Self-defense is not part of ahimsa


Ahimsa (Sanskrit: अहिंसा ahiṃsā f.Literally: not hurting, is the concept of non-violence, i.e. not harming others in thoughts, words and deeds. In the "classic" Raja Yoga according to Patanjali, Ahimsa comes first of the five Yamas. Ahimsa includes not hurting the soul and goes before truthfulness in this sense: Truth should never hurt, sometimes it may need to be kept quiet.

Ahimsa - concept of non-violence

Raja Yoga Sutras from Patanjali

अहिंसासत्यास्तेयब्रह्मचर्यापरिग्रहा यमाः || 2.30 ||

ahiṃsā-satyāsteya-brahmacaryāparigrahā yamāḥ || 2.30 ||

The rules of external discipline (yama) consist of Do not violate (ahiṃsā), Truthfulness (satya), non-stealing (asteya), celibacy (brahmacarya) and incorruptibility (aparigraha).

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (1.1.17) writes ahiṃsā as a matter of course.

How far is personal or collective self-defense appropriate? Religions and within which different traditions have differed for millennia.

Ahimsa in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali

Ahimsa - Gandhi's highest lived ethical principle

- A lecture by Sukadev Bretz 2019 -

Commentary on Chapter 2, Vers

Patanjali writes that when non-harm is well established, enmity is relinquished in the presence of the yogi. In other words, whoever is steadfast in Ahimsa does not encounter hostility.

An interesting verse and with that begin the individual verses that speak about the effects of the various Yamas and Niyamas. Patanjali does not describe exactly what Ahimsa means. He said yes, the Yamas he describes are valid for all beings. But how they implement it is again different.

How to implement ahimsa

  • A policeman has certain tasks and arresting a criminal is definitely not viewed with pleasure by the criminal. But that is his job.
  • And a school teacher will sometimes have to reprimand children too.
  • On the other hand, a yoga teacher, for example, will perhaps be able to be a little milder than a teacher in a focus school.

In this sense, how Ahimsa is lived exactly is something different for everyone. Or different of the Yamas can also be in conflict with each other.

Patanjali is not getting involved in expanding that too much. There are other scriptures for this, and that is different in every age. Precisely because Patanjali refrains from giving very concrete ethical recommendations, Patanjali is still very relevant today. And there is actually not a single verse in the Yoga Sutra where one would say that in light of today's knowledge and our modern ethics, one would have to formulate this verse differently. This is what characterizes the Yoga Sutra to a great extent. And so he says here, whoever is established in Ahimsa does not encounter enmity. What does that mean. It means two things.

Peaceful people spread peace

For one thing, a peaceful person usually leads other people to treat them more peacefully. There are people, for example, when they are somewhere in a group, then everyone is a little more peaceful. But when that person is no longer there, everything arises again. A peaceful person leads to more peace around them. But that's not absolutely true either. A Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross, there were several assassinations against Buddha, and there was also an assassination attempt against Swami Sivananda. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King have been shot. So it cannot be said that someone who is anchored in Ahimsa never encounters any enmity, but on another level it is true.

A person who is full of benevolence, empathy and has no enmity towards any human being does not have the feeling that anyone else has enmity towards him or her. Swami Sivananda did not say when an attempted murder was carried out on him that I forgive my enemy, but rather he said that God came to me in the form of this person. It was not this person who was evil, but God came to me in this form.

Founded in Ahimsa, you know no enemies

Jesus on the cross: Father, forgive them because they don't know what they are doing

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount “Love your enemies”, but that is a preliminary step. Jesus himself did not know any enemies. On the cross he said, “Father forgive you because you don't know what you are doing.” He hadn't felt that anyone was hostile to him. He felt like he was doing his job. He knew his job would be to die on the cross.

And those who brought him to the cross and tortured those who tortured him were not evil. He didn't feel like he was facing hostility. In this sense, if you are firmly anchored in Ahimsa and thus also in love and compassion, then you will understand people so deeply that you do not even have the feeling that there is enmity, even someone is doing you the worst.

And that is ultimately also a sign that you are anchored in Ahimsa. That you don't have the feeling that any people are angry or want to be angry with you. Perhaps they are misguided, like Jesus said, “They don't know what they are doing.” Perhaps they are creating bad karma, perhaps they are hurt, perhaps they are ignorant. But you don't need to be mad at them. If you are firmly anchored in Ahimsa, you no longer see enmity. Think about it.

