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Cultivating Ahimsa in My Speech

By Maya Tiwari

Words cannot describe the joy of the spirit whose spirit is cleansed in deep contemplation--who is one with his/her own Spirit (of Ahimsa). Only those who experience this joy know what it is.
--Maitri Upanishad

All actions begin in the mind. Every conflict, fight, battle or war, whether personal or political sprang from someone's disharmonious thought, followed by the physical enactment of that thought Having experienced sadhana in our everyday practice, we naturally move into cultivating prasada-buddhi -- the mind of non-violence -- the peaceful and awareful mind that recognizes the self and nature to be One.

The mind plays a significant role in our actions and how we perceive ourselves and those around us. It is through the mind we can grow into knowledge and wisdom or perpetuate ignorance and destruction. Often we use our mind to harbor toxic thoughts -- to alienate, conquer, covet, spite, grudge, envy, criticize, hate, judge, and condemn. These types of thoughts are toxic and they create himsa -- cruelty, violence, insensitivity, and hurt -- which spills out of us, causing injury.

Because the subject of ahimsa covers a vast area of understanding, for the purpose of this article I have chosen to focus specifically on the forgotten limb of ahimsa: cultivating the prasada-buddhi mind. In so doing, every thought is harmoniously linked to every action we perform. As I see it, this is the first step toward practicing ahimsa. To foster the spirit of ahimsa we strive to be yah antarjyotih, one whose mind is awakened to consciousness. When thoughts are informed by the mind of non-violence and we are in sync with them, we gain unlimited access to exploring consciousness and create the vision of inner harmony.


The human voice as a divine instrument is a powerful, foundational tool for living a life of ahimsa. It is the basis of our individuality and creative expression. However, the human voice is our most misunderstood and misused possession. We take our voice for granted, using -- and abusing -- it for the most mundane, trivial, and hurtful communications, forgetting to honor it as the divine instrument of ahimsa within us.

The seers emulated the primordial sound in order to fashion the first human expression, called sruti, the cosmic revelation as heard by the rishis. Sruti is also referred to as the Word, and the song of Sama Veda informs us that, "Verily, if there were no Word, there would be no knowledge neither of right or wrong, nor of truth and untruth, nor of the pleasing and unpleasing. The Word makes all this known." This original Word informed Vedic ritual speech, mantras, chants, and music, which carry the cosmic rhythms and memory of the universe's entire experience. The rishis declared the spoken word, sruti, as their most significant contribution to humanity. Most ancient people left their imprint on history through the medium of precious materials—gold, silver, bronze, onyx, and granite. While time has eroded these monuments, the Vedic tradition’s rich legacy of the spoken word, recited daily by an unbroken chain of generations, still lives on.

The voice is an extension of our prana conveying the rhythms of our thoughts. It is largely through the spoken word that we relate, interact, and connect to external environment. We are constantly using speech to negotiate our daily course through life. Through speech we speak our mind.

The origin of speech, the Rig Veda tells us, may be traced back to the Goddess Vac, who is called the Mother of the Vedas. Vac is depicted as having four pada (feet), or aspects, one of which is the force of rhythmic speech. The rishis also informed us that the rhythmic speech of the human voice was the first life-generating sound. Vac's cardinal rule of sound is never to stifle the natural expressions of your inner voice. A hymn from the Rig Veda expresses regret at those whose speech, sight and hearing do not reflect Vac's sonic wisdom. Create an affirmation of your own as a way to remember the sanctity of your voice as an instrument of peace. Keep it in the foreground of your mind every time you use your voice. Here is an example:

My voice is my most sacred power.
I use it to express my truth through harmony.


Each one of our inner sounds, when nurtured and expressed, can direct us toward the natural vibrational balance of body, mind, and spirit that gives us clarity and helps us to nurture the dharma of ahimsa in our daily lives. Consider these Vedic principles regarding the way in which internal and external sound affects us on physiologic and spiritual level. Harmonious sounds gather in the various pranas of the body. The 72,000 or so nadis (the nerve channels through which prana flows) that exist in the body are all sound/vibration sensitive. They function strictly through vibrational energy. Therefore, good sounds increase the vitality of these nadis. Pranas that are flowing through them also become more charged with vigor. When the pranas are healthy and filled with vitality, they stimulate healthy vital tissue and organ activity so that tranquility of the body and mind is achieved and maintained. Vital prana and harmonious sound work hand-in-hand. They travel through the mind like a great wave, revitalizing cells of the brain and inspiring the mind to produce fluent, clear, harmonious thoughts.

Most of us are conscious of the foods we eat, the air we breathe, the postures we emulate, and other spiritual practices we do to bring good health, yet we are unaware of the negative impressions we imbibe by way of our senses from unwholesome talk, chaotic interaction, and the barrage of discordant sounds we take in through television and other media into our personal lives. A mind that is bombarded with violent impressions will become desensitized and express itself in angry and insensitive ways.

Following is a contemplative exercise I have developed as a preliminary step toward meditation practice called Vac Tapasya that has a profoundly tranquil effect on the mind and can help evoke healthy, harmonious thoughts and to bring forward positive, pleasant words. The Rig Veda concurs: "Speech yields its milk to him who is able to milk speech."

Each one of us has the capacity to cultivate the mind of peace, be conscious, and know. When the mind is illumined, we can transcend negative thinking and live in the true spirit of ahimsa.


VAC TAPASYA ~ Seven Laws of Speech in Ahimsa

Spend fifteen minutes at the end of every day allowing your mind to run free. Notice whatever negative, hurtful thoughts that may come up. Keep a note pad close to you, and write down those thoughts and the person or situations they concern. Record your thought processes as they occur, without whitewashing or censoring them. Let yourself be angry, judgmental, and unkind -- above all, be honest. Repeat each negative thought aloud. For example: "Mary is a big loser. I can’t bear to work with her."

Then repeat the attitude of prasada-buddhi: "I know that every negative thought reflects my own inner condition." Now take responsibility for your feelings from which the negative thought sprang: "I am being obnoxious and judgmental of Mary. I would be mortified to repeat these awful thoughts to Mary’s face". As a general rule in Vac Tapasya, always carefully consider your words before you speak them aloud.

The seven laws of speech in ahimsa, as follows:

  • Do not use an angry, judgmental, accusatory, mean or aggressive tone.
  • If you feel pressured to respond or speak in a way that you think may be hurtful to yourself and/or another person, use your notebook to tell this person your raw, unedited feelings in the form of a letter.
  • However, do not send this letter.
  • Let the letter sit for a week, or two.
  • Then, before you read it, make one small change.
  • Replace the name of the person to whom it is addressed with your own name.
  • Read this letter now addressed to you and intended for yourself.

This process helps you to understand that the letter has less to do with the person with whom you are angry, and more about your inner condition of himsa- hurtful emotions and unhappy experiences which create a reservoir of negative thoughts and feelings about your own life. This practice, as a whole, will greatly enhance your energy, as well as your emotional and spiritual clarity.

Originally Published in 2000 in Maya Tiwari’s book: The Path of Practice: A Woman’s Book with Food, Breath & Sound, Ballantine Press, NYC -

Notes: Check out the itinerary for Mother Maya’s Living Ahimsa Tour; come and take the Vow of Ahimsa and learn the proven way to cultivate inner harmony and good health.

Living Ahimsa World Tour 2011 - Present
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