Yoga – Principle of Nonviolence

Whenever anger arises in me, it tells me that I am not kind enough or accepting enough. Let us use every occasion of anger to learn something. Let us not get angry at anger.

The first principle that we are taught is the principle of nonviolence. Do not violate others, for the simple reason that you do not want to be violated. Nobody wants to be violated; nobody wants to be hurt. Each one of us is born with an intrinsic understanding of what we want, and know that others also want the same thing. Everyone has the love for life and for their well-being. That I want to live and live happily is the knowledge that I have about myself. And it is, that nobody wants to be hurt; nobody wants to be violated, nobody wants to be cheated and nobody wants anyone to trample upon their rights. I want to live and I want to live happily, and I do not want anybody else to come in the way of my pursuit of happiness and freedom. I also know that others want the same for themselves. They do not want me to come in their way of pursuit of their happiness and freedom either.

We are all, without exception, born with the knowledge that nobody wants to be hurt. The basic principle of nonviolence, is being aware of this and respecting other people, respecting their right to freedom, respecting their right to pursue freedom, and respecting their right to live and be happy. This is what is meant by not doing unto others what you do not want done to you. So at the physical level, I must refrain from hurting other creatures, I must conduct myself with alertness and sensitivity with respect to the feelings of other people, and I must conduct myself in such a manner that by my physical action, I do not hurt or violate other human beings or other creatures.

Speech that is pleasant and not hurtful, is another aspect of nonviolence. I can also hurt others by my speech. Very often, I utter sentences which hurt the feelings of other people. Therefore, may I be careful not to hurt the sentiments of others, and strive to speak that which is pleasant and not hurtful.

Yet another aspect of nonviolence, is at the level of the mind. Thus may I refrain even from entertaining unkind thoughts! We hurt others when we are overcome by anger. When I act out of anger, my action becomes hurtful, when I speak out of anger, my words become hurtful and when my thoughts arise out of anger, my thoughts also become hurtful to others. Sometimes the mind wonders how fitting it would be if something unfortunate happens to someone that we dislike. In my school days, I was supposed to be a bright student, and up to the 7th grade, was always ranked first in school. However, when I went to the 8th grade, a new student joined my class from another town, and he was brighter than me. From then on, I would get only the 2nd rank and not the first. So at the time of the examinations, I would think how nice it would be if this other fellow met with an accident, or broke his hands or legs, so that he could not take the exam. Why? So that I would retain my first rank! I was angry at that person. I could not accept the fact that I was not ranked first and started entertaining unkind thoughts about that person. Thus, when I think or speak or act out of anger, my actions are hurtful to others.

It is a universal principle that no creature wants to be violated. Somebody asked me whether these values are relative. They are not relative. Each one of us has a value for nonviolence. We know that even a violent person himself, does not want to be violated. When somebody commits a crime, he tries his best not to be caught. Why?

Because he does not want to be hurt.

If every human being values nonviolence, why is there so much violence in the world? Why do I myself violate this value? The answer is: whenever I act out of anger or jealousy or such passions, I commit violence. Therefore, in order for me to be nonviolent, I have to look at my anger, understand its cause and deal with it. Anger does not go away simply because we want it to go away. You cannot give it up, like you can give up smoking. If you are provoked, you will get angry.

Pujya Swami Dayanandaji invites people to do this exercise about anger. “I invite you to get angry. Come on, become angry”, he says. Understand that we do not decide to become angry. We do not have freedom when anger comes; we become helpless. Therefore, all violence that happens, is out of helplessness and not out of will. When I feel accepted or feel loved, I am kind, not violent. I get angry only when I feel hurt, rejected or insulted. Anger is a sign, not of strength, but of weakness. Therefore, I should have a value for becoming free from anger. Then alone I can become non-violent, and then alone I can possess the mind and enjoy composure. Otherwise the mind becomes disturbed.

What is the cause of anger? Is it outside of myself or is it within myself? The cause of anger is within me. Others only push my buttons. When I flick the light switch on or the fan switch on, the light has no choice but to light up and the fan has to begin to rotate. Similarly, I have a button called anger, a button called jealousy, a button called resentment, and so on. When somebody pushes my anger button I have no choice but to become angry. I have no freedom at all. Therefore, I have to work on it. That is why anger is compared to fire; the more I appease that anger, the more intense it becomes.

What do I do? Let me become an accepting person. Anger comes because I am not tolerant. I cannot accept other people as they are. I want them to be different. I have a prescription for everybody’s behavior, my spouse’s, the children’s and even the neighbor’s. Rather than prescribing how others should be, let me accept them for as they are. Because they are created this way. Let me accept the creator for creating them this way and not demand that everybody should be agreeable to me, not demand that everybody should respect me and not demand that everybody else should love me. Let everybody have the freedom to be what they are.

The way to deal with anger, therefore, is to accept that the world is not in my control; the world has its own agenda. Everyone has his own mind, his own personality, and his own agenda and therefore, let me accept them for what they are as best as I can. Let me also enjoy the freedom to be what I am, accepting things as they are, as best as I can. It does not matter how the person is. Accept the person, even if he is hurting or insulting. His behavior is his problem. He must be himself suffering from some hurt or guilt, and perhaps that is manifesting as this behavior. Thus, anger can be dealt with by forgiveness. Can I become larger than I now am to forgive and accommodate that person? Can I be more compassionate and large-hearted than I now am? I cannot expect to remain as I am and hope to become free from anger. Anger draws attention to the fact that I am not large enough, that I am not accommodating enough.

Whenever anger arises in me, it tells me that I am not kind enough or accepting enough. Let us use every occasion of anger to learn something. Let us not get angry at anger. Let me be kind to myself also. Just as any pain that arises in our body draws our attention to something that needs to be done, when anger arises in my mind, it draws my attention towards something that needs to be done. It challenges me or demands that I should become more large-hearted. Let me take on that challenge and try to win. It does not happen right away; it is a process. If you have a value for becoming free from anger, in course of time, anger will go away. We will be able to accomplish this by growing in maturity and becoming larger than we now are. In this manner I grow to be nonviolent