Try to love all beings

Maybe you can also consider people that you would look at somewhere as your enemies. Try to love her from the heart. You may also try to look at her compassionately. Know that when they do really bad they are creating bad karma for themselves. They are instruments that you can experience your karma. But they create bad karma for themselves. So you should have compassion for you, not negative feelings. Yes, so far for today. If you want to read that, you can do it in the book "The Yoga Wisdom of Patanjali of People of Today."


You can also find more about the Yoga Sutra on our website. We also have Raja Yoga seminars. You can become even more aware of this at a weekend seminar. Or if you want to hear or read another comment, just give a Patanjali Yoga Sutra 2/35 and then you come to this verse Sanskrit, German, word for word translation and various comments.

Video - Ahimsa in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali

Swami Sivananda on Ahimsa

To do no harm in thought, word or deed is called ahimsa. This is the most important concern in the yoga training of the Patanjali Maharshi. That is why it is there at the beginning. When one does non-violence, all other qualities come by themselves. To do this one must destroy selfishness.

You have to kill yourself and become a boulder, you have to control your excitement and impulses. Man is worse than a cobra or a scorpion. He has a sword in his tongue that he can use to hurt the feelings of others. He takes pleasure in harming others. Those who practice ahimsa have a strong will. All enmity ceases in his vicinity. In his presence, hostile animals get along and live together in harmony.

Doing no harm (Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah) is the highest of all virtues. A sannyasin should not defend himself when attacked. He shouldn't carry weapons with him to defend himself. A sannyasin says: “I am not the body, but the immortal atman. A housefather can defend himself when he is in danger. But when he practices ahimsa in thought, word and deed, he should also behave like a sannyasin.

There is a hidden power in Ahimsa that protects all who take this pledge. The invisible hand of God protects. There is no need to be afraid. What can pistols and swords do? First, control your body. Keep calm when someone hits you. Suppress your feelings. Follow the commands of Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says: "If someone gives you a stroke on your right cheek, offer the other to him too. And if someone wants to right you and take your coat, let him also leave his coat." (Math. 5; 39,40) At first this is very difficult.

The old samskaras of vengeance: "Tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye" or: "Pay back with the same coin" want to force you to repay the injustice. You have to calm down and wait, reflect and meditate. Then use your power of discernment Thoughts become calm and your angry opponent will also calm down because you offer him no resistance. He will be amazed and horrified because you look like a wise man. Slowly you will receive tremendous power.

Keep this ideal in mind and try to reach step by step, albeit with stumbling feet. Get a clear mental picture of Ahimsa and its invaluable benefits. Remember the actions of great sages from ancient times. Jayadeva, the author of the Gitagovinda, made great and rich gifts to his enemies, who cut off his hands, and implored the final deliverance for them in prayer.

He prayed, "Oh, Lord, you have given deliverance to your enemies Ravana and Kamsa. Why can't you also give it to my enemies?" Such is the generous heart of the saints and wise men. Pavhari Baba brought a sack of dishes to the thief, he followed and said: "O thief Narayana, I did not even know that you came to my hut.

Please take these things with you. ”The thief was amazed. From that hour on he gave up his bad habit and became a disciple of Pavhari Baba. In remembering the noble deeds of such saints, you must follow their principles and ideals. After you have mastered your body, curb your speech. Make the tough decision never to say an unkind word to a person from now on. You will fail countless times, but if your hundredth attempt is successful, you will have already achieved the goal. Curb the impulses of speech. Observe silence, practice forgiveness (Kshama).

Say to yourself: “He is a very childlike soul, he is ignorant. That's why he did this. I want to forgive him. What do I get if I abuse him. To err is human, but forgiveness is divine. ”Slowly give up the delusion of self-awareness (abhimana) for it is the fundamental cause of everything. Never think about hurting another. You shouldn't kill animals, but your selfishness, your "Ihood" and "Myness". Whoever takes the life of the poor, dumb animals will suffer terrible torments in hells.

It is thrown into the lake of fire and roasted there. Action and reaction are opposed to each other to the same degree. There are people who think that God created birds and animals for them to eat. But if the tigers rose up claiming that God created man for their prey, what answer can we foolish ignorant men give them? There is better nutrition in a vegetarian diet, also for the intellect. Even today there are people who do not harm flies or ants. These people have gentle hearts and will achieve the spiritual goal.

