If you are established in non-violence, all outer danger will diminish, says one very nice thought (a sutra) of Patanjali. However, non-violence is not a specific action or no-action; it is a state of consciousness.
Can you tell which action deserves an attribute of non-violence? Each of your many breaths can hurt someone or even take someone’s life. Mere living is a treat to many other life forms. That is how this reality of ours works.
Nevertheless, Patanjali, a master of yoga tells us that ahimsa, non-violence is possible! Ahimsa is not abiding in a conscious decision about which action to take or not to take. If you stay on the level of your knowledge, there are no ways to calculate, or even remotely know, the consequences of a particular action.
For a beginner in ahimsa, there are rules. Do this, but don’t do that. If we follow them we can be fine for a while. However, very soon, sometimes immediately, we will stumble into a situation not covered by any rule; a contradictory, complicated, utterly incomprehensible situation, involving many past karmic lines and even more possible results. Does this mean that ahimsa will always stay just an idea, and not a practical living possibility? Even worst, maybe we must accept that whatever we do, each and every action will inevitably harm somebody?
From the limited perspective of the human mind, it surely looks that way. But, Patanjali has a solution. He tells us that there is a state beyond duality. It is accessible in our own consciousness. Actually, our own consciousness when in its simplest state, the state without movement, is oneness. Patanjali calls it – yoga. The state of yoga is a prerequisite for all other achievements mentioned in Yoga sutras, including ahimsa. When the state of yoga is achieved, everything else follows.
So, when you think about ahimsa, non-violence, don’t misunderstand the freedom of life, the blissful co-creation of real yogic existence, for a set of rigid rules which will manage your life and, somewhere in the future, make you free. That is an illusion.
From the very beginning, yoga is freedom. Ahimsa is just an ability, developing hand in hand with the abiding presence of yoga. It will not come sometimes latter, in the future. And, it’s not an impossibility. It is a part of you, a part of a cosmic computer you carry inside.
If you understand it correctly from the beginning, you will see that there is no need for rules. If you misunderstand it, as many do, and mix up priorities trying to force upon your self the impossibly hard task of not hurting anyone, you will end up in more bondage than you have started with.