Ahimsa: The Basis for Meditation (#92)
No matter what technique you are doing while sitting in "formal" meditation, or are applying to the rest of your life (perhaps like mindfulness, or breath awareness, or mantra, or whatever), the first step in the traditional path of Raja Yoga, the Yoga of Meditation, is recommended to be Ahimsa. Ahimsa is usually defined as non-violence. But this goes far deeper than the usual implied characteristics of non-violence, like not fighting physically, or taking another's life. It deals with not causing any harm whatsoever to anyone or anything in any way. This means no actions that cause verbal or emotional pain, anguish, suffering, or even slight discomfort to any living thing is what is called for. Since the failure to help ease pain is pain causing, inaction can also be against this common to all religions direction. So, we are pointed to not causing suffering and to eliminate it when we see it. This puts us in a very win-win situation karma-wise. The things that distract us from our meditation the most are the would-of, should-of thoughts that fill our mind with guilt and anger. Actually living our life in an Ahimsa way never feeds the fire of inner gut-feeling pain that knowing we have done wrong causes and eliminates the mental poison called "Regret" that drowns us in a tidal wave of suffering.
The Ahimsa Meditation Technique
A way to live your life seems more than just a technique, but meditation can be considered a time of attention and awareness, and that is certainly advantageous at all times, not just for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night. Ahimsa is based on a few basic meditation principles:
1) We have an inner Witness that has been present since birth and is here now, as you are reading these words. The Witness is the awareness that can see if you have any tension in your body, what your emotions are feeling, and what your mind is thinking.
2) There are only 3 types of actions (called Gunas in Sanskrit): Tamas (actions that are ignorant, habitual, dark, characterized by inertia, and generally negative), Rajas (also ignorant and negative, but usually are selfishness-desire based, and active actions), and Sattva (pure, righteous, light, holy selfless actions).
3) By Witnessing what is inappropriate (Tamas and Rajas actions), we can eliminate those actions that cause suffering and flow infinitely better with life. It works this way...
Before every action, there are words. Before words, there are thoughts. Before thoughts, the Witness IS. At one with the Witness, the meditator is aware of the actions, words, and thoughts. If they are of an unrighteous or other negative label nature, both of passive and active characteristic (Tamas/Rajas), which is known by a "gut feeling", intuitively, the meditator changes them spontaneously, effortlessly, into righteous events (Sattva). This is Self-control. How to do this? By witnessing your life as it takes place. Your breath is always present while there is life. By placing your attention on your breath, you are here, now, present, and can Witness your life as it takes place.
Several times during the day, remind your self to Witness your breath. Do this in as many ways as you can. When you first get up, give yourself a mental direction to stop every hour on the hour and refocus on your breath, and on your silent inner Witness. If you see yourself doing anything that is contrary to Ahimsa, redirect your actions to Sattvic ones. So, if you see yourself mentally cursing out your boss, for instance, change that into a prayer for the well being of all who live. This is just an example. You can also remind yourself by leaving post-it notes to yourself around your house or job site that just say "Witness" or "Breathe" on them.
While you're at work, call yourself on your home phone and leave a message on your answering machine that will serve as a reminder when you get home from work and check your messages. Be creative, devise a game plan. Find ways that you can remind yourself more and more often to be aware of your breathe, Witnessing, and the principle of Ahimsa. Eventually, you will Witness your life as it takes place, and the replacing of negative actions with righteous ones will become an automatic part of your life, and you will never again have to even ponder what Ahimsa is about. You will be living it. Then, a state of transcendence of all Gunas (Tamasic, Rajasic, and Sattvic actions) occurs. The meditator then abides in life without reference or reaction to the illusion of singular identification, and the unity with the ever present, infinite underlying essence of all creation, and all activity is realized. This event of all events can only be known experientially, not emotionally, physically, or intellectually. It is a gift of Grace only, and not as a result of meditation, or by going through your pain, or by bliss-full visions, and so on. Meditation clears the pathway of all that obstructs the vision of the Witness.
So... breathe, Witness, and when you witness Tamas or Rajas in your actions, or the actions going on around you, change them into Sattva by acting or refraining from action…whatever is appropriate. But, be sure to apply the kindness that is one and the same in Ahimsa to yourself, as well as to others. Be gentle when you see something negative in your actions, words, or thoughts. Just say "Oh well" to yourself and go on with the process of changing negativity to loving positivity. And this will be true Ahimsa, and that will be when you start living happily ever after.