Thought Bite: Covid-19 and Ahimsa

Many yoga practitioners, who often are not overly aggressive or innately violent people, have a hard time knowing how to practice ahimsa, non-violence, in their lives. These days, however, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s much easier to do so. One can practice ahimsa simply by wearing a mask when out in public. This became clear to me recently while riding my bicycle.

These days I’m living in Cambridge, MA. just outside of Harvard University. There is a mask ordinance here and most people are complying and wearing masks outdoors. Many joggers and bicycle riders keep their mask pulled down from their nose until they approach others, and then pull the mask back up. But, there are a minority of people, walking, running, and bicycling, who do not wear masks at all.

Whenever I’ve ridden by a person not wearing a mask, I’ve felt a twinge of fear at the possibility of virus in the air near them and wondered why they would not wear masks. But then I realized that questioning their motives was not helpful. Rather, as a meditator, the proper questions for me is whether I’m wearing a mask and why.

The first yama, the first practice of ashtanga (eight limbed) yoga is ahimsa—non-harming.

Wearing a cloth mask only provides a modicum of protection to me, but such a mask provides a lot of protection for others in my vicinity. With Covid-19, a surprisingly large percentage of infected people have no symptoms at all and do not realize they have the virus. But, they can easily spread it to those around them through microscopic droplets that are expelled when they express themselves by talking, or by coughing or sneezing. Wearing a cloth mask greatly reduces the chances of that happening.

So, because wearing a cloth mask primarily protects others, it is a practice of ahimsa.

Some people might object that wearing a mask infringes on their freedom. In response, I’d say that it’s true that wearing a mask is a bit inconvenient and at times uncomfortable. At the same time, doing so can greatly reduce the spread of the disease—which is crippling the economy and hospitalizing and killing thousands. So, isn’t it worth a little infringement on one’s freedom to protect others and help the economy? This is a personal choice. If you’re wondering whether or not to wear a mask, please consider the possible benefit of doing so to others.

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19 Dec 2021;
07:00PM - 08:00PM
Full Moon Meditation 2020