The yogic journey begins with 5 moral injunctions—the yamas(Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha)—, which create harmony and balance in ones actions and thoughts. By bringing these ethical principles into one’s own life we create the fertile soil for personal growth.

The Yamas

The first, and I think foundation of all the yamas is called ahimsa, which can be translated as non-violence (ultimately in thought, word and deed!) Bringing these principles into one’s life is a very personal and subjective act; hence we will be faced with challenges and dilemmas when it comes to applying these principles.

Dilemma #1: Non-violence and Yoga

If someone is about to strike me should I let him or her strike me (therefore I am not being violent) or should I strike him or her first to prevent him or her from striking me? For a visual reference, think of Martin Luther King and his non-violent marchers getting brutalized by police with fire hoses, batons and police dogs.

If I follow yogic non-violence literally I will not strike back (hence, I am not being violent) but I am allowing violence to occur (me being hit.) Is there a difference between performing the violent act and allowing it to happen? Also, if I allow another to be violent am I allowing more violence to occur in the universe than if I simply stayed home and meditated?

Well, what do you think?

–Sujantra