Patañjali was a sage in ancient India and he wrote an eightfold path through which one could attain ultimate self-realization. The stages that one has to go through are: Yamas (external disciplines), Niyamas (internal disciplines), Asana (posture, meditation seat), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditative absorption) and Samadhi (union, integration).

I thought to write about the first two of them: Yamas and Niyamas (also known as the Ten Commandments of yoga or the dos and the don’ts on the spiritual path).

Namely, I decided to practise each of them for one week (total 10 weeks). The topic of this week is non-violence (Ahimsa) and I think, I need one week more for this. My practice doesn’t want to succeed as I wish, but it is another topic.

Non-violence means to be non-violent towards anyone or anything (the others, animals, insects, toys, furniture, buildings, etc). But in addition to external behaviour, it also means internal non-violence (which includes thoughts —like criticism — and finally, feelings).

It is very easy to be non-violent, if we know, what it is. But usually, we don’t think much about that. For example, if we ask our happy friend to calm down (of course we just want to help him/her and we believe that after his/her bright joy comes a hard fall and we want to avoid that), we don’t even think that we’re actually hurting him/her. But the perfect practice of non-violence means that we don’t harm anyone or anything (externally by actions or internally by thoughts).

One of the most common situations of thoughtless harming is in relationships where we are used to shielding ourselves and moving away from the environment and our mates through shields. Distance, absence, coldness, harshness — all of these are quite common methods of communication among people, which can still hurt us and our mates.

In fact, I think we always know when we are violent. There are two options: we feel better or worse and harder. If we are feeling better (like happy or feeling that ‘life is so easy-going’), then we are heading on the right way. If we are feeling that ‘life is not going great’, feeling the tension or heaviness, then it is a clear sign that we should turn around.

But what do people usually do? They feel some way but do another.

However, there are two kinds of happiness also: the outer, which is like a flashing lighthouse, attracting all kinds of people and situations, which usually doesn’t mean that this person is really happy inside. The external state of happiness is changeable, being like a rollercoaster, going up once and down again the next moment. There is an ego in the game, so perfect non-violence is out of the question.

The second, much calmer and deeper kind of happiness is inner. This is something that great Gurus and Masters have. It is based on inner satisfaction and balance. It also has a charming aroma, but unlike a flashing lighthouse, it is like a modest quiet flower, attracting people who will not only be happy but also calm down and heal. This is a state without ego and a sign of real non-violence.

So, in the light of all this, it seems very difficult (if not impossible) to remain non-violent. We all (as ordinary people who still have egos) sometimes think not of the best of us, give assessments, and criticize. Sometimes we are disturbed by mosquitoes walking in the woods, which hurt and are therefore automatically targeted. Then there are the disciplines of children, to whom we sometimes have to ban toys or actions, thus damaging their little egos.

However, I try to remain optimistic and not give up, hoping that at some point I will be able to achieve a perfect state of non-violence.