“There is no more important part to play in life than enabling children to grow up in a peaceful world, young people to grow up with a selfless goal in view, and nations and races and countries to live together in peace and harmony.” —Eknath Easwaran
These words express what we all hunger for. And yet, in the midst of our longing for a peaceful world, we receive another report of humanity gone awry. The recent shootings in South Carolina stand not only in their own singular horror, but among a cascade of violent and hateful deeds, both told and untold, that are repeatedly occurring at home and around the world.
In the midst of our longing for a peaceful world, we receive yet another report of humanity gone awry.
What is it in us humans that precipitates such violence? We seem to be such odd creatures capable of insidious, violent deeds; we're capable of being shocked and saddened, yet remain strangely indifferent. We continue to believe we are not part of the problem.
Perhaps this tendency to separate ourselves into the “good apples” pile is in part why the world seems to continue its bent for violence. The ideas of killing in cold blood and blatant hatred are so vile and foreign to us that they give an easy escape route into believing we are “different.”
The first ethical restraint in yoga is non-violence. It seems Patanjali would not have told us to be non-violent if it wasn’t a problem for all of us! Our task then is to mentally remove ourselves from the comfortable “good apples” basket and begin to examine the violence that sits within all of us and how it seeps into the lives of others. We might be surprised at what we find.
One of the things we might notice is that neutrality rarely finds us. We are, in each moment, either passing on some form of kindness or some form of violence. We can choose to pass on our impatience, judgment, criticism, lies, frustration; or we can choose to pass on a smile or a kind word. Studying our exchanges will give us insight into the self-centeredness, hatred, and prejudice behind the thoughts, decisions, and actions that form a deep, intimate part of each of us; studying our exchanges will expose violent tendencies in their most subtle and hideous displays.
We can choose to pass on our impatience, judgment, criticism, lies, frustration; or we can choose to pass on a smile or a kind word.
Watching our exchanges will also give us clues into what it takes to receive anger from another and instead pass it on as compassion, or what it takes to be wronged by another and instead pass it on as healing. This is a crucial step in understanding and transforming violence in the world.
Perhaps Patanjali is requiring those of us who are on the yoga journey to recognize the violence within us and make a commitment to not pass it on. It seems a commitment worth making.