Ahimsa

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ur Life Style and Non-violence

CHAPTER 1
Our Life Style and Non-violence

The question arises as to how violence was born in man. His forbears-the primates-had already learnt the art of living together. Some other mammals had learnt it earlier. Then when and how did man become violent ? This is an unanswered question.

Man too is a social Animal. He lives in society together with other fellow beings. But social life by its very definition implies a life of inter-relatedness. These relations have multiple bases. To satisfy his sex instinct man built the institution of the family and new relations came into being. He made friends to indulge his feeling of affection. His ego gave him a feeling of exclusiveness. More new relationships were born. But all of them were based on the utility principle. By themselves they have produced what might be called practical non-violence. Members of the family and friends do not normally fight with or torment one another. But is it true non-violence ? It certainly is not, for even the slightest case involving selfish interests explodes the relationship. This is true of husband-wife, brother-brother and all such relationships. Examples are not lacking where one has even murdered the other. Thus we must distinguish between what we have called practical non-violence and true spiritual non-violence, since the former is based on selfishness. It works through our behavior only so long as our selfish interests are not threatened. Thus it is clear that merely because man is a social animal, he cannot be regarded as a supporter of a non-violent society.

The question- 'How was violence born in man?' if seen in the above light turns out to be basically faulty. It (the question) is the result of a wrong understanding. When our as well as society's entire life style is based on practical non-violence, on the slightest pretext violence can flare up anywhere in the family, between communities, castes and sects. Those researching into non-violence have, I am afraid, not fully grasped this truth. That is why they keep asking the questing: 'How was violence born in man?' For a proper understanding of the whole matter, they have to first understand the concept of spiritual non-violence. Merely living together on the basis of practical non-violence is no guarantee of true and lasting non-violence.

There are many factors responsible for violence. We will go into them a little later. The point to be noted here is that the violence prevalent in society cannot be put an end to without developing spiritual non-violence and basing our life style on it. Let us then discuss what is meant by spiritual non-violence. It is based on the unity and equality of all souls - souls of all sentient. Once we know that every living being is subject to pain and pleasure in the same manner as we and that therefore we must never inflict any pain on them, never oppress and exploit them, never rob them of their rights, we are on our way to realizing the meaning of spiritual non-violence. And it is only this non-violence that can prevent the arson, loot, rioting and killings going on in society.

Everyone is familiar with Tamer lane, the cruel despot. He thought he could change the people using savage force and punishment, little realizing that it is only change of heart that can do so. Once three men were brought to him, of whom the first two were put to death. The third turned out to be the poet Ahmed. He asked the poet to evaluate the price of the two men who had been killed. Ahmed said they were each worth 500 sovereigns. 'How about me?' asked Tamer lane. The poet said that he was worth only 2 sovereigns. This infuriated the tyrant. He said that this costume alone was worth the money quoted. Ahmed replied that was exactly what he had evaluated, for as far as Tamer lane was concerned he was worth nothing, he being a man without any sympathy, kindness and feeling for justice.

The story has a lesson to teach. For evaluating somebody's or something's true worth the behavioral angle is utterly misleading, because it can evaluate only external things and attributes. Inner worth is best assessed spiritually. As far as non-violence is concerned, we talk profusely but think very little about it. Talk we have to, because it is recognized by everyone that non-violence is essential for a happy and peaceful life. Unfortunately the above consciousness is confined to practical non-violence, which, as we have seen, works on the utility principle. Spiritual non-violence has been all but ignored and so we have not experienced the unity and equality of souls.

Preksha Meditation enjoins its practitioners to perceive the soul by the soul, which also means that the tendency to look at the utilitarian style of living must be eschewed and the ability to look at the spiritual style must be cultivated. Sadly enough, we are in the habit of seeing, recognizing and knowing only the practical aspect and we have completely neglected the spiritual aspect. This is so because we have never understood the true meaning of non-violence. We must see both the aspects - the practical as well as the spiritual. The former is responsible for our laying the blame for everything on someone's door. This to my mind has veritably destroyed all possibilities of our understanding true non-violence. When we have closed all openings for spiritual non-violence and have opened all the doors and windows for relationships based on the utility principle, what right do we have to wish the violence to end ? The question 'How was violence born ?' should not therefore baffle us, for the seeds of violence has made it almost impossible for the people to know and understand true non-violence. Under normal circumstances when we discover amity and fellow-feeling among the members of the same family or community, or among neighbors, we are led to believe that there is plenty of non-violence in society, little knowing that what binds them all together is not so much non-violence as the utility principle. Once this principle comes under strain violence erupts. We have therefore to consider this matter with utmost seriousness.

