Last month I talked about the essence of the nature of who we are. Who are we? We are: Sat Chit Ananda (‘Absolute Bliss Consciousness’). This is the Self. We share this nature with all living beings: whether we are human, a cow, a dog or a fish.
We all share this common nature of the Self. As we start to recognise our shared nature with all sentient beings, we start to realise the importance of Ahimsa (non harming). As living beings we have two main goals in life: to be happy and to avoid suffering. We share this goal with the horse, the pig and all living creatures. Once we realise this, we start to change the way we think, the way we speak and this influences our actions.
The greatest everlasting happiness is achieved by putting the welfare of others before your own. Patanjali says that we should avoid harmful thoughts, not just actions. Our thoughts are deeply entwined with the way we act!
As a yogi, we are encouraged to live a life that causes the least amount of suffering to others. All beings. This is ahimsa in practice.
An important ingredient of ahimsa is compassion. The word compassion means to “feel with”
: ‘passion’ means to ‘feel’ and com’ means ‘with’. So when we have compassion towards another being, it means we literally “feel with” them.
If we recognise that we share the same nature as other living beings, we begin to see ourselves through other beings. Compassion trains the mind to see past our outer differences of form. Just because a dog has four legs and we have two, it doesn’t change the fact that we share the same inner essence. Once we see this, we begin not only to desire happiness for ourselves, but we realise that every single creature also desires happiness.
To develop compassion, it is a good practice to examine or reflect on your motives for your actions. What are your intentions for your actions? Are they honourable? Are they honest?
When I was very young, I was always very sensitive to the suffering of others; humans and animals alike. When I was a teenager, I started to really become aware of the fact that I was eating the flesh of other sentient beings. I started to develop a very fine conscience about this and so when I was 17 years old, I became a vegetarian. My motive was to avoid contributing to any suffering of another being. I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that an animal had to suffer in order for me to eat, when there was plenty of other food that I could eat that was nourishing for my body and mind. So for the last 18 years I have been a dedicated vegetarian and although my dairy intake was not big, I only decided to become a Vegan about 3 months ago.
I read up on the dairy industry and it suddenly overwhelmed me to realise the suffering that cows and chickens (hens and roosters) endure so that we can have aisles of dairy in our supermarket. For me, the decision to stop eating meat or dairy came from within me, with no outside pressure. It was something that came with an acute sense of wanting to avoid suffering. I strongly believe that if we live our life fuelled with ahimsa (non harming) and compassion, it will vibrantly change our planet.
So I encourage you to examine your thoughts, words and actions this month: how do you contribute to ahimsa in your world?
- What are your thoughts on your boss at work?
- How do you view your colleagues?
- How do you treat the stranger that bumps into you at the shops?
- How do you speak to your partner and loved ones after a rough day?
- How do you speak to your colleagues when you’re under pressure?
- Are your actions at work honourable?
“The root of happiness is compassion” ~ Dalai Lama