Non-Violence and The Yogic Postures

Non-violence and Its Many Facets

Jain Philosophy
by Acharya Mahapragya

Non-Violence and The Yogic Postures

The factors promoting and inhibiting both violence and non-violence have already been discussed. Violence and non-violence or rather their expression is also related to the various bodily postures. The yogic postures or asans belong to an ancient branch of knowledge. They do much more than ensuring healthy muscles and body. Their influence Is far-reaching. They tone up the muscles, regulate the flow of blood, improve the general functioning of the body and even affect the nervous and endocrine systems. Thus they can be helpful in controlling emotions.

Modem civilization has created a new situation in so far as today our nerves are being subjected to enormous pressure while the muscles remain relatively unexercised, which is just the reverse of what was the case in the past – more exertion of the muscles and no pressure on the nerves. The whole tenor of present-day living is geared to maximum physical comfort, thorough avoidance of manual work, and an ever-increasing nervous tension and stress not only in business and industry but practically in all walks of life. Thanks to the increasing emphasis on the use of computers and robots, the twenty-first century provides a much more dreadful prospect. The authors of this bleak future seem to be totally oblivious of the fact that their version of comfort will incapacitate the muscles and make the nerves taut and tense. Man will be reduced to the status of a mere pulley or piston in a huge machine.

The only way to reverse the above situation is balancing physical ad mental labour. Yogasans or yogic postures have the unique quality of bringing about a perfect balance between the body and the mind. It has been stated earlier that the excess of certain acids and chemicals makes men violent and prone to crimes. It has been scientifically proved that yogasans help regulate and balance their manufacture and discharge in the body and thus effectively prevent crime and violence. From the point of view of mental and emotional health we have singularly failed in properly diagnosing the malady and therefore in finding out a suitable remedy. Even when it comes to yogasans there are people who do them just in order to improve the working of the digestive, respiratory, circulatory or some other similar system. Nothing wrong with this. However, it is much more important to take care of the mind and even more that of the emotions. Both the body and the mind are regulated by the emotions. Therefore an emotionally rich person can never be truly healthy. For it has been seen that even the best among the physically well-built people can lose their nerve and become totally distracted on being informed of an accident of a near and dear one. Emotional instability renders physical strength infractious. The question once again turn to finding the ways of achieving emotional strength.

A very instructive case come to mind. The only son of an industrialist was leaving home for higher studies. Right in front of the father’s eyes a speeding car hit and crushed him underneath. The case went for a hearing before a magistrate. It would not have been at all difficult to establish that rash driving caused the boy’s death. The father, however, thought that whereas his son could not be brought back to life, the family of the driver would be drowned in sorrow and ruined if he was awarded capital punishment. He therefore told the court that his son had died due to his own mistake and that the driver was not at all responsible for the accident. Could such compassion move the father without his being emotionally balanced ? Such a balance is possible only through a balanced discharge of the endocrine glands. Yogasans help us control the endocrinal flow.

It is now known that It is the adrenal gland that creates excessive excitement, mental agitation, impatience and such other negative trends which burst out in the form of anger, violence and crime. By controlling the adrenals we can be free from them. There is a yogic posture called shashankasan which enables us to exercise control over the adrenals. Here it is worth mentioning that the real causes of violence do not lie outside us. As is well known, even wars originate in the minds of men. Thus it is in the mind that the solution to violence has to be found. There is a part of the brain that constitute the emotions system. It is called hypothalamus, which is a part of the limbic brain. Between it and the adrenal, pituitary and pineal glands lies the secret of all types of violence. If we break the circuit at any point violence can recede into the background. This is what happened in the case of Emperor Ashok. The very Ashok who was instrumental in killing hundreds of thousands of men in the Kalinga war became an apostle of peace and non-violence. Just a turn in the nervous-cum-emotional system and extreme violence changed into absolute non-violence. I should not be misunderstood at this point. There can be innumerable causes of changes from violence to non-violence, not just the practice of yogasans. However, these asans do play an important role in this matter and are a potent means of the desired transformation.

My purpose here is not to give a detailed account of the various asans and their attendant benefits. I have merely cited an example to prove their efficacy. I might as well have mentioned the sarvangasan and its ability to control and balance the working of the thyroid gland. The important point is that yogasans bring about a balance in the working of the nervous and endocrinal systems and amino acids. Along with fasting they are also a means of expelling all toxic and foreign matter from the body. Yogasans are for this reason an intrinsic part of Preksha Meditation