I believe that practicing meditation is a step towards spiritual excellence. To meditate is to see oneself, which in turn means seeing and searching the real base of non-violence. It appears we have misunderstood the meaning of meditation. Had it not been so, we would have given it much greater importance than to mere formal studies. Today people value education because without it, it is not possible to grow rich or get a good partner in marriage. Since they have little or no thought of spiritual goodness, they do not think it necessary to strive for it. If only we had given equal importance to both!

The search for spiritual non-violence is not possible through scientific instruments or history or even genetics. One has to investigate one's soul in order to know one's identity, one's true self. If will reveal to the investigator all those dispositions within him that encourage violence, he will then try to find out whether those dispositions can be neutralized. Such an analysis of the inner self is a prerequisite for the search of true non-violence, because the question of violence and non-violence, even while being related to external factors, is in essence an internal matter. And the root of the matter lies in man's dispositions. Ironically sociologists, economists and psychologists think that it is the general atmosphere or external circumstances that are responsible for the rise of violence. It is held that our behavior and conduct are governed by circumstances. Metaphorically such an understanding represents a situation in which the root is made to take the place of branches and vice versa. We are thus made to live under an illusion. And the only way to destroy it is the practice of meditation. The deeper one probes Inside, the newer the truths one discovers- truths that defy scientific explanation. We do not regard events that have happened as false simply because science has no explanation for them. Things are happening within us that science cannot explain, but they are all too true. By looking into our inside we can get to know the truth and succeed in striking a balance between the practical and spiritual aspects of life. We shall be able to answer the question how violence was born in man only after we have succeeded in integrating and balancing practical and spiritual non-violence.

 

The Root of Non-Violence

In the case of every problem man wants to search its root and is not content until his search succeeds. Where and in what does the root of violence lie? Geneticists will locate it in the genes inherited from one's forefathers. It would mean that man is helpless in the matter since he cannot control his heredity. Psychologists trace violence to one of the basic Instincts. Environmental scientists blame it on the general atmosphere or circumstances surrounding a human being since his childhood. Some philosophers attribute it to karmas.

Thus we are confronted with a plethora of views on the subject. If we pause and think for a moment we find that each one of them is partial or one-sided, though none of them can be termed wholly untrue. We must take a holistic view. But even this might not provide the ultimate solution. More serious thinking is needed. Each of the theories based on genes, prime instincts, environment and karmas has a more or less deterministic ring about it, which leaves one both, pessimistic and helpless in the face of the Inevitable. However, the doctrine of karma also suggests the possibility of changing the karmas. Then why can't other factors be changed ? The genes, the instincts, the environment-all can be changed. The possibility of change kindles new hope in the heart. After all, we can change; violence can change.

The key to change is the development of non-violence. Both violence and non-violence inhere in us. Our mind also works in two ways: one dictates anger; the other counsels patience, puts the brakes on anger. Both the instigating and the restraining tendencies are there. Good and evil are both present in us. The real question is which of the two we shall develop. Which one shall we awaken and which one shall we put to sleep ?Quit Smoking

It is here that meditation has its role. Through it we can awaken non-violence and put violence to sleep. It is then a question of proper awakening. Unfortunately we are fully conscious of things material but totally unconscious of our selves. Meditation makes us conscious of our selves. It develops self-awareness. Once self-awareness has dawned, non-violence develops.

We talked earlier of genes, instincts, environment and karmas. Of these four, environment or the general atmosphere has an immediate impact on us and so deserves our attention first. In this connection it is noteworthy that right from childhood man is exposed to violence, crime and immorality through the mass media-radio, television, cinema and newspapers. No wonder crime and violence permeate modern society since the whole atmosphere is charged with them and nothing or very little is heard of non-violence in general. The worse the crime the bolder the banner headlines in newspapers. What could be a better source of free publicity ? A radical change of policy is needed to reverse the situation. The general atmosphere must improve minimizing people's exposure to undesirable activities. Sex, greed, fear, suspicion and anger-they all breed violence.

