A Dark Day - Feb 24th 2022

“The so-called great men of the world may all be seen to become jealous of each other for a small name, for a little fame, and for a few bits of gold. So long as this jealousy exists in a heart, it is far away from the perfection of ahimsa (non-violence).” – Swami Vivekananda.

Yesterday was described by some as one of the darkest since World War 2. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a full-scale invasion of Ukraine with the assault beginning with a series of missile attacks against locations near the capital Kyiv. It quickly spread across central and eastern Ukraine, as Russian forces attacked the country from three sides.

Even though we may not be directly impacted physically by this invasion, we are all impacted by, and do all contribute to the collective consciousness. So how can we best navigate times like this? I personally find it very comforting to turn to the wisdom of the ancient texts when we are confronted by destructive, violent behaviour and actions in the world.

This blog post explores the key Yogic teachings of non-violence and peace and looks at the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, which, I believe provides valuable insight as to what we can do to maintain peace in our own hearts and create positive influence in the world in the face of this horrible conflict on our continent.

The principle of non-violence is a key component of Vedic philosophy, which considers ahimsa as duty (dharma). It directs people towards peaceful conflict resolution, accommodation, and the concept of Vasudhaiva kutumbakam (a phrase from the Maha Upanishad which means that the whole world is one family). This work begins within oneself. These teachings reveal that the external world is a mirror of what goes on internally. We have no control over Vladamir Putin’s actions (or anyone elses actions for that matter), but we do have the ability to master our inner worlds and through that mastery, we can effect positive change externally.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras

Sutra 2.35: ahimsā-pratiṣthāyām tat-sannidhau vaira-tyāgaḥIn the presence of one who is firmly established in non-violence, hostility recedes.

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 2.30 and 2.35, non-violence is discussed. Yama (codes of behaviour guiding how we should relate to each other and all of the world we live in) is the first of the eight limbs of Yoga. Ahimsa is the first Yama and means to abstain from causing pain. The texts invite us to live so that no harm or pain is caused by our thoughts, words or actions to any other being. In a positive sense, this means cultivating compassion and love for all – trying to see the one essence within everyone. It means being of selfless service to others in the world – being ready to put ourselves at the disposal of those in need.

Mahatma Gandhi - a spokesman for the conscience of all mankind

“Gandhi had demonstrated that a powerful human following can be assembled not only through the cunning game of the usual political manoeuvres and trickeries but through the cogent example of a morally superior conduct of life. In our time of utter moral decadence, he was the only statesman to stand for a higher human relationship in the political sphere.” Albert Einstein

It is no easy task to fully establish oneself in non-violence – remember we are talking about ahimsa in relation to every thought, word and action. Mahatma Gandhi is one leader who endeavoured to embody ahimsa throughout his lifetime. His devotion to this practice led to him being described as “a spokesman for the conscience of all mankind” [ref: General George C. Marshall, US Secretary of State].

There is no doubt that Gandhi has been an extraordinary role-model and his life’s principle of satyagraha, earned him the admiration of millions throughout the world.  In his own words:Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement Satyagraha, that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence. It is perhaps clear from the foregoing, that without ahimsa it is not possible to seek and find Truth. Ahimsa and Truth are so intertwined that it is practically impossible to disentangle and separate them. They are like the two sides of a coin, or rather of a smooth unstamped metallic disk. Nevertheless, ahimsa is the means; Truth is the end. Means to be means must always be within our reach, and so ahimsa is our supreme duty.

Yet some of the commentaries on the Yoga Sutras even go as far as to point out that Gandhi’s eventual assassination means that he had not fully perfected the practice of ahimsa, since the criterion of perfection here means that not only the Yogi but also those around him lose all feelings of enmity and hostility. (Patanjala Yoga Sutra, Dr. P. V. Karambelkar).

An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”  Mahatma Gandhi

On this subject, Gandhi himself showed great modesty when he commented “I must not flatter myself with the belief, nor allow friends to entertain the belief that I have exhibited any heroics and demonstrable non-violence in myself. All I can claim is that I am sailing in that direction without a moment’s stop…”

”On the day he died, Mahatma Gandhi was what he had always been: a private citizen without wealth, property, official title, official post, academic distinction, scientific achievement or artistic gift. Yet men with governments and armies behind them paid homage to the little man of seventy-eight in a loin cloth. The Indian authorities received 3,441 messages of sympathy, all unsolicited, from foreign countries.” [The life of Mahatma Gandhi, Louis Fischer].

Writing about Gandhi’s death, his son Devadas said “We kept vigil the whole of that night. So serene was the face and so mellow the halo of divine light that surrounded the body that it seemed almost sacrilegious to grieve…”

Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita is one of the greatest philosophical dialogues known to man and takes place on the battlefield, just before the onset of war. In chapter 2, verse 66, peace is discussed. “One who is not connected with pure consciousness can have neither transcendental intelligence nor a steady mind, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace?” (Bhagavad Gita as it is, Swami Prabhupada)

The message from these ancient wisdom texts is that we must work to stabilise our minds and strive to evolve our own consciousness so that we can fully embrace our interconnectivity. We forget that we are one system of life and that every action no matter how small has an impact on the collective consciousness.

When we tune into stillness and silence, we understand that our power comes from the energetic domain. We all have the power to influence the collective consciousness. We can send out positive or negative energy into the world. We can meditate for peace or we can focus on war.

Tune into the power of your spirit.  Experience the sense of peace and calm that is always there, underneath the stream of thoughts. If we want a just world, free of corruption that embraces the whole of humanity, we have to start working on ourselves from within. Being human means that we struggle with positive and negative forces in the mind on a daily basis. Meditation techniques can help us to bring about steadiness of mind and with practice, we can move into deeper states of peace and happiness.

It is from a steady, selfless, balanced state that we can effect the most positive change in the world. Unfortunately, this is not taught to those in the most powerful political positions and as a result, we are facing yet another war which will result in catastrophic loss – loss of life, countless casualties, destruction of homes, broken families…the list goes on.

I believe our true path is evolution of consciousness. When we work on elevating our individual consciousness, we influence the collective. In fact, this is the greatest gift that we can give to the world, as it means that our thoughts, words and actions are aligned and coming from a place of selflessness.

Meditate on non-violence, truth and peace

Move beyond the superficial, practice non-violence and seek truth at every opportunity. Meditate on peace. Imagine a world with leaders who are open to doing the same. It may not happen in our lifetime but hopefully it will happen for our future generations. Plant the seeds now.

Every one of us can make a difference - cast your energetic vote for peace, for a world that is established in truth and love, a world that is no longer run by those who are obsessed by “a small name, a little fame and a few bits of gold”, but by those who are firmly established in ahimsa.

Spend some time in silence every day. Become aware of your thoughts, words and actions. Notice when there is judgement or jealousy present. Through the gentle process of awareness, great transformation occurs. We will be meditating for peace at the end of every Yoga class (both online and in-person) over the next 40 days.  For more information on Yoga classes, please click the following link: Yoga • Yogaveda Living