Is It Spiritual To Defend Yourself?

Is it right for a spiritual person to fight to defend themselves or their family?

Yogananda once had a conversation with Gandhi:

Yogananda: “Mahatmaji,” I said as I squatted beside him on the uncushioned mat, “please tell me your definition of ahimsa.”

Gandhi: “The avoidance of harm to any living creature in thought or deed.”

Yogananda: “Beautiful ideal! But the world will always ask: May one not kill a cobra to protect a child, or one’s self?”

Gandhi: “I could not kill a cobra without violating two of my vows: fearlessness, and non-killing. I would rather try inwardly to calm the snake by vibrations of love. I cannot possibly lower my standards to suit my circumstances.”

With his amazing candor, Gandhi added, “I must confess that I could not carry on this conversation were I faced by a cobra!”

And yet, Yogananda used to tell a story about a cobra, it went something like this:

Once there was a cobra near a village that used to bite the women as they walked to the river to do their wash.

One day a saint walked by and the snake came out to bite him but the saint warned him of the negative consequences of his karma and he should stop biting people. The snake thought about it and repented of his evil ways.

Some time later the saint walked down the same path again and saw the snake all beat him and looking miserable and the saint asked him what was wrong. The Snake said since he repented the women and children now throw sticks and stones at him.

The saint then said, “I didn’t say you couldn’t hiss!”

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