However, while trying to improve the general tone of the media, it will have to be remembered that the root cause of violence can be removed only through spirituality or a knowledge of the self.

In non-violence we veritably have the philosopher's stone that can change all dross into gold. It is said that genes and instincts cannot be changed but karmas can certainly be, else there will be no relevance of penance, austerity and the like. The need to change remains crucial. Both the root and the branches have to be changed. And as stated earlier, the most important and powerful means of bringing about complete change is meditation. It alone has the power to develop non-violence, self-realization and the sense of unity and equality of all sentient

 

Non-violence and Meditation

As social beings all humans like non-violence since it guarantees peace which in turn is a prerequisite for happiness. The roots of violence are deep and extensive and therefore to destroy them is very difficult. However, it is not impossible. The best way to do it is meditation. Before discovering the relation between meditation and non-violence it is necessary to find out the root cause of violence, as also the factors which provide sustenance to violence.

One of the most important factors is stress. Violence is not possible in the absence of stress. A relaxed person cannot commit violence. The muscles get tense, the mind becomes tense and the feelings turn tense too. Violence is the natural outcome. Basically, of course most tension is born of an agitated mind. There are two types of stress: that which is born of a sense of arrogance and that born of a sense of defeat. To the former belong cases of stress arising out of anger and greed; to the latter those caused by despair, defeat and indolence. Whatever the provenance, all types of tensions generate violence. A hurt ego can spell disaster, so can the passions of anger and greed. Similarly, desperation and defeat can also result in violence, as is the case with most suicides.

Against the backdrop of tension or stress, it becomes meaningful to talk about meditation and non-violence. As noted above, the most potent antidote to stress of all kinds is meditation. In fact the main aim of meditation is to free man from stress. Kayotsarg (abandonment of the body, a motionless posture of meditation) and anupreksha or contemplation (reflection) are both a part of meditation. The former quickly relieves muscle-tension even as dirgha svasa preksha (perception of breath involving slow and complete exhalation and deep inhalation) totally removes all mental tension. There are related techniques like indriya sanyam mudra (meditational posture of controlling the senses), jyoti kendra preksha (perception of the pineal gland), anitya anupreksha (contemplation of impermanence) andekatua anupreksha (contemplation of solitariness) which cure specific types of tension. The main things being emphasized here is the efficacy of meditation as a complete cure for all varieties of stress and tension.

Another factor involved in violence is chemical imbalance. When there is an imbalance of glandular secretions in the body, people become violent. Every endocrine gland has its specific functions. What the pituitary gland does is different from what the pineal gland does and similarly the thyroid and the adrenal glands have their peculiar functions. A harmonious functioning of these glands keeps a man balanced. Any imbalance, in the former results in an imbalance in the latter. Meditation can restore the lost balance. Chaitanya kendra preksha (perception of the psychic centers or the endocrine system) is an effective means of curing the imbalance. Concentration on the jyoti kendra (the pineal), darshan kendra (the pituitary), vishuddhi kendra (the thyroid) and tejas kendra (the adrenals) balances the flow of the hormones of the pineal, pituitary, thyroid and the adrenal glands respectively. Such an understanding is duly backed by the findings of modern biochemistry. Since violence can be ascribed to hormonal imbalances in the body, meditation turns out to be their best therapy.

The third factor responsible for violence is an imbalance in the nadi tantra (nervous system). Occasionally we come across cases of motiveless violence. When questioned, the agents of such violence simply say that they resort to violence for no reason other than deriving joy. This type of violence is due to an imbalance in the nervous system and its cure lies in samvritti shvas preksha (exhaling breath through one nostril and inhaling through the other). It requires alternate breathing through the two nostrils - inhaling through the left and exhaling through the right nostril and then in the reverse order, and repetition of the cycle. Hath yoga recognizes two parts of the nervous system, the right being called pingla and the left ida. In the language of medical science pingla is the sympathetic nervous system. By practising samvritti shvas preksha a balance between the two systems is created. Besides, an internal trip (travel of the conscious mind from the bottom to the top of the spinal cord) also helps restore the balance. Once the three parts of the nervous system-central, sympathetic and parasympathetic-start acting in a balanced manner, violence automatically disappears.

