There is a beautiful sutra mentioned in Patanjali Yoga Sutras that says, Jatidesha kalasamayanavachchinnaha sarvabhouma mahavratam meaning ‘the great vows are universal and are not limited by life — state, country, time or circumstances’.
These words are applicable everywhere, all the time and to everyone. These five principles mentioned above are universal. An animal does not go into violence for no reason. Wild animals hunt only when they are hungry and when they want to eat. Humans hunt out of pleasure. Human beings have no qualms about killing in the name of God. Mindless violence is prevalent in the world in the name of country, in the name of religion, in the name of race. This is total lack of viveka or wisdom. A violent person cannot listen to anybody.
Why does violence arise? Frustration is the answer. The mind gets frustrated and frustration builds up. The question ‘why, why, why?’ transforms into violence and becomes contagious, so to speak. A crowd commits violence. Individually, a person may not be able to do that violent act, but when that person is in the crowd he joins hands. Viveka is when a person takes to non-violence saying, “I will not kill any animal or any life on this planet consciously or unconsciously.” Already without your knowledge you are destroying many creatures. You walk and many ants are dying under your feet. You are not killing anyone. It is just happening. But an intention to destroy something, an intention to do violence can destroy your very basis, your very root. Dropping this intention for violence is ahimsa.
What is the effect of ahimsa? Patanjali Maharishi gives a beautiful explanation in Sutra 35: Ahimsapratishtayam tatsannidhau vairatyagaha, which means “When a person is established in non-violence, then violence is dropped in his or her presence.”
If you are established in non-violence, in your very presence, violence will be dropped by other creatures. For example, someone comes to attack you. As soon as they come near you, because your vibrations are totally non-violent, they drop down. They stop being violent. Lord Mahavira emphasises on ahimsa. It is said that whenever he walked, twenty kilometers around him, people would stop being violent. The story goes even to that extent and says even the thorns would not prick anybody but would instead become soft.
Ahimsa gives rise to tolerance. Have you ever felt like hitting somebody? Why is that violence arising in your mind? What is the source of the violence? As you watch the source of violence, you will see that violence disappears, dissolves and peace dawns. Yoga brings that inner peace which in turn establishes non-violence. Practice of non-violence is two-way traffic. Ahimsa or non-violence brings about the union of the mind or peace of mind and when you are peaceful or calm within, you naturally become non-violent.