The first yama we’ll look at is ‘Ahimsa’ or non-violence. The person who comes to my mind when I hear ‘Ahimsa’ is Gandhi. But eons before 1947, the great sages of the Indus Valley civilization realized that a truly fulfilled individual (healthy in body as well as mind) had to consciously follow the practice of Ahimsa in their day to day life. Most of us think, well I don’t go around beating people up and have never killed (or come close to killing) anyone…so I’m good to go with this yama. But in the kind of world we live in, there is a LOT more scope for Ahimsa (believe me). Today, think about how you can go beyond the usual things such as physical violence and vegetarianism as illustrating Ahimsa. Think about your mind. Do you sometimes feel irked with yourself because you believe you are lazy/overweight/weak/under confident/unsuccessful etc? If you direct any of your energies towards putting yourself down (even if its only in your mind), then you are violating the principle of Ahimsa. Non-violence extends to the people around you, but I feel that now there is a great need to ensure that we are non-violent towards ourselves as well.
In a society which is largely consummerist in nature, do we think about Ahimsa when we buy our vegetables and clothing? If you buy your vegetables from the closest Big Bazaar, have you given a thought to whether the farmers employed to grow the vegetables are suitably compensated? Is your money going to the farmer who sweats it out to grow the produce, or is it going to the spectacled guy sitting in his AC cabin, reading data about his supply chain off of his laptop? Important disclaimer: I have no idea how Big Bazaar obtains their produce, but I do read about farmer suicides in the paper every day (and no I’m not saying Big Bazaar is responsible for it!!!). When you sit down to eat, do you think about the people who grow your food? Today, send a thought out to the faceless person who watered and watched your potatoes grow, who planted the palak and the methi, and who is fundamentally responsible for the food in your plate. Instead of thinking about the taste of the food, hope that your food is sourced with Ahimsa.
The clothes that we wear – do we think about the garment worker who sat down to stitch the buttons? At a superficial level we all know that garment factories employ a lot of little kids who should be going to school, that they don’t give adequate compensation, that there are no employee rights etc. But when you try on a shirt, do you spare a thought about the living breathing person who took a pair of scissors and ensured perfect measurements? Who perhaps accidentally jammed a needle into their thumb stitching a button on? Today, instead of looking at your clothes as disposable commodities, hope that your clothes are made with Ahimsa.
So practice these three things today: 1. Stop directing negative and critical thoughts towards yourself. 2. Before you sit down to eat, take a second to hope that it was responsibly sourced. 3. Be grateful for the clothes you’re wearing and hope that the person responsible for them is ok, wherever they are!