Another way of looking at the problem is in terms of the two attitudes - positive and negative. Ordinarily man has a preponderance of the latter. Hatred, jealousy, fear and lust are all symptoms of a negative attitude and they are also the factors that contribute to violence. Racism, casteism and all other forms of discrimination generate violence due to the presence of the negative attitude. There is a need to think positively making it impossible for the mind to harbor bad feelings for others. Meditation develops positive thinking by insisting on practicing perception of the self. Seeing oneself, introspection, anitya anupreksha (contemplation of impermanence) etc. are the sure means of developing positive thinking and eliminating negative thinking, the fourth factor responsible for violence.

The fifth element is being over busy or exertion-mental, vocal and physical. Being busy and exerting are undoubtedly essential for life, but there should be a limit to them. Today man has broken all limits and has become over busy- a victim of overexertion. The result again is violence. Nature ordains a balance between work and rest, both mental and physical, and between speech and silence. To stop unnecessary exertion of the body and the mind, as also of speech, is to lead a disciplined life. Observing silence just for an hour in the day will be a great boost to balanced living. Likewise, useless and unceasing thinking can prove unhinging. So once again resting the mind for an hour during the day - keeping it free from all thoughts- can prove immensely useful. Physical discipline, vocal discipline and mental discipline are intrinsic to meditation. By practicing all the three of them we can severely restrain violence.

Look at the pathology of violence. Doing violence or being violent brings about a complete change in our biology. The muscles get an extra dose of blood and become tense. The adrenals give out extra secretion, which mixes with the blood and pumps in an excess of energy in the system. The liver too releases an extra of energy in the system. The liver too releases an extra quantity of sugar in the blood stream. It brings about physical, psychological and chemical reactions. With the rise of aggressiveness breathing becomes fast. The normal rate of 10 to 15 breaths a minute goes up to 30 or 40. The stage is fully set for letting loose violence. Meditation puts the brakes on the over-busyness of the body and the mind and thus prevents violence. Once the above truth is properly grasped, the way will be clear to adopt measures best calculated to put an end to crimes and violence in society. Eventually no groping will be necessary for finding the solution to the problems of nuclear armament and war.

 

Non-violence and Food

Two basic components of life are air and food. It is not only human beings but also plants that cannot survive without air and food. Here we will talk about the latter. Much discussion has taken place on the subject from the points of view of health and various periods of the year, especially the seasons. Some people have gone further and discussed the kinds of food suitable at different times of the day--morning, mid day and evening. Then there has been an attempt to specify foods conducive to a state of austerity and celibacy. Many dos and don'ts have been prescribed. Here, however, we are considering food in the context of non-violence. Is there any relation between food and violence and between food and non-violence ? The question is very important and an intensive Investigation is necessary to find an answer.

The food that man eats produces innumerable chemicals in his body. It helps form a number of neuro-transmitters in the brain which act as communicators. Through them the brain runs the body. Scientists have so far succeeded in identifying nearly forty types of neuro-transmitters. All of them are formed by the food one eats. Besides, food is also responsible for the manufacture of many amino acids in the body. Even uric acid, a poison, is produced by food. The same is true of many other toxic elements. Therefore it is necessary to know which type of food produces what. The type that produces poison is also the one that creates mental and emotional problems and that encourages violent tendencies. In ancient times a lot of attention was paid to the effects of various types of foods. Modern dieticians, besides doing the same also study the effects of not eating different kinds of foods. These are two aspects of the same problem.

Here is a simple case. We come across a highly irritable man and want to find out why he is so. Investigations reveal vitamin A deficiency. Again, there has to be 90 to 110 mg of sugar for every 100 cubic centimeters of body volume. Slight deficiency causes emotional disorders. The man becomes ill-tempered and in extreme cases can even become a murderer. Modem science has proved that ill-temper and the murderous tendency are caused by a deficiency of sugar, niacin and certain vitamins. Chemical deficiency can cause depression. Similarly, one of the causes of fear is vitamin B deficiency. A lot of research is being carried on these days on the properties of a chemical called tryptaphane which produces serotonin. It has been found that an adequate quantity of serotonin in the blood prevents moodiness and fear and increases tolerance to pain.

