Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings everywhere be happy and free and
may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life
contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
~Sanskrit mantra

“The commitment to morality, or non-harming,
is a source of tremendous strength,
because it helps free the mind from the remorse of having done unwholesome actions.
Freedom from remorse leads to happiness.
Happiness leads to concentration.
Concentration brings wisdom.
And wisdom is the source of peace and freedom in our lives.”
~Joseph Goldstein, in A Heart Full of Peace (Wisdom Publications)

Ahimsa (Devanagari: अहिंसा; IAST ahimsā) is a Sanskrit term meaning non-violence (literally: the avoidance of violence – himsa) It is an important tenet of the religions that originated in ancient India (Hinduism, Buddhism, and especially Jainism). Ahimsa is a rule of conduct that bars the killing or injuring of living beings. It is closely connected with the notion that all kinds of violence entail negative karmic consequences. The extent to which the principle of non-violence can or should be applied to different life forms is controversial between various authorities, movements, and currents within the three religions and has been a matter of debate for thousands of years. (From Wikipedia.)

Peace is always beautiful. ~Walt Whitman.

Being vegan and a student of yoga, I find the concept of Ahimsa (one of the eight limbs of yoga) interesting and complex. At times I find it overwhelming, and yet it is an essential practice to finding peace within oneself and the world. Asana, the physical practice of yoga (another of the eight limbs), is the limb of yoga that has become so popular in the West.

As much as I love the physical practice of yoga because it makes me stronger, more flexible, and more disciplined, I find Ahimsa the most interesting and the most difficult. When I first read about it, I understood it quite literally to mean do not kill any living creature on this Earth (human or not), but it is so much more than that. The more subtle definition would also include every thought, word, and deed: how we speak to one another, what tone of voice we use, gossiping, how we treat our own bodies, or how we treat non-humans from the largest mountain lion to the tiniest spider. All beings have a purpose in this world. It may not be apparent, but that doesn’t make it not so. In a word, even an ant is attending to important business.

Ahimsa is love and respect for all beings. It is a sense of oneness. So how do we practice ahimsa in our everyday, mundane lives? Is it possible to practice ahimsa fully? Where am I falling short? These are the questions I have been asking myself lately.

Ways to practice Ahimsa everyday:
1. Go vegan.
2. Buy fair trade and sweat-shop free products.
3. Take care of the Earth: Reduce, reuse, recycle — everyday.
4. Adopt a pet. Avoid pet shops and buying pets from breeders.
5. Be kind to others in thought, word, and deed.
6. Volunteer your time, or donate goods or money to the needy.
7. Call your mom. And your dad.
8. Listen to a child. Hug a child.
9. Do not gossip. Speak only positively about those who are not present.
10. Be tolerant of others who are different than you. Find a common ground.
11. Practice peace.
12. Be patient. When your patience is being tested, breathe.

The list is endless. These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. This is a work in progress…