Nonviolence refers to a way of dealing with people, animals, or things peacefully. A nonviolent man serves his purpose or achieves his goals without the use of physical force or coercive acts which will cause bodily injury or harm to anybody. As a principle and practice, nonviolence can be viewed in different ways. Often times, nonviolence is said to equate passivity or being passive. Those who advocate social change in a nonviolent method are in contrast with the idea that nonviolence corresponds to passivity. Hence, there are those who espouse the belief that nonviolence is everything but passively.
How is nonviolence different from passivity?
For them, nonviolence is the choice to do no harm amidst campaigning for their political beliefs, a social movement for the betterment of society without violence, while passivity is being submissive or having the choice to do nothing.
There are diverse methods for nonviolent resistance or nonviolent revolution to advocate social change such as through education and other forms of social, political, economic, and cultural intervention.
Aside from refraining oneself to cause harm with another being, another way of practicing nonviolence is by preventing the one who is determined to inflict injury upon others from doing so. It is through changing the mind of the wrong-doer without force, by persuading him or making him realized that his goal of hurting others is not right.
What is Ahimsa and Satyagraha? | Ahimsa and Satyagraha as Roadmap to Peace
The Sanskrit term for nonviolence is ahimsa. It is derived from a Sanskrit root “hims”, which means “to strike”. Himsa means harm or injury, while a-himsa means nonviolence with the prefix a- (meaning “not” or “without”) being added with the term “himsa”.
Ahimsa is the central principle of some religions particularly Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. In Jainism, ahimsa is included in their ethical code. It is also one of the precepts of Buddhism and a key virtue of Hinduism. Ahimsa’s rule of causing no injury to anyone includes not only by deeds, but also by words, and by thoughts.
Clearly, the intention of ahimsa in preventing injurious acts against people is good. People who religiously apply ahimsa’s precept will not cause any harm to society because they believe to the principle that to hurt another being is to hurt oneself and that any violence has karmic consequences.
Therefore, they abstain themselves from doing such evil acts. Yet of course, not all people have the same belief towards the morality, goodness, or uprightness of an act. Some modern scholars find the principles of ahimsa as debatable. According to them, there are instances when one encounters danger to his life which compels him to defend oneself.
The Sanskrit words “satya” which means “truth”, and “agraha” which means “insistence or holding firmly to” are the root words of Satyagraha. It was coined and developed by Mahatma Gandhi during his earlier struggles for Indian Independence movement for Indian rights. Satyagraha is a particular form of civil resistance or nonviolent resistance. Satyagrahi is the term for a person who practices satygraha.
Gandhi described satyagraha as truth-force, love-force, or soul-force. According to him, the application of satyagraha in the pursuit of truth shall not inflict violence upon the opponent, but that he (the opponent) must be detached from his wrongdoing with sympathy and patience.
For the appearance of truth to other may seem to be the appearance of error to another. The essence of satyagraha is to eliminate the opponents without harming them. Therefore, a satyagrahi does not destroy or end his relationship from his opponent, but instead aims to purify or transform him. A satyagrahi is armed with moral force rather than physical force.
What is the basic principle of Satyagraha?
To teach satyagraha, Gandhi founded Sabarmati Ashram. The following are the principles to be followed by the satygrahis: nonviolence; truth; non-stealing; non-possession; body-labor or bread-labor; control of desires; fearlessness; equal respect for all religions; and economic strategy.
Aside from the abovementioned principles, Gandhi also established essential rules for satyagrahi in India such as having a living faith in God, living a chaste life, willing to die or lose material things, being a habitual khadi weaver and spinner, and abstaining from alcohol or intoxication.
According to Gandhi, to be able to have a right in civil disobedience, satyagrahis must still appreciate, tolerate, and obey the other laws of the State, and be willing to undergo loss of property and endure sufferings that might be inflicted on their beloved ones like family and friends.
In satygraha resistance campaign, Gandi also proposed a series of rules. Satyagrahis must follow the following rules:
- harboring and suffering the anger of the opponent, avoiding retaliation
- avoiding submissiveness out of fear of being punished by the opponent
- being willing to be arrested or to suffer loss of one’s own property
- non-violently defending the property entrusted to him with his life
- avoiding to curse or swear
- avoiding to insult the opponents nor their flag or leaders
- obeying prison regulations and the orders of the leaders
Why is Ahimsa important in yoga?
The Yoga Sutras of Patajali provides the guides in reaching Samadhi or that state of bliss. The sutras cover the eight limbs of yoga which offers guidance within the practice of yoga positions. The first limb consists of the yamas (self-restraints) – attitudes towards oneself and the world around us.
Ahimsa or nonviolence is one of the yamas. In applying ahimsa in yoga, one must clear his mind from any negative thoughts towards others, towards himself, and towards nature while performing the asanas or body postures. This implies that someone who applies ahimsa in yoga encourages others to be peaceful too.
Remembering ahimsa throughout yoga practice provides guidance in letting go of thinking negatively about body which enables one to accept oneself completely. In yoga, being non-violent in the physical sense is not pushing oneself over the edge or respecting one’s own boundaries. It also means not clinging to the expectation of what one should be able to do.
Ahimsa in yoga is being mindful of thoughts because they play a big role in one’s overall well-being. Thinking negatively causes the body to secrete cortisol, the stress hormone which lowers the body’s immunity, making it susceptible to illness.
Satyagraha as applied in Yoga
Satya or truthfulness is also included in the five yamas that practitioners are incorporated. As a method of obtaining political and social reforms, Mahatma Gandhi insinuated the movement called Satyagraha which was based on non-violence and truth. Although Gandhi encountered a lot of difficulty, he won the battle for the independence of India.
Practicing Satya on the mat can be done by the following: by silently uttering and repeating the mantra “I am truth”, by asking yourself why you practice yoga, by taking a look at what prevents you from doing such practice and by reminding yourself of your goal to be consistent in performing yoga practice.
Rather than filling your head with phrases that will tell you’re not good enough, look at the reality that you just need practice. Listen to your body. If you’re feeling tired, you’re experiencing pain, don’t allow yourself to go further. Take some rest by performing the Child’s Pose, a type of stretching. This will avoid injury or simply being exhausted on the practice.
Complete honesty with oneself requires stillness or a moment of contemplation about things. When we react instantly to situations on an emotional level, we often not see the truth and act arbitrarily out of fear or other emotions.
Having a daily practice of asanas helps us to take some time thinking of our thoughts. It helps us realize that life is not complicated because sometimes there is a big gap between what we think we are and what we really are.
Paying closer attention to breathing is a very simple way of observing satya or truth in the practice. In performing asana, breath is an important factor for it determines whether the body is happy or not with what it is being asked to do.
Yoga practice helps improve the mind and body
Yoga practice helps to improve bodies and minds, and not to cause harm. It is important to keep honesty with what our body needs when we are on the mat. Yoga practice is being self-aware.
As Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras says, “To one established in truthfulness, actions and their results become subservient.” which means that one who maintains or practice honesty, experience the truth in everything.
Living a life in honesty gives us integrity and serves as the foundations for our relationships with others, with ourselves, and even with the society.
This is the reason why Satya is important. It allows as to enjoy a happy and fulfilling life. In order to honor our bodies and minds through yoga practice, we have to accept our strengths and limitations for we have different physical structures.
There are no two people’s poses that will look exactly the same. Therefore, comparing your pose to someone else’s is not right. Aside from this, we have to accept that our body changes as we age.
Some poses may become difficult for us to perform over time, so even comparing our performance to what we did last time is not helpful understanding these truths about ourselves is essential in nourishing our body and minds.
Thus, it can improve holistically. Satya or truth means listening to ourselves, listening to our own mind and body which will encourage us. Truth in connection with yoga practice means to be amicable, optimistic, and above all honest with ourselves which will enable us to perform well and to feel well in yoga practice.