The first of Patanjali’s 5 yamas (ethical disciplines) is ahimsa which translates as non-violence. From Patanjali’s point of view, it is not enough to personally abstain from hurting others; we must also not condone or provoke violent acts in other people (Sutra II.34). Since actions begin first as thoughts, it is imperative that we take measures to train ourselves to hold the attitude of lovingkindness. After all, the opposite of violence is love. Whenever we think negative or destructive thoughts, we are planting toxic seeds in our minds that then inevitably germinate into more ignorance and suffering. Practicing stilling the mind through meditation, in contrast, rewires the thought patterns in the mind and plants seeds of kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity.

Equally as important as non-violence towards others is practicing non-violence towards ourselves, both in our habits and our thoughts. Destructive thoughts of self-doubt, unworthiness, and self-loathing must be weeded out by cultivating the opposite (Sutra II.35). The happier and more at peace we are within ourselves, the more that we naturally begin to radiate love and joy to those around us. Furthermore, “being firmly grounded in non-violence create as atmosphere in which others can let go of their hostility,” such that your own practice of ahimsa actual becomes contagious to those around you. (Sutra II.36) As Gandhi put it, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Yoga Sutras II.33 “Unwholesome thoughts can be neutralized by cultivating wholesome ones.”

Yoga Sutras II.34 “We ourselves may act upon unwholesome thoughts, such as wanting to harm someone, or we may cause or condone them in others; unwholesome thoughts may arise from greed, anger, or delusion; they may be mild, moderate, or extreme; but they never cease to ripen into ignorance and suffering. This is why one must cultivate wholesome thoughts.” 

Yoga Sutras II.36 ”Being firmly grounded in non-violence creates an atmosphere in which others can let go of their hostility.”

Translations taken from Chip Hartranft, The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, 2003.