The great religions about Ahimsa

Ahimsa plays a central role in all religions:

  • Do not let anyone's lives hurt, but be conscientious about honoring the lives of others as your own. Because non-violence towards all living things is the highest law. Tirthankara Mahavira
  • Let us develop an infinite heart and mind to all living beings, large or small. Let's do developing loves for the whole world. Gautama Buddha
  • You should not kill. Moses
  • What you don't want someone to do to you don't do it to anyone else. Jesus Christ
  • The one who protects a life should be treated as if he had saved all living humanity. There is no animal on earth, no bird that flies on its two wings, the communities are not like you. Mohammed (Koran, VI-38)
  • A person should prefer good to sorrow, good deeds to sin, virtue to vice, and light to darkness. Zarathustra
  • The own self lives in everyone. All are revelations of the one God. When you hurt another, you hurt yourself. When you serve another person, you are serving yourself. Love all people. Serve all people. Don't hate anyone. Don't offend anyone. Do not hurt anyone with thoughts, words, or actions. Hinduism

Swami Sivananda on Ahimsa

Excerpt from "The Message" by Swami Sivananda:

"There is no repentance equal to the practice of ahimsa. There is no vow equal to telling the truth. There is no discipline equal to discipline of the senses and thoughts. Ahimsa practice develops love. Ahimsa is another name for truth and love, so develop them ceaselessly.

Non-violence is a great and inspiring ideal. Thought renunciation is the first and most essential condition of practicing nonviolence. Those who have given up the desire for wealth, name, and fame can practice non-violence. Non-violence cannot be practiced by the weak. It is a virtue of the strong. It is a weapon of the strong.

If someone hits you with your stick, you shouldn't let the thought of kicking back or any unkind feelings arise towards the tormentor. You see how difficult it is to practice Ahimsa. Forgive the person who hurt you. Give love for hate. Repay evil for good. This is how you will come to the divine. Those who practice non-violence must necessarily be humble. Nonviolence is a virtue of the strong and the brave. She is a vice of the morally weak who is a coward. "

Creative reading from the book "Inspiration and Wisdom" by Swami Sivananda

The great, universal vow is Ahimsa. Do not hurt in thoughts, words and day is the great resolution that you should make. In the Yoga Sutra Patanjali speaks of the five Yamas, the five ethical commandments: Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, Aparigraha. And he says that these five together make up Mahavrata, the great, universal vow. And of these five, the most important of all is Ahimsa. It is said, "Ahimsa paramo dharma." Ahimsa is the highest task, the highest duty. And finally “Ahimsa Mahavrata”: Ahimsa is the great, universal vow.

This Ahimsa is not only for the Hindus, but also for Christians, Muslims and Buddhists. If you want to realize the truth, then do the Mahavrata, the great vow of Ahimsa. Say to yourself: “I don't want to hurt anyone in thoughts, words and deeds.” Or, to put it the other way round: “I want to be a positive force in everyone's life. I want to touch and influence people's lives in a positive way. With every person I come into contact with. "

So practice ahimsa as a great vow

You may also encounter difficulties, you may have setbacks. That's why you're making a vow. With something that is easy for you, you do not need to promise that you will keep it - it will happen by itself. But what is difficult for you, it is good to take a vow. Make the vow a resolution to be a positive force for all beings. Trials and difficulties will come before you to test your strength. Stand firm and your efforts will be crowned with great success.

In ahimsa, in non-violence, and in cosmic love, in the desire to do good, there is a power that protects every practitioner. The invisible power of God offers protection. So be fearless. At some point you will get to the point where you cannot even harm flies and ants. You're even careful on the street, you don't want to trample on living beings. So you will be blessed. This is how you will see God. Your heart is soft

So now take the great vow, the great Mahavrata: “I want to do good for all the people I deal with. And I don't want to harm anyone. I want to act out of love and do good to people. "

Hold for a moment and make that firm decision.

