“The object of the various exercises [of Hatha Yoga] was to strengthen and purify the body in order to secure control of the mind.”
–Gandhi (Harijan, October 13, 1940)
Before yoga was a quasi-spiritual, multi-billion dollar global industry of pants and other products, it was a sacred practice, developed to move the body appropriately in order to facilitate the practice of sitting for long periods in meditation. Yoga, in Sanskrit, does not mean stretching or exercise, after all; it means union. In other words, it was a practice whose end result was not so much directing people to become absorbed in their bodies, (you know what I mean, the “look at me” brand of yoga postures) as it was a tool to help us become absorbed in something less visible to our two eyes: the spirit.
Just as Gandhi revived the very Indian, very ancient concept of ahimsa, just as he revived the ancient practice of spinning as a tool for freedom, he mused about the ancient practice of hatha yoga. With knowledge of the sages’ original purpose for the practice of yoga, the purification of the body for greater control of the mind, he noted that it could be revived to train the Shanti Sena, or nonviolent “army.” Training for the military is systematic, strategic and relevant to its purposes, Gandhi maintained. Would not training for the nonviolent alternative to the military need to be at least as rigorous, a training that went beyond body-awareness and taught union, instead of separation and competition? More than just the collective OM-ing at the end of the session, (and let me be the first one to say that this is enjoyable…) there would be collective, collaborative consciousness at work to make nonviolence and service of others a reality in our day to day living.
Experiment in Nonviolence:
What kind of physical and spiritual training would training in a “nonviolent army” or peace team require? Have a conversation about this today with a friend.
Daily Metta 2015, a service of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, is a daily reflection on the strategic and spiritual insights of Mahatma Gandhi in thought, word and deed. As Gandhi called his life an “experiment in truth,” we have included an experiment in nonviolence to accompany each Daily Metta. Check in every day for new inspiration. Each year will be dedicated to another wisdom teacher.