Ahimsa - Part 2
Updated: Oct 26
Ahimsa is an attribute of the brave. Cowardice and ahimsa don't go together any more that water and fire.
- Mahatma Gandhi
Ahimsa has sometimes been translated as passive resistance. It’s what Martin Luther King put into action for the civil rights movement in the States, after seeing how Mahatma Gandhi used the principle against the British. It’s about asserting your needs without raising your metaphorical sword.
But what if someone is hurting you nonetheless? What if, despite your best efforts at appeasement, the other party threatens and disrespects you? Is doing nothing ahimsa? No. Not in the slightest.
And this is the reason I got my tattoo earlier this year: to remind me that tolerating abuse of any kind, is a form of violence to myself.
Someone doesn’t need to physically strike you to hurt you. Abuse can also be emotional, psychological or even spiritual - and therefore can be difficult to recognize.
The example that is often given is that of boiling a frog. Put the frog in water and slowly set the water to boil. The frog won’t realise before it’s too late. But drop the frog in boiling water and he’ll know straightaway.
My cousin who used to work at a home for battered women in the UK, told me that, on average, a woman is hit by her spouse 22 times before she leaves. Get a pounding (boiling water) on day 1 and you would leave. When it starts with a few slaps when he’s drunk, hearing that he loves you the next day can make the “danger” appear less serious.
In the words of my self-defence teacher: Clear. Control. Counter. It’s about getting yourself out of danger (permanently), controlling the situation so that it doesn’t escalate, and countering, if necessary, as a means of protecting yourself.
When I first read the word ahimsa in a yoga book many moons ago, it’s not what I took non-violence to mean at all. I’m glad that I’ve been finally set right.