Yoga: A Practical Skill in Peace Education for Nonviolence

EDUCATION, 22 Jun 2015

Surya Nath Prasad, Ph. D. – TRANSCEND Media Service~

21 Jun 2015 UN International Day of Yoga

Yoga is a practical skill in peace education developed by the author of this paper. His peace education is based on universally inherent five elements, viz. physical, vital, mental, intellectual and spiritual in all men and women everywhere without discrimination of any types to be manifested integrally. The skill of yoga will help every man and woman to be healthy in all parts (elements) of their body leading them to be nonviolent. Hence the author advises that since 21 June 2015, the beginning of the UN International Year of Yoga let all people of the world be aware of their five elements within them and grow integrally through perpetual practice of skill of yoga for their holistic health and sustainable nonviolence.

Initiation of International Day of Yoga

The United Nations declared 21 June as International Day of Yoga on the adoption of the resolution of Assembly on 11 December 2014 with support of 170 Member States without a vote. The credit goes to Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi for his initiation to propose for the UN Declaration of International Day of Yoga, who said on 27 September 2014 addressing the UN General Assembly, “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.”

Yoga for All People

Like Laws of Isaac Newton was not for the people of Great Britain, Invention of Steam Engine of James Watt was not for the people of Scotland and Great Britain, Archimedes Principle was not for the people of Syracuse, Italy and Greek, Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was not for Jews and the people of Germany, and like other inventions, discoveries and creations of other scientists and philosophers were and are for their respective nations and people, but for the benefits of the people of the whole world, similarly the Science of Yoga developed by ancient Indian Saints is not for people of India only, it is excellent and unique gift for the people of the whole world. Therefore yoga is a Catholic (universal) skill. It is everybody’s technique to be practiced without discrimination of any type to get benefit of it.

Who can do Yoga?

Yoga can be done by those who are well-fed. But alas! 80 per cent of the world population out of about more than 7 billion people is not able to perform different skills of yoga because it lives on less than $10 a day. And nearly 1/2 of the world’s population – more than 3 billion people – live on less than $2.50 a day, and more than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty – less than $1.25 a day. 1/3rd of the world’s hungry live in India, and 836 million Indians survive on less than Rs.20 (less than half-a-dollar) a day. ( /

Therefore the resources should be made available for 80% of the financially deprived persons of world to end their hunger and poverty to enable them to take care of the integral health of their physical, vital mental, intellectual and spiritual bodies through the practice of yoga. Besides this, 20% of the world’s highly financially abled persons should be awakened towards the importance of practice of yoga to maintain the integral health of their bodies also and to be motivated to arise in them a natural desire to share their much, much more surplus financial resources with their helping hands to the needy persons around them and in the rest of the world.

Availability of Resources for All to Practice Yoga

It is learnt that the world has enough resources to meet the needs of the five bodies of 15 billion people while there are about more than 7 billion people in the world. But 80% of the world resources are in the hands of 20% of the people everywhere in the world. While as Oxfam estimates that it would take $60 billion annually to end extreme global poverty–that’s less than 1/4 the income of the top 100 richest billionaires. And also the world produces enough food to feed everyone. For the world as a whole, per capita food availability has risen from about 2220 kcal/person/day in the early 1960s to 2790 kcal/person/day in 2006-08, while developing countries even recorded a leap from 1850 kcal/person/day to over 2640 kcal/person/day. This growth in food availability in conjunction with improved access to food helped reduce the percentage of chronically undernourished people in developing countries from 34 percent in the mid 1970s to just 15 percent three decades later. (FAO 2012, p. 4) The principal problem is that many people in the world still do not have sufficient income to purchase (or land to grow) enough food. Therefore   the United Nations, The World Bank, respective governments of different nation-states and rich people of the world should share their resources to meet the needs of hungry people to facilitate and encourage them to practice yoga for their holistic health. It is a matter of distributive and restorative justice. And for this, the affluent persons should be awakened to start to practice yoga.

