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First Limb of Yoga - Ahimsa and Satyam

Paul M. Jerard Jr.
Nov 27, 2007
According to Patanjali, the Yamas are the first limb of Yoga. Ahimsa is often referred to as the first Yama. Ahimsa is to restrain from violence, but we live in a violent world. Just open any newspaper, or watch the news, and you will be overwhelmed with negative feelings, when you consider the innocent victims of all this violence.

So, how do we live a non-violent life in a world filled with random violence? According to Matthew 5:38-39, Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,' but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

Life was not easy for any of those who lived under the rule of the Roman Empire, but Jesus advises us to forgive our enemies and our suppressors. As he was being crucified, Jesus also stated, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." His ability to forgive was super natural.

Mahatma Gandhi said, "I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent." Many people will state that they cannot live up to the standards of Jesus or Mahatma Gandhi for non-violence. This is understandable, but do most of us really try?

Every person on the planet should make a conscious effort to try to be as forgiving as Jesus Christ or Mahatma Gandhi. To help those who have, or would do you harm, is not an easy task.

This should be a matter of putting thoughts, words, and actions, to good use. It is easier said than done, but to do this, we have to be tolerant of everyone. It requires us to make decisions and actions without prejudice - at all times.

However, if you are being physically attacked, and your survival, or the survival of friends, or family, is at stake, non-violence may not be a viable option. In history, there have been conquerors who massacred millions of peaceful people like sheep.

Unfortunately, history has documented far too many holocausts for us to ignore the right to defend oneself. To be humble on the outside, but bold within, is a much safer course when you plan your day. When you put your best foot forward, most people will respect you for it, but beware of those who see your good manners as a sign of weakness.

Ahimsa: The practice of non-violence cannot be achieved just by thinking about it. It starts from within and requires us to be aware of what we say, think, write, and our actions. If you can diffuse an argument between two people, by speaking up, and you take no action, your non-action could cause violence.

We have to be prepared, each day, from within our being, by meditating and praying. We must also be prepared for the person who is having an "off day." This could be a driver exhibiting road rage, a rude co-worker, a person who has poor manners, or something similar.

Inciting violence also violates ahimsa. Therefore, withhold your negative comments about others, even if you feel they are justified. Keep your integrity intact, and you will establish a reputation of good character.

Satyam or Satya: This is the second Yama of truthfulness. A simple definition would be, "Thou shall not lie or give false testimony." This same rule is found in the Old Testament of the Bible, in Jewish Scriptures, and in the Holy Quran.

In ancient times, and today, bearing false witness against a neighbor could cause serious injustice, which could result in capital punishment. This act would magnify the actual crime.

If you look at the root words in Sanskrit, Sat means "true or real," while Ya means "ness." Another way to look at Satyam is to be real. For some people, this is easy; but for some other people, their ego does not allow them to be real.

Look within and avoid deceiving others, but do not intentionally hurt others with the truth. Always be compassionate; especially, if the truth is going to hurt someone. Therefore, the truth is like a sword with two blades. Always be careful and use your best judgment.

Copyright 2007 - Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
About the Author
Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, is a co-owner and the director of Yoga teacher training at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. He is an author of many books on the subject of Yoga and has been a certified Master Yoga teacher since 1995.

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