All ethical and religious traditions condemn violence. The Yoga Sutras indicate that pursuing a yogic path is no different. The perseverance of Ahimsa or non-violence is first among the Yama; the moral principles that underlie the practice. Perhaps, for that reason, it is the most important of them all right now, because violence is all around us.
One can’t achieve Ahimsa by removing the power of the NRA or getting rid of semi-automatic rifles or identifying alienated youth. It is a question of deep awareness. Ignorance or Avidya is considered first among the characteristics that block us from the path of yoga or unification.
This is born out of non-conscious behavior. In order to rid ourselves of it and help others do so, we must practice its removal. Pay attention to what we eat…and how it got to the plate, what we watch…and how our brains interact with an onslaught of violent media, what we say to each other …and how using the wrong language has the power to hurt.
The root causes of violence begin in childhood with families tangled in an ever-shrinking safety net; fostering anger and despair. We overindulge our children with explosive video games; allow bullying in school that goes unchecked; and mental anguish and illness in teenagers that is still not identified, understood or talked about enough.
Schools are too busy teaching to tests. They don’t have funding to teach activities like civics, ethics and the arts (or the appreciation of beauty) to help hold anti-social behaviors at bay.
We must mourn the victims of the horrifying massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We must remember the children and their teachers. We must change gun laws.
But guns are the most obvious, present and dangerous tools of ignorance.
The death of each child and teacher will be in vain if we don’t rid ourselves of the ever more frequent possibility of the next act of violence.
Our responsibility as yoga students is to look at the personal and societal causes of ignorance and reduce violence. Change those root causes in ourselves and then we have the power to help others change them as well.