, the most influential of which is the Visuddhimagga. Mahayana meditation practices also developed and adopted new yogic methods, such as the use of mantra and dharani , pure land practices which aimed at rebirth in a pure land or buddhafield , and visualization methods.

Chinese Buddhism developed its own methods, such as the Chan practice of Koan introspection and Hua Tou. Likewise, Tantric Buddhism also Mantrayana, Vajrayana developed and adopted tantric methods, which remain the basis of the Tibetan Buddhist yogic systems, including the Six yogas of Naropa , Kalacakra , Mahamudra and Dzogchen. Jain yoga has been a central practice in Jainism. Jain spirituality is based on a strict code of nonviolence or ahimsa which includes vegetarianism , almsgiving dana , right faith in the three jewels , the practice of austerities tapas such as fasting , and yogic practices.

Like Yoga and Sankhya, Jainism believes in a multiplicity of individual souls which bound by their individual karma. Later forms of Jain yoga adopted Hindu influences, such as ideas from Patanjali's yoga and later Tantric yoga in the works of Haribhadra and Hemachandra respectively. The Jains also developed a progressive path to liberation through yogic praxis, outlining several levels of virtue called gunasthanas.

In the modern era, new forms of Jain meditation have also been developed. Vedanta is a varied tradition with numerous sub-schools and philosophical views. Vedanta focuses on the study of the Upanishads , and one of its early texts, the Brahma sutras. Regarding yoga or mediation, the Brahma sutras focuses on gaining spiritual knowledge of Brahman , the unchanging absolute reality or Self. One of the earliest and most influential sub-traditions of Vedanta, is Advaita Vedanta , which posits nondualistic monism.

It teaches seven stages or bhumis of yogic practice. It was a major reference for medieval Advaita Vedanta yoga scholars and before the 12th century, it was one of the most popular texts on Hindu yoga. It also discusses a theory of nadis and prana vital breath , and follows this with instructions on pranayama breath control , pratyahara sense withdrawal , meditation on mantras, meditative visualizations and Kundalini.

Samuel states that Tantrism is a contested concept. Many scholars would include the Goraksha Samhita by Gorakshanath of the 11th century in this list. Laya and Kundalini yoga are closely associated with Hatha yoga but are often presented as being independent approaches.

According to Georg Feuerstein , Laya yoga yoga of dissolution or merging "makes meditative absorption laya its focus. The laya-yogin seeks to transcend all memory traces and sensory experiences by dissolving the microcosm, the mind, in the transcendental Self-Consciousness. The practice of awakening the coiled energy in the body is sometimes specifically called Kundalini yoga. It is based on Indian theories of the subtle body and uses various pranayamas breath techniques and mudras bodily techniques to awaken the energy known as kundalini the coiled one or shakti.

In various Shaiva and Shakta traditions of yoga and tantra, yogic techniques or yuktis are used to unite kundalini-shakti , the divine conscious force or energy, with Shiva , universal consciousness. Some Christians integrate yoga and other aspects of Eastern spirituality with prayer and meditation. This has been attributed to a desire to experience God in a more complete way.

On the contrary, one can take from them what is useful so long as the Christian conception of prayer, its logic and requirements are never obscured. It is within the context of all of this that these bits and pieces should be taken up and expressed anew. In and , the Vatican issued two documents: Aspects of Christian meditation and " A Christian reflection on the New Age ," that were mostly critical of eastern and New Age practices. The document was published as a page handbook detailing the Vatican's position. Another view holds that Christian meditation can lead to religious pluralism.

This is held by an interdenominational association of Christians that practice it. In the early 11th century, the Persian scholar Al Biruni visited India, lived with Hindus for 16 years, and with their help translated several significant Sanskrit works into Arabic and Persian languages. One of these was Patanjali's Yogasutras. Later, in the 16th century, the hath yoga text Amritakunda was translated into Arabic and then Persian.

Minority Islamic sects such as the mystic Sufi movement, particularly in South Asia, adopted Indian yoga practises, including postures and breath control. Malaysia's top Islamic body in passed a fatwa , prohibiting Muslims from practicing yoga, saying it had elements of Hinduism and that its practice was blasphemy , therefore haraam. In , the Council of Ulemas, an Islamic body in Indonesia, passed a fatwa banning yoga on the grounds that it contains Hindu elements. In Iran, as of May , according to its Yoga Association, there were approximately yoga centres in the country, a quarter of them in the capital Tehran , where groups can often be seen practising in parks.

This has been met by opposition among conservatives.

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His comments were made in the context of reiki and yoga possibly being a form of proselytization at the expense of Islam. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Male and female yogis from 17th- and 18th-century India. Main traditions. Vaishnavism Shaivism Shaktism Smartism. Rites of passage. Philosophical schools. Gurus, saints, philosophers. Other texts. Text classification. Other topics. Main article: Indus Valley Civilization.

