Transformation Through Ahimsa: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar
In this commercial age, everyone has to periodically run out and buy gifts and cards for their lovers, friends, and family on various occasions. However, true love from the heart remains the most practical gift which is suitable for giving on any holiday, be it Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Diwali, Easter, Eid, Hanukkah, Holi, or some other special occasion. It is the only gift which multiplies in value as it is sent out.
The notion of love as a healing force is deeply embedded in virtually all spiritual traditions and religions in some form. We find a direct expression of this truth in the statement “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn: 4:16). Sri Ramana also has stated that, “Love is the actual form of God.”
Indeed, the best gift we can give to others and ourselves is to cultivate and adopt the attitude of Ahimsa (nonviolence) and universal love. We should not think of this as an abstract philosophy. As long as an idea is abstract for us and not real, we can’t bring it into our everyday life. To actively practice universal love, one also has to practice nonviolence. They go hand in hand and are the same thing. The practice of love and nonviolence helps to bring balance and stability in our life and roots out negativity.
The ancient Yoga sutras of Patanjali Maharishi put Ahimsa (nonviolence) as the first principle to abide by in leading a fulfilled life energized by the goal of self-discovery and enlightenment. In the modern age, Mahatma Gandhi of India popularized the idea of Ahimsa as part of his political and spiritual movement to free India from the British in the early 20th century. Martin Luther King Jr. in America was influenced by this philosophy and applied the principle of Ahimsa as peaceful resistance to authority to overcome racism.
Anyone can practice Ahimsa regardless of their religion, race, creed, or gender. Ahimsa is a feeling of universal amity and forgiveness even in the midst of personal suffering and humiliation. It is the dawn of divine grace itself. Without the practice of nonviolence and love, it is difficult to attain true peace. According to yogic psychology, when we hold enmity, anger, rage, and harbor hatred towards others, our own mind becomes agitated and clouded. In such a condition, we are unable to maintain our mental and spiritual balance. Unable to see reality clearly, we can end up sowing the seeds of our own future suffering.
My spiritual teacher, Sri Chitrabhanu-ji, once said to me that when we send negative thoughts and energy to others, such thoughts affect us first. They pollute our own consciousness first. Before one can harm another being, one has to desensitize oneself or part of oneself, so that the suffering of the other will not be felt. Of course, when we desensitize ourselves from the sufferings of others then we also start to lose touch with our own feelings and our own suffering.
And friends, when we can’t fully recognize our own feelings and experience our own suffering then it becomes hard to honestly express our emotions to others. We may not be able to admit our mistakes and apologize to or ask forgiveness from others when we really should. The fear of appearing weak forces us to maintain a facade which disconnects our inner thoughts and outer behavior. Carrying such a burden is not easy. It can affect our ability to give and receive love and enjoy the simple things in life which can bring us harmony, contentment, peace, and joy.
Is it not a paradox? When we are unforgiving of others and judge too harshly too often, then unconsciously, we run the risk of becoming unforgiving towards ourselves. When we cannot forgive ourselves, then a vague sense of guilt or uneasiness becomes our companion and life loses its sweetness.
In a state of confusion, sometimes people lose their temper easily and give vent to raging emotions not knowing where such intense feelings come from. Often, the ones who are the closest and the dearest get hurt and relationships become strained. How destructive and treacherous is the cycle of violence!
But whatever one’s life condition or situation, great sages tell us that one should never feel dejected and lose hope. In an instant the whole life can be transformed! A house that has been dark for months and even years lights up in a second when the switch is turned and the light bulb comes on.
We can turn on our inner switch when we consciously make a commitment to living a life of light and universal love. Such a commitment activates our divine potential and frees up mental, emotional, and spiritual energies. This is a great first step in our journey and allows us to successfully accomplish the inner transformation.
When we forgive others and are kind to others in our life, we become gentler and less violent with our own self also. This is a deep psychological and spiritual truth. Do not underestimate it. What is inside us, becomes explicit in our behavior towards others. And our behavior towards others influences how we become inside. It is a cycle that feeds on itself. Once we start giving love to others, our capacity to do so also gradually grows along. One can start little by little and experiment with the authenticity of this in one’s own life. There is nothing to lose.
To summarize, nonviolence is the most practical philosophy for living the good life. In Sanskrit, the term that is used for nonviolence is Ahimsa. It means “to not injure or harm.” When we commit ourselves to the philosophy of nonviolence then we consciously start to exercise our will to not injure others through deeds, words, and thoughts. In this way we initiate a deep transformation in our personality which unlocks our hidden spiritual power.
There is absolutely nothing abstract about this. It is a concrete transformation that leads one to experience the deep reverence for all life. When we live in the experience of Divine Love, then our consciousness expands to embrace every living being and we feel a genuine joy in the happiness and welfare of others. Giving the gift of love then becomes an everyday event that requires no special holidays.