History of Yoga

History of Yoga may be divided into four categories, viz. Vedic Yoga, Pre-classical Yoga, Classical Yoga and Post Classical Yoga. (Georg Feuerstein, Traditional Yoga Studies, 2015)

 Vedic Yoga (1700-500 BCE)

The ancient texts of Vedas are the oldest scriptures in the world. The Sanskrit word Veda means “knowledge” and rig means “praise”. Thus the Rig Vedas are a collection of hymns that are in praise of a higher power. Other three Vedas are Yajur Veda (knowledge of sacrifice), Sama Veda (Knowledge of chants), and Atharvana Veda (knowledge of Atharvana).

Vedic Yoga can also be called Archaic Yoga, as people believed in a ritualistic way of life. Rituals, sacrifices, and ceremonies existed because they were considered a means of connection to the spirit world. People turned to rishis or Vedic yogis for illumination. Vedic masters were blessed with a vision of the supreme reality and their hymns speak of their marvelous intuitions.

Pre-classical Yoga (500-200 BCE)

This covers an extensive period approximately 2,000 years until the second century. Gnostic texts, called the Upanishads, that spoke in detail about the self and ultimate reality appeared. There are approximately 200 Upanishads. One of the most remarkable yoga scriptures is the Bhagavad Gita, which was composed around 500 B.C. The central teaching of the Gita is, to do ones’ duty and not expect the fruit of the action.

In 1200 BC the great teacher Rishaba, who was the exponent of the tradition of Jainism, also emphasized on efforts dedicated to the liberation of the spirit.

It was during this time, that Yoga found its way into Buddhism too; Lord Buddha was the first Buddhist to study Yoga. Buddhist scriptures lay stress on meditation and physical postures, which are Yogic processes.

Classical Yoga (200 BCE – 500 CE)

In the second century C.E, Patanjali composed the yoga sutras, which consists of 195 aphorisms. They expound the Raja yoga or the eight-fold path, which are meant to be memorized, as it is not in written form. The earliest known Sanskrit commentary on the sutras is Yoga-Bhashya (speech on Yoga), by Vyasa in the fifth century.

Patanjali believed that each individual is composed of matter (prakriti) and spirit (purusha). He advocated that yoga would restore the spirit to its absolute reality, a teaching that saw a shift from non dualism to dualism.

Patanjali’s writing also became the basis for a system referred to as “Ashtanga Yoga” (“Eight-Limbed Yoga”). This eight-limbed concept is derived from the 29th Sutra of the Book 2 of Yoga Sutras. They are:

  1. Yama(The five “abstentions”): Ahimsa (Non-violence, non-harming other living beings),[ Satya (truthfulness, non-falsehood) Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (celibacy, fidelity to one’s partner), and Aparigraha (non-avarice, non-possessiveness).
  2. Niyama(The five “observances”): Sauca (purity, clearness of mind, speech and body), Santosh (contentment, acceptance of others and of one’s circumstances), Tapas (persistent meditation, perseverance, austerity), Svādhyāya (study of self, self-reflection, study of Vedas), and Ishvara-Pranidhana (contemplation of God/Supreme Being/True Self).
  3. Asana: Literally means “seat”, and in Patanjali’s Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation.
  4. Pranayama(“Suspending Breath”): Prāna, breath, “āyāma”, to restrain or stop. Also interpreted as control of the life force.
  5. Pratyahara(“Abstraction”): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.
  6. Dharana(“Concentration”): Fixing the attention on a single object.
  7. Dhyana(“Meditation”): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation.
  8. Samadhi(“Liberation”): merging consciousness with the object of meditation. (

Post-classical Yoga (500–1500 CE)

This period in yoga affirms the teachings of Vedanta, that there is ultimate unity in everything in the cosmos. Vedanta is the philosophical system based on the teachings of the Upanishads.

The earlier eras saw yogis laying emphasis only on meditation and contemplation. Their goal was to shed their mortal coils and merge with the infinite; but, during this period, yogis began to probe the hidden powers of the body. Yoga masters designed advanced yogic practices that would rejuvenate the body and prolong its life. This led to Hath Yoga, which is presently practised throughout the world.

What is Hatha Yoga?