Further information: Vedic period. Main article: Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Main article: Yoga Yajnavalkya. Main article: Jainism. Main article: Bhakti Yoga. Main article: Hatha yoga. Main article: Modern yoga. Main article: Yoga philosophy. Main article: Jain meditation. Main article: Tantra. Hinduism portal India portal.

Ahimsa: Practicing Love in Action

The ideology of asceticism and renunciation seems, at first, discontinuous with the brahmanical ideology of the affirmation of social obligations and the performance of public and domestic rituals. Indeed, there has been some debate as to whether asceticism and its ideas of retributive action, reincarnation and spiritual liberation, might not have originated outside the orthodox vedic sphere, or even outside Aryan culture: that a divergent historical origin might account for the apparent contradiction within 'Hinduism' between the world affirmation of the householder and the world negation of the renouncer.

However, this dichotomization is too simplistic, for continuities can undoubtedly be found between renunciation and vedic Brahmanism, while elements from non-Brahmanical, Sramana traditions also played an important part in the formation of the renunciate ideal. Indeed there are continuities between vedic Brahmanism and Buddhism, and it has been argued that the Buddha sought to return to the ideals of a vedic society which he saw as being eroded in his own day.

Great is the praise of Savitri, the creating godhead. The use by Vedic priests of ascetic practices in their preparations for the performance of the sacrifice might be precursor to Yoga. A close reading of this text suggests that it was closely related to a tradition of early Brahminic contemplation. But we also know that even this is problematic In fact, it is not until the time of the commentaries of Buddhaghosa, Dhammapala, and others — that is to say, the fifth to sixth centuries CE — that we can know anything definite about the actual contents of [the Pali] canon.

Wezler has proposed that the Yoga related text may have been inserted into this Sutra later, among other things; however, Bronkhorst finds much to disagree on with Wezler. Further process of the systematization of Yoga as a path to the ultimate mystic goal is obvious in subsequent Yoga Upanishads and the culmination of this endeavour is represented by Patanjali's codification of this path into a system of the eightfold Yoga. At the climax of such contemplation the mental eye … shifts its focus to the unconditioned state, Nibbana Sariputta tells Ven.

Rahula in Pali, based on VRI, n. Rupert Gethin, in describing the activities of wandering ascetics contemporaneous with the Buddha, wrote: " In the technical vocabulary of Indian religious texts such states come to be termed 'meditations' [Skt. Oxford University Press. September We happily declare ahimsa while we swat at a mosquito, harm the planet by not recycling, or hurt ourselves by working long hours and not taking care of our health.

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Mahatma Gandhi was the father of ahimsa. For him it went beyond actions. Our harmful thoughts can be subtle; sometimes we may even mistake them for love. When we lead our lives according to ahimsa, we find the courage to look at why we, in our collective human experience, seek to cause harm. Why do people hurt others?

Why did our partner say unkind words to us? Why are we envious of our friend? What we often uncover at the very foundation of harmful actions, words, or thoughts is fear. Because they are afraid of being hurt. Why do people kill others? Because they see them as a threat to their own security. Why do we worry about our children?

Because we are terrified of losing them. This is a wonderful realization, as we can reduce all the violence and craziness we perceive in the world down to fear, at its core.


And how would our courageous best selves respond to one who is scared? Surely with love. Surely with compassion. Those who believe ahimsa to be weak are truly mistaken. Pacifists are activists. You cannot help but stand up and take compassionate action once you have seen the suffering that fear causes. But this is not how our society works. We are taught that people must be punished for hurting others or they will do it again.

If we do not act, then we are weak; we are allowing people to take advantage of us. We apply this same philosophy to ourselves—we feel guilty for having unkind thoughts, or we deny when we are angry or afraid. We have created a society that punishes itself under the pretense of control and order.

How the world would change if—instead of judging—we gave love to those in fear, including ourselves. These warriors of ahimsa teach us that conflict is inevitable in our human experience, but we can bring love to those conflicts and thereby change them. It is having a strong back and a soft heart. It can seem a daunting challenge by Patanjali—that we must master ahimsa before we can hope to succeed at yoga—but Gandhi says it is not elusive to us.

Ahimsa goes beyond all its translations, said Gandhi, for it is—quite simply— love. The Yamas and Niyamas are part of the eight-fold path of yoga. To ponder upon ahimsa without putting it into practice would be like reading about asanas without ever stepping onto the mat. Speak lovingly and kindly to yourself. Ask yourself throughout the day—how may I be more loving to myself right now? Sitting with someone in their suffering, with an open heart and judgment-free mind—this is compassion.

Go on a criticism fast.