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  • Manju Sadarangani

Ahimsa I

Ahimsa I


24" x 24"

Acrylic & Gold Leaf on Canvas

June 2022

Ahimsa is non-violence. I began this piece on June 24, 2022. Like so many in the United States, I was left reeling by the Dobbs v. Jackson SCOTUS decision. We have been saturated with media coverage, and wiser minds have articulated deeply what this decision means.

Every Saturday morning, I teach yoga. I take teaching yoga seriously. I see it as seva, sacred duty. My role is to simply to hold space for the good souls who honor me with their trust every Saturday. I love these souls deeply. I think it is my responsibility to hold space for them, to give them a moment to reflect, recharge, replenish. I have no guru gyan to give, I have no deep wisdom to impart. All I can try to do is be thoughtful, respectful, and respond to these beautiful people. In return, I am filled with joy and shown the fortitude of the human spirit every Saturday.

I am a huge believer in filling your own bucket, otherwise you cannot give. The morning after the decision, I woke up super early to paint. As I made bold dark strokes on the canvas, I wondered if I had the equanimity, the grace, and the fortitude to teach. The longer I painted, the more I sat with resolve. I would respond to this verdict, my feelings, the feelings of others with non-violence.

Practicing ahimsa in these moments of tremendous valence is a deeply difficult thing for me. To sit with the big feelings, the waves, the tumult with compassion, rather than papering over the heart with spiritual bypassing, that was my only goal. That is the desire I took with me as I taught on Saturday. I would hold space with reverence. I would practice ahimsa.

This first piece of the ahimsa series is an attempt at nonviolence, to bear witness to all emotion – triumph, denial, anger, sorrow - with compassion.

I can’t help but be me in these moments, so the piece is painful, determined, cheeky (ergo the visual pun). Tears quite literally helped spread the paint in this piece. By the time I was done with this piece, I could barely write without my hands trembling. For those who know my silly vanity about clean penmanship, you know I did not take that well. Being non-violent, being patient, methodical, vulnerable took so much more out of me than throwing things in rage.

“वैष्णव जन तो तेने कहिये जे पीड परायी जाणे रे ।“

Excerpt from Vaishnava Jana To’ by 15th century Gujarati Poet, Narsinh Mehta.

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