The yoga of postures or asanas is called Hatha Yoga. It broadly consists of asanas (body postures), pranayama (body techniques) relaxation and cleansing techniques. The main goal of Hatha yoga is to facilitate concentration and meditation, which is actually a preparation for achieving the final stage of yoga, called Samadhi.

Along with Hatha yoga, Tantra yoga also developed in this period. Tantra yoga is the path of rituals and mantra or mystic syllables.

Modern Yoga (Since19thCentury)

The history of modern yoga began with the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893. Modern yoga arrived in the United States during the late 1800’s. It was at this congress that Swami Vivekananda, a disciple of saint Ramakrishna, made a lasting impression on the American public. He addressed the gathering as, ‘Brothers and Sisters of America “. Through these words he captured millions of hearts in the United States and attracted many students to yoga and Vedanta. (

Views of Swmi Vivekanada, Sri Aurobindo and Bhagavad Gita on Yoga

According to Swami Vivekananda the goal of all yogas as freedom of soul, he said:

“You must remember that freedom of the soul is the goal of all Yogas, and each one equally leads to the same result. By work alone men may get to where Buddha got largely by meditation or Christ by prayer. Buddha was a working Jnâni, Christ was a Bhakta, but the same goal was reached by both of them. The difficulty is here. Liberation means entire freedom — freedom from the bondage of good, as well as from the bondage of evil. A golden chain is as much a chain as an iron one. There is a thorn in my finger, and I use another to take the first one out; and when I have taken it out, I throw both of them aside; I have no necessity for keeping the second thorn, because both are thorns after all. So the bad tendencies are to be counteracted by the good ones, and the bad impressions on the mind should be removed by the fresh waves of good ones, until all that is evil almost disappears, or is subdued and held in control in a corner of the mind; but after that, the good tendencies have also to be conquered. Thus the “attached” becomes the “unattached”. Work, but let not the action or the thought produce a deep impression on the mind. Let the ripples come and go, let huge actions proceed from the muscles and the brain, but let them not make any deep impression on the soul.” Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume I, Book: Karma Yoga—[Source]

About Utility of Yoga Swami Vivekananda said, “The utility of this science (Yoga) is to bring out the perfect man, and not let him wait and wait for ages, just a plaything in the hands of the physical world, like a log of drift-wood carried from wave to wave and tossing about in the ocean. This science wants you to be strong, to take the work in your own hand, instead of leaving it in the hands of nature, and get beyond this little life. That is the great idea.” Complete Works, Volume II, The Powers of the Mind—[Source]

Swami Vivekanand advises that one does not necessarily need to practice all types of Yogas to attain perfection, he said:

“Each one of our Yogas is fitted to make man perfect even without the help of the others, because they have all the same goal in view. The Yogas of work, of wisdom, and of devotion are all capable of serving as direct and independent means for the attainment of Moksha. “Fools alone say that work and philosophy are different, not the learned.” The learned know that, though apparently different from each other, they at last lead to the same goal of human perfection.” Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume I, Book: Karma Yoga—[Source]

And Sri Aurobindod regarded yoga as a methodical effort toward self-perfection through developing our latent potential at the physical, vital, mental, intellectual, and spiritual levels. And The Bhagavad Gita states, “Yoga is skill in action.” It is the way of life. It is a technique of integral living.

Experience of the Author of these Lines in Yoga

The author of these lines came in contact with the knowledge and practice of yoga in 1966 when he came in contact with Professor Lalji Ram Shukla, a renowned retired professor of then Teachers Training College of Banaras Hindu University, eminent psychotherapist and, founder and director of Banaras Institute of Psychology (Kashi Manovigyanshala) who used to practice simple skill of yoga with his own unique combination of practical philosophy of Patanjali and Buddha, and psychology of William Brown in treating the mental patients and guiding the youth for their holistic health who visited his institute. Since then this author has been continuously practicing simple, practical and useful skills of yoga, and he identified the following steps in yoga to practice for the benefit of himself and others who come in his contact. And his steps in yoga are based on eleven fundamental principles with brief description, viz. balanced diet (what to eat, how much to eat, how many times to eat and how to eat), drinking of sufficient pure water, proper and timely sleeping (early to sleep and early to rise), proper simple physical exercises, appropriate physical and mental relaxation, slow long breathing (inhaling fresh air and releasing) in well-ventilated room, quiet meditation, practice of positive thinking, use of polite words in dealing with others, use of simple and proper dress in public life, and practice of simplicity in living, and deep and high in thinking.

