Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How Not to Practice Ahimsa, Non Violence

Devprayag Temple
During our last stop before coming back to Rishikesh, after a nice long road trip that I did with some friends from the Swami Rama Ashram, we decided to have our lunch at the temple in Devprayag, the town where the rivers Alaknanda and Bhagirathi meet to form the river Ganges and where we had just taken a nice cold bath. We sat in a portico just outside the temple where some locals where resting and opened our bags with the sandwiches and fruits that we had brought with us.

View of the Devprayag town
Devprayag, Uttarakhand, India

Where Alaknanda and Bhagirathi meet to form the river Ganges
Crossing of rivers Alaknanda and Bhagirathi to form the river Ganges

The smell of the food attracted some monkeys from around the temple. They kept their distance but there was one monkey that decided to sit in a fence just about three meters from us. I thought that he was getting too close and that at any time he might just jump between us to steal our food, so I stood up with my chest lifted pretending to be tough, I looked straight into his eyes hoping that he would be intimidated but instead he intimidated me. He looked straight back at me like he was saying “What? You talkin' to me?” He opened his mouth, showed me his teeth and in a fraction of a second he jumped and ran in my direction.

Probably not the same monkey, the one that attacked me looked bigger and meaner

At the same time my survival instinct kicked in so I jumped inside the portico almost crashing into the wife of one of my friends. I think a part of me thought that the monkey was going to follow me wherever I would go but he just stopped at the fence, looked at us with his angry face and then continued in another direction. He clearly showed me who the boss was.

This reminded me of one of the principles that the ancient yogis have taught us, ahimsa or non-violence which I wrote about before in "How can we attain world peace? Ahimsa: the philosophy of love." The yogis say that a wild animal will abandon its aggressive behavior in the presence of one who has mastered ahimsa or non violence. I obviously need a lot more practice, instead of calming down the monkey I made him angry. I wonder if the monkey would have reacted differently if instead of pretending to be tough I would have behaved with a more loving, fearless and non aggressive attitude.

Surely sometimes we do need to make a show of tamas, pretending to be angry or aggressive but without experiencing that anger within, remaining calm and steady instead. I guess I started with the wrong foot. One of the guards of the temple came a minute after with a big stick and with one shout he scared all the monkeys away, then he asked us with a smile in his face, "Which country?"

Well, this is just part of yoga practice, this is sadhana. It doesn't matter how many times we fail, to put in practice the teachings of the yogis in our daily lives we just need to continue practicing over a long period of time, with faith and determination. To become aware of our actions and of the motive behinds those actions it's already a big step.


  1. What a wonderful teaching story. Thank you for sharing.
    I believe that aggressiveness, of any kind, is what's wrong with our world.

    I also love the pictures of India you've posted :)

  2. Great lesson! Always do what comes to us, don't pretend - is my sip from this cup. Keep learning..