The Yama of Ahimsa

Rainbow on the Hudson

As I understand Ahimsa, there are two main expressions of it – the first being non violence – the command that one not kill, or do any violence against others in word, thought or deed, and the second is the practice of being compassionate. Perhaps the best very well known example of a person who practiced both these with total commitment, faith and perseverance was Mahatma Gandhi. When he advocated self-governance for India’s people he did not call for them to rise up in the streets in arms but instead to no longer honor laws that were unjust. He also taught them to bear the beatings and insults of the British without responding in a like manner. It was only in this fashion that the just and right could remain just and right, while those inflicting harm had to bear witness to their own cruel and unjust practices. Further to this he adhered strictly to vegetarian diet and advocated the same, and promoted ways of life and livelihood that were also compassionate, such as weaving and other hand work that is contemplative and calm.

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