Place of Yoga in Peace Education

Yoga has a very great and important place in peace education, developed by the author of these lines, which is based on universally inherent five elements, viz. body, vitality, mind, intellect and spirit in all men and women everywhere without discrimination of any types. This peace education is unique in the sense of its concept (based on five elements in every man and woman), its methodology (based on science of self-learning, mathetics), its techniques (based on skill of yoga), its access (for all men and women everywhere), its period of learning (for life-long), and its fee for learning (free of charge). Thus every man or woman is capable of unfolding his or her hidden physical, vital, mental, intellectual and spiritual energies integrally through perpetually self-learning with the practice and use of different techniques of yoga throughout his or her life. However, yoga is a practical skill in peace education which helps every man and woman to be healthy in all parts of their whole body, i.e. physical, vital, mental, intellectual and spiritual leading them to be nonviolent.

Yoga for Nonviolence

Yoga is skillful means for making the mind quiet and nonviolent, rather than a brutal and violent. It develops our ability to maintain inner peace at all times, in all actions and thereby achieve physical, vital, mental, intellectual and spiritual health. One may find the reference in the Bhagvada Gita about this calmness in action as the secret to attaining the ‘skill’ to be nonviolent.

Partial enfoldment of these five elements of men and women through the practice of yoga leads to violence either on self or/and on others. And total non-enfoldment of these elements due to non-availability and non-facility of practice of yoga compels men and women to be slaves of others. But full integral enfoldment of all these elements through practice of the skills of yoga leads men and women to be nonviolent. Thus lack and or denial of awareness, opportunity, resources towards and about the five bodies within every man and woman, and also the ignorance about the importance of practice of yoga leads them to be violent, and reverse of this makes them to be nonviolent. Techniques of yoga integrates all the five bodies in every man and woman to grow harmoniously leading them to be lords like Buddha and Shri Krishna, Prophets like Jesus and Muhammad, and saints like Sri Ramkrishna and Vivekananda and like other highly enlightened spiritual persons in different parts of the world.

Therefore, since 21 June 2015, the beginning of the UN International Year of Yoga, let all people of the world be aware of the five elements within them and grow integrally through perpetual practice of skill of yoga for sustainable nonviolence.


Dr. Surya Nath Prasad is M. A. (Sociology), M. Ed. (Experimental Education), M. Phil. (Nonviolence and Peace Studies), and Ph. D. (Education). He is a recipient of Honorary D. Lit. (Peace Education) at the hands of Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma then Former President, Government of India and has taught for three decades as Assistant and Associate Professor of Education in India.  He is Former Visiting Professor of Peace Studies at the Graduate Institute of Peace Studies in Kyung Hee University, Republic of Korea and former President and Currently Executive Vice President of International Association of Educators for World Peace.  Dr. Prasad is recipient of several peace and human rights awards to the cause of peace and peace education. Website of his Journal is: One may reach him at:


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 22 Jun 2015.

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One Response to “Yoga: A Practical Skill in Peace Education for Nonviolence”

  1. I fully concur that yoga can help teach one to think in terms of nonviolence because when you work to strengthen the physical body in certain ways you concurrently strengthen the mind. However, yoga does not teach one how to react to violence and so leaves one at a disadvantage in dangerous situations. I have found, and proven through my teaching of these arts that the Asian martial arts of Judo, Hapkido, and Taekwondo can not only prepare one to effectively deal with those who would do violence, but to do so in nonviolent ways. And, I was not the only one doing this for I found a couple of other teachers teaching the idea of conquering violence through methods of nonviolence. For me, and I what is of even greater value, was that every person who earned at least a first level black belt before going on to college or university had also become a National Honor Society member. Training for the body and mind to learn to reach for success – Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha.