Everyday Yamas & Niyamas : Ahimsa


It must be two o’clock in the morning. Jet lagging, I have now tossed and turned in my bed for hours. I just can’t get to sleep. I’ve done my deep relaxation exercises but they haven’t helped. Usually they work within a few minutes but now I seem to have too much on my mind. I decided to let the thoughts come and stay with them. Finally, dream like images take over in my mind and I welcome the long awaited sleep.

A faint noise comes closer becoming louder and louder. It resembles a small circular saw and it penetrates my consciousness like that sting this little mosquito is keen on making. Fully awake, ready for my counter attack, I wait until the insect is right next to my ear. I slap myself in the ear full force and the mosquito is dead. The pleasure of the kill lasts for a second. Then I remember that damn ahimsa…

Again, fully awake I start thinking if the principle of non-violence, or ahimsa in Sanskrit, is possible at all, especially when I think about mosquitos. I’m not feeling any better by understanding that I used premeditated violence and cold bloodedly killed an innocent living being right in my ear. The date with the sandman is finished.

The degree of development of the human mind can be determined by the way we react to external stimuli in an unexpected situation. On one end of the line we have instinctive reactions and on the other the ones made with reason. An aggressive instinct is an example of the former. A negative relationship with anything in our environment is due to a primordial feeling of fear in our minds, which can make us consider things, beings or events threatening. Even mosquitos.

Bees, ants, worms, gekkos and all kinds of beetles (maybe excluding cockroaches) do no longer cause a shock like waving of hands and screams of help in me. I let them crawl and wonder around my little cottage here in the rainforest. At least the gekkos eat cockroaches. The fear of mosquitos is the one that lingers on. These little beasts usually leave me alone but there is always one, braving the way, ready to spoil my sleep. At every occurrence the following happens: Thought 1: Kill it. Though 2: Wait for the right moment. Though 3: Attack even if it hurts. At some rare occasions I manage to start reasoning before going to bed, turn the lights off and pull net early enough over my bed. But more often, after having tossed and turned in the sweaty sheets in the Caribbean night the role of the killer takes over.

I feel like Brad Pitt in “Seven”. Provoked enough I become a killer.

Ahimsa, non-violence, is not limited to physical violence. It also touches our thoughts. When we think badly about others, we fall prey of violating ahimsa. When we think badly about ourselves, we make the same mistake. With the guilty feeling (thinking bad about myself) of a mosquito murderer (hating the mosquito), I am afraid ahimsa is not possible for me.

Remembering that the road of spiritual development is winding appeases me. Sometimes we move forwards, sometimes backwards, or we just stay put. Yoga helps to move forward and the chance for a positive change is always there. Once I keep this in mind and keep on practicing mindfulness, acting out of reason, not out of instinct, there is a chance for me of not being a mosquito killer any more.

Anu Paavola

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