Sukadev about Ahimsa

Transcription of a lecture video (2014) by Sukadev on Ahimsa

Ahimsa, the first of the five yamas, the first of the five commandments, the first of the five recommendations in dealing with others. Ahimsa, the opposite of Himsa, Himsa means to hurt. In positive terms, Ahimsa Maitri or Maitri Bhavana, benevolence, the feeling of friendship, compassion, charity, love.Ahimsa is the one expression and Ahimsa means not hurting, in a narrower sense it also means not killing. First of all, it's about not killing. Do not kill in thought, word or deed. Ahimsa means that you renounce the right of thumb to kill someone who does not suit you. I suppose that's not the question for you now.

But ahimsa also means not to kill your own body, that is, not to commit suicide. Ahimsa also means not to kill animals. Ahimsa can mean to be vegetarian, Ahimsa can mean to be vegan. Ahimsa also means not hurting the feelings of others. Complete ahimsa is hardly possible, because people grapple, people want this, people want that, there are lots of misunderstandings.

Still, from the heart you can want Ahimsa. You can act so that whenever possible you act out of love, not physically hurting others. Ahimsa means in words. That is, try to speak kind words, try to speak kindly to people as much as possible. Ahimsa also means, after all, in thoughts and therefore also in feelings. Develop a sense of benevolence for people.

Develop a sense of compassion and charity for people. Ahimsa in this sense is the deep consciousness, you are one with all beings and you do not want anything bad for anyone, because you know we are all one. And so you are in love, so you are in Maitri Bhavana, you are in Prema, in this love. But first of all, Ahimsa is not hurting. Ahimsa is also something in the intergovernmental area, there Ahimsa means not to wage war, not to wage civil war.

Ahimsa also means, even if you stand up for a good cause, to do it non-violently. Mahatma Gandhi showed that Ahimsa, the principle of non-violence, can also bring down tyrannical regimes. Mahatma Gandhi turned this concept of Ahimsa into a political concept. Since then people have known that there doesn't have to be a civil war to turn things around.

There are many things that can be done with Ahimsa. Martin Luther King has shown that it can be done. The German peace movement has achieved a lot and the people in East Germany brought the Berlin Wall down in 1989, before Solidarnosc in Poland and in many other countries. Much can be achieved with Ahimsa. And of course, now it is important for yourself, Ahimsa, from deep inside, feel that you want to help others, from deep inside wish good, speak good and do good! Patanjali says of Ahimsa: "He who is firmly anchored in Ahimsa does not meet with enmity."

If you have this deep feeling deep down that you want to help and serve other people, then you will not experience anything that people do as hostile. Even Jesus said when he was tormented on the cross, "Father, forgive them because they don't know what they are doing." He felt for those who did something bad. In this sense, Ahimsa also stems from the firm conviction that deep down everyone wants what is good. And because you know that deep down, even when people are not doing so good, you still have no sense of Himsa, you always have a sense of Ahimsa. Ahimsa means non-violence, not killing, not hurting.

Ahimsa as a Spiritual Name

Ahimsa, Sanskrit अहिंसा ahiṃsā f, is a spiritual name and means Non-hurting, concept of non-violence, that is, not harming others in thoughts, words and deeds. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Ahimsa comes first of the five Yamas. Ahimsa can be given to aspirants with Soham mantra, Tryambaka mantra.

Ahimsa is a spiritual name for women. Ahimsa means non-harm, non-violence, non-harm in thought, word and deed. If your name is Ahimsa, it means that you want to take the principle of Ahimsa particularly seriously. You want to live and teach non-violence. Your life becomes a living example of compassion and divine love.

Ahimsa अहिंसा ahiṃsā pronunciation

Here you can hear how the Sanskrit word ahimsa, अहिंसा, ahiṃsā is pronounced:

A contemplation on Ahimsa

Article by author and seminar leader Bhajan Noam

Like myself, all beings are subject to separation, sickness, old age and death.

Ahimsa - doctrine of non-violence

Like myself, all beings want an existence in integrity, health, prosperity and dignity.

Like myself, I give mine to all beings Mindfulness, my compassion, my love and my service.

I keep my distance from killing, hurting, theft, cheating, lying, harsh words, intolerance, desire and any negative thinking.

Every day I encourage benevolent thoughts, helpful actions, lack of attachment, desirelessness and unconditional trust.

I honor the seed of mastery in each. I bow to the purity of every soul. I sit at the feet of the masters and the righteous and carefully follow their teachings.

