If you take it upon yourself to look into yoga history, it won't be long before you stumble upon mention of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a renowned text written by the sage Patanjali some time before 400 CE. In this text, Patanjali outlined the various principles and practices for a form of yoga called Raja Yoga.
Yoga students in the West commonly refer to this text for wisdom, inspiration, and guidance. Much is covered in the Yoga Sutras; ethical guidelines, yogic practices, descriptions of states of consciousness, etc.
The keystone ethical principle outlined by Patanjali is that of Ahimsa. Ahimsa translates to non-violence or non-harming. Specifically, Patanjali was referring to not harming humans or animals.
Regardless of whether or not vegetarianism (or pacifism) is pursued, Yoga teachers and practitioners still often attempt to find ways of incorporating what they see as the general principle of Ahimsa in their lives and in their yoga practice. Various questions are pondered: How can I be kinder to other people in my life? How can I be more patient with myself?
When considering the big picture, I think it’s inspiring to consider that a drastically less violent (and thus more peaceful) world could be created in one generation. How? By applying Ahimsa to the raising of children. By means of Peaceful Parenting practices.
Children treated with empathy will grow up to be adults who treat other beings with empathy. Win-Lose interactions (violence and coercion) will be replaced altogether with Win-Win interactions (negotiations and/symbiotic relationships). Gone will be the days of culture and state sanctioned brutality so commonplace in the world today and throughout history. It need not take long to end the thousand-plus-years-cycle of human violence. It need only take one single generation.
Regardless of any moral arguments as to why coercive parenting is a bad idea, on a practical level there are many studies that show how coercive parenting practices regularly backfire. But what is coercive parenting? Coercive parenting practices essentially include anything that relies on the difference in size and strength between parent and child. The exception is the usage of size and strength to protect a child from immediate danger. For example, pulling a child back from road traffic is an example of third-party self-defense, not coercion.
But initiating force on a child (outside the context of third-party self-defense) only instills the general idea that "might makes right", and that violence is a valid way to solve social problems (the opposite of Ahimsa). Such practices also set the stage for a lifetime of self-attack which leads to addictions, depression, and quite often…attacking others.
Of course the question is...without intimidation or coercion, how can I best protect my child from future suffering and prepare her for a world beset with real-life consequences?
I would say that the degree to which this question seems daunting, is the degree to which parents are worthy of praise. Our culture tends to praise CEOs, Business Tycoons, Pop Stars, etc. All of that is fine and perhaps understandable. But we should make no mistake…there is nothing more demanding of intelligence, creativity, soul-searching, flexibility, strength, and heroism than good parenting.
But again…what parenting practices can be employed so that trust, power, choice, freedom, love, courage, honesty for all parties involved becomes the default? How can Ahimsa be brought to bear daily, at home with the family? Of course, no one has the final answer. The good news is however, that the conversation has begun worldwide, and it has already been fruitful.
If this speaks to you, a great place to begin is to look into the work of Dr Elizabeth Gershoff. She is one of many voices advocating for a more effective way of parenting, and thus advocating for a drastically more peaceful future for human beings in general. Of course, Googling “Peaceful Parenting” is a good place to begin as well.
So much can be gained from this research; high self-esteem (for all), life-long mutually beneficial relationships between parents and children, better relationship choices in adulthood, better negotiation skills for career advancement, and creative non-violent solutions for social problems.
So, could there be a world where Ahimsa is not just a lofty concept, but rather a state of being that is so pervasive, so prevalent and automatic, that it perhaps need not ever be spoken of again? The answer is yes. This bright future is there, waiting…ready to be birthed into manifestation, and not in some distant future…but soon. For those who find resonance with these ideas and choose to dive into the research and practices, just know…future generations are already thanking you :)
Dan Abbott, E-RYT