Ahimsa means non-injuring, non-hurting, and non-killing. Normally, students think of violence in only physical terms, and civilized people refrain from gross acts of violence because of legal and social pressures. But ahimsa refers to non-violence in thought, action, and speech. All actions and speech are directed by the mind. Therefore, violence in action or speech is always preceded by violent thoughts. This has serious repercussions on the mental life and also reflections on the body. Practicing ahimsa shows one how to avoid these consciously and to be aware of the fact that violence is injurious to the mind and body, as well as to those towards whom one expresses violence. The practice of ahimsa leads one towards the service of others, for its careful cultivation leads to a spontaneous and all-encompassing love.
Correctly practicing truthfulness is impossible without practicing ahimsa. To be truthful and to speak truth become necessary for students if they really want to know their essential nature, but students find difficulty in practicing truth because they do not know how. It is necessary to not lie, and by not lying, one learns to speak truth. By not performing violent actions and not having violent thoughts, one can practice and express his love. Only the strong can practice ahimsa. Violence and weakness are synonymous. Ahimsa, being an expression of love, brings strength and confidence within. Self-confidence comes only when ahimsa is practiced.
Here the student should note that truthfulness is the second commitment and ahimsa is the first, which indicates that practicing truthfulness is essential, but ahimsa, being an expression of love, is practiced first. In all the disciplines of all traditions, truthfulness is considered to be the highest of all courts, but how does one practice it? One should be truthful to oneself first. By not being truthful, one creates a dual personality, which weakens human potential and robs inner strength. When the student learns not to lie, he realizes that one lie inevitably leads to another, and soon deception becomes second nature and leads to a fearful and scheming mind. It is a fact that when a student makes truth the central focus of his life, all of his utterances are effective and come true. Such a student never lies. Practicing truthfulness is a way of storing inner strength, and once one builds a strong reservoir of strength within, he can attain the higher steps of realization. Those who are students of truth realize that truth is the lord of their life. Such students are fearless and do not suffer on account of complexes.
(This is an excerpt from the book “Choosing a Path” by Swami Rama, published in 1982 by the Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science & Philosophy of the U.S.A.)