Ahimsa principles

Ahimsa, the teaching of non-violence and high respect for oneself and all beings in the worlds, humans, animals, plants and elements, is the basic orientation for all practitioners who strive for a higher level of consciousness. This teaching has four key messages:

  • Violence is killing, hurting, stealing, cheating, lying, raw words, intolerance, desire and all thinking that is based on negative utterances and actions.
  • Nonviolence is the practice of compassion and love towards oneself and existence from the knowledge of the impermanence of all being and the knowledge of the highest order.
  • The way to ahimsa is attachmentless observation, selfless service, recognition of the equality of all forms of existence, gradual liberation from negative thoughts, hurtful words and destructive actions, cultivation of loving thinking, benevolent speech and beneficial action, development of gratitude, patience, forbearance and humor, practice of meditation and prayer, sanctification of every moment, every action, every experience.
  • The goal of Ahimsa is the embodiment of peacefulness, respect, wisdom and natural dignity through all of us as true people and heirs to this earth.

Ahimsa in everyday life

The voluntary renunciation of any gross and subtle form of violence opens a wide space in you for equanimity, trust and peace. Ahimsa releases tremendous energy in you as it brings you into harmony with the creative potential of the entire universe. Kindness is the power overcoming all obstacles that opens even the hearts of stones. Ahimsa prepares your mind for the knowledge of the Most High.

Before you rule with anger, consider: the world is what you have sown yourself. Sow hatred and you reap hatred. Sow love and you reap love. When hatred comes your way, keep still and let the hatred pass by. Give love even if hate continues to come towards you. There are still the answers to your past deeds, but they will soon fade if you persevere Ahimsa are practicing. Don't damn yourself if you don't always succeed. Boldly start over. Keep practicing every day. (From my book "You are this love")

Plus an Ahimsa story

Sadhu in Kathmandu, India

How a yogi rules (retelling). In a small kingdom in ancient India, it was once the custom that when the ruler died without leaving a successor, ministers would release a special palace elephant into the streets. This elephant caught someone on the street at his own pleasure, swung him with his trunk on his back, brought him into the palace and without further questions this man was then crowned king. Once the elephant caught a poor but wise yogi. He was brought to court with all pomp and great solemnity.

The yogi, who came from another area and knew nothing of the custom, was amazed and asked the ministers: “What is going on? Why did you bring me here? ”“ Sir, you are to be crowned king. It is our custom. The palace elephant chose you. ”“ No, no, I don't want to be king of a kingdom. See, I am a simple yogi, a beggar, and I am quite content with my life. Why should I do the burdens and troubles of government to myself? ”“ Please, don't let us down, ”pleaded the ministers. And so, with many courtesies, they persuaded him to take the throne.

However, as king, the yogi was not at all interested in what was happening in the kingdom. As before on the street, he was now sitting on his throne, meditating or staring silently into the air. Still, everything was fine and there was prosperity. The ruler of the neighboring kingdom heard from the new king that he was a beggar and obviously quite simple-minded.

He thought to himself that this was a good opportunity to invade and take the kingdom. When the ministers learned of the danger to the country, they immediately informed the new ruler of the neighboring ruler's plans. “But why does he want to invade our kingdom? What did we do to him? ”Asked the yogi. "We do not know it. There is no apparent reason.

His armies are invading our area. Please give us your order so that we can fight them. ”“ But no, stay calm. Why should we fight? ”Said the saint calmly. The ministers were amazed. They didn't know what to do. When the enemy ruler found that the armies of the enemy were not coming to battle, he went to the palace and the king himself. He relaxed and watched his brisk demeanor. The enemy king said, “Oh Rajah! I came to fight you.

What do you think of that? ”“ What do you get out of it? Why do you want to fight us? ”“ I want to conquer your kingdom. ”“ Oh ruler, you don't have to fight my armies for that. You can have this throne. I am just a yogi. I have always been a yogi and a poor man. I'm going away again. Come on, take this throne. From now on you are the ruler of this kingdom too. "

The enemy king was ashamed. Completely confused, he prostrated himself in front of the yogi, begged his forgiveness and instead offered him his own kingdom. So the Holy Ruler of both Kingdoms became! The ministers, frozen in awe, were thereby enlightened. They now understood the power of renunciation. The whole country was spared a bloodbath, and the saint gained a kingdom without asking!


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Ahimsa - non-hurting and kindness - mp3 short lecture

Sukadev about Ahimsa

Similar Spiritual Names

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