In her article “Yogic Philosophy and Anti-Racism”, Lorry Henderson shares, “I find most potential for yogic philosophy to align with anti-racism work within Pantjali’s Eightfold Path. Specifically, the moral code laid out in the Yamas and Niyamas. Yamas are intended to be a guide for our interactions with others and Niyamas are internal work.”
The Yamas, these social moral guidelines, are the first Limb of this Eightfold Path. Reverend Jaganath Carrera of Yoga Life Society tells us that the order in which things are listed in the Yoga Sutras is meaningful, with the most important aspects listed first. Of the five Yamas, Ahimsa is listed first.
This video from the Guibord Center, an Interfaith organization, provides a more historic understanding of Ahimsa and how it relates to racism, as honored in different religious faiths. This is followed by interviews discussing their own personal journeys. Tahil Sharma discusses how Ahimsa was the inspiration for Mahatma Gandhi and others who led the South Asian movement for independence from the British. It also became the principle for Dr. Martin Luther King and leaders of the U.S. nonviolent movement, who used peaceful resistance to defeat injustice. Today, Ahimsa continues to inform us about how to engage unjust systems and practices and equalize our society.