Advocates of non-vegetarian often advance richness in protein as the chief argument in favour of meat and eggs. But now it is realized that excessive protein causes all kinds of physical and mental disorders. The daily requirement of protein for an average man is not more than 10 to 15 grams.

Non-vegetarians suffer from an excessive intake of protein. Moreover, it too is an established fact that animal protein is not as useful as vegetable protein. For example, millet protein is good for health while meat protein causes disease. Not only this, a non-vegetarian has to use alcohol and/or excessive salt to digest meat, which cause diseases of the kidneys, liver and heart. To quite some extent food is responsible for some of the major killer diseases like hypertension, cardiac troubles, ulcers, cancer and kidney failure. What the body needs is a balanced diet in which not only proteins but other elements like fats, carbohydrates etc. must also be present. Today only one element protein- is being overemphasized and the craze for protein-rich food has driven people to non-vegetarianism, so much so that at an early stage school children are asked to eat eggs since they are said to be a good source of protein. But, as has been pointed out earlier, an excessive intake of proteins, particularly animal proteins, is an open invitation to illness. Most emotional disturbances in modern society can be blamed on the use of intoxicants and non-vegetarian food, and these disturbances can cause unsuspected damage. For example, emotional imbalance and overwork are two important causes of marrow degeneration. Lechery and excessive anger also cause it. And it has already been noted that food is one of the factors responsible for emotional imbalances.

Three types of food have been recognized: sattvik (endowed with the quality of highest purity), rajasik (endowed with the quality of passion) and tamasik (endowed with the quality of darkness-the lowest kind.) That is why there is a close relation between food and the mind. For the above reason certain foods are prohibited, while others are recommended. A scientific discussion on non-violence cannot therefore ignore food. Proper food and non-violence both help prevent the accumulation of poisons in the blood stream. Food being a necessity of life cannot be given up, but those foods that poison the body must be avoided. Here it is in order to mention that both acidic and alkaline elements are present in food. Modern food has more of the former than the latter and it is the acidic elements which lead to greater accumulation of poisons in the system. To curb violence it is essential to prevent their accumulation.

Two things are required to be done - preventing the formation of poisons and eliminating or expelling those already formed. How to do it ? Here we must consider another aspect of food, viz. not eating or fasting. Eating and not eating are closely related as the best way of expelling poisons is fasting. Its importance is as much therapeutic as religious; particularly, it is crucial for emotional health. Lord Mahavir asked people to take milk, yoghurt, butter, sugar etc. in moderation since they act as stimulants and arouse passions. On this basis eating meat is automatically ruled out. It should be remembered that food should be taken for fostering physical, mental and emotional health. If food is eaten merely for the sake of physical health, things are bound to go wrong. Once we consider the aspect of emotional health, we automatically ensure non-violence. It is only emotionally healthy people who practise non-violence. One who is emotionally diseased is bound to indulge in crimes and violence. It is highly regrettable that modern man thinks first of only physical health and then of mental health, if at all. Emotional health is altogether ignored. We should reverse the order and care first of all for emotional health, then for mental health and lastly for physical health. This is not unnatural, for it is emotions which influence life most. Like emotions, like the mind and the body.

There are three words: adhi, vyadhi and upadhi. The first is mental disease, the second is physical disease and the third is emotional disease. Which should be eliminated first ? Quite mistakenly we try to treat the physical disease first. In reality we should begin with the emotional ailment, which consists of lust, anger, egoism, jealousy, delusion, greed and such other faults. Since emotions are vitally linked with food, we must exercise utmost discrimination in eating. The present criteria of food are satisfaction of the palate and of the aesthetic sense. Nothing beyond this. But one who practices meditation must give utmost attention to the selection of proper food--sattvik food. For changing one's life style one has to change the style of eating. The food eaten should be such as will ensure emotional health because the latter is a vital prerequisite of non-violence. It is necessary to study the relation between food and violence and between food and non-violence much more seriously.