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means non-violence but it is much more
What is the philosophy and practice of reverence for all life?
What is the Jain approach to life's origin and evolution?
How can we live in this world without taking life or causing violence?
The Princess and the Pea, and other writings by ==Gene Poole==
Ahimsa is stillness.
Ahimsa arises as naturally as breathing, and other writings by Tim Gerchmez.
The Official Ahimsa FAQ
Leo Tolstoy on the Law of Love
As I look around me at the high school shootings...
The Path of Ahimsa
Ahimsa is not a religion, it's a way of life
Commentary by Jan Barendrecht
Himsa and Ahimsa: The Need for a New Policy of
Protection, by David Frawley
"Refrain from killing knowingly even the trifling insects
like a louse, a bug or a mosquito. Use
no violence even to gain possession of a woman, wealth or kingdom. Never kill any animals
even for the purpose of sacrifice. Non-violence is the greatest of all religions." --Swami
"O lover of meditation, become pure and clean. Observe nonviolence in mind, speech and
body. Never break another's heart. Avoid wounding another's feelings. Harm no one. Help
all. Neither be afraid nor frighten others." --Swami Muktananda
"Someone who believes in violence and continues causing injury to others can never be
peaceful himself." --Swami Satchidananda
"To be free from violence is the duty of every man. No thought of revenge, hatred or ill will
should arise in our minds. Injuring others gives rise to hatred."--Swami Sivananda
"The Hindu sage who sees the whole of life.. If he does not fight, it is not because he rejects
all fighting as futile, but because he has finished his fights. He has overcome all dissensions
between himself and the world and is now at rest.... We shall have wars and soldiers so
long as the brute in us is untamed."-- Dr. S. Radhakrishnan.
"By ahimsa Patanjali meant the removal of the desire to kill. All forms of life have an equal
right to the air of maya. The saint who uncovers the secret of creation will be in harmony
with Nature's countless bewildering expressions. All men may understand this truth by
overcoming the passion for destruction." --Sri Yukteswar to Paramahansa Yogananda.
"If you plant eggplant, you can pluck eggplants. If you sow goodness, you can reap
goodness. If you sow evil, you will reap evil. Do good to all. God is there, within you. Don't
kill. Don't harbor anger." --Siva Yogaswami
"The test of ahimsa is the absence of jealousy. The man whose heart never cherishes even
the thought of injury to anyone, who rejoices at the prosperity of even his greatest enemy,
that man is the bhakta, he is the yogi, he is the guru of all." --Swami Vivekananda
"We are all of the same race and religion. We are holy beings established in Divinity itself.
This truth can be understood only by those who have grasped it through the magical charm
of a life of dharma--not by other means. Because of that, sages have emphatically
proclaimed again and again that it is necessary to love all existing lives as one's own."--Siva
"Do good to all. God is there, within you. Don't kill. Don't harbor anger."--Siva Yogaswami.
"You do not like to suffer yourself. How can you inflict suffering on others? Every killing is a
suicide. The eternal, blissful and natural state has been smothered by this life of ignorance.
In this way the present life is due to the killing of the eternal, pristine Being. Is it not a case of
suicide?"--Ramana Maharishi, June 1935.
"May all be happy. May we never see a tear in another's eyes!"--Sri Sri Sri
What is virtuous conduct? It is never destroying life, for
killing leads to
every other sin.--Tirukural, Verse 321
Many are the lovely flowers of worship offered to the Guru, but none
lovelier than non-killing. Respect for life is the highest worship, the
bright lamp, the sweet garland and unwavering devotion.--Tirumantiram, Verse
Do not injure the beings living on earth, in the air and in the water.--
Let our aims be common, and your hearts be of one accord, and all of you be
of one mind, so you may live well together.--Rig Veda X.191
---contributed by Harsha and Jan
WHAT IS THE PHILOSOPHY AND PRACTICE
OF REVERENCE FOR ALL LIFE?
More than twenty-five hundred years ago, Mahavira made a simple yet profound statement, based on the absorption of
Non-violence into the fabric of his consciousness. He realized, "All of life is just like me. I want to live. So do all souls, all living beings. The instinct of self preservation is universal. Every animate being clings to life and fears death. Each of us wants to be free from pain. So let me carry out all of my activities with great care not to be harmful to any living being."
The philosophy of Non-violence is a living practice. More than refraining from violence, it is a deep Reverence for All Life. It
starts by cultivating a genuine respect for oneself; one's consciousness or life force, and for each of its supportive elements the
body, mind and emotions. We come to realize that our life force is precious and that we are here to respect and reveal its innate wisdom. It is a process of taking care of both our inner being and the material envelope in which it dwells. Like a mother nurturing the development of her child, we do what is healthful and helpful for our spiritual growth.
Most of us are not used to treating ourselves with gentleness and love. It requires a conscious decision. The practice of
Reverence for All Life begins with a decision not to take any hurtful influence into our body or mind. This is called samvara,
stoppage, or stepping apart from the rat race, discontinuing Pain creating habits, and re-evaluating one's life.
The automatic and mechanical aspects of living cease to rule us when we activate our faculty of observation and self inquiry. We take time to notice the universal law of cause and effect and how it is functioning as a precise computer in our lives. There
is a real connection between the vibration we send out and the pain or pleasure we receive. When we radiate loving, kindness,
joy, and friendliness, that multiplies and comes back to us. Violent thoughts are as real as the tangible world. They, too, return
When anger, jealousy, or unfulfilled ambitions goad us, the one whom we damage first is our own self. This is equally true of harsh, slanderous, or critical speech. It works like a match stick; before it ignites something else, it burns its own mouth.
Through the practice of self-respect, we recognize that our peace is the most precious thing in the world. Before hating, judging, or treating anyone as an inferior, we check ourselves. Before buying or using any product, we ask, "By my action, am I causing any living being to pay a price in pain? Directly or indirectly, am I causing a life to be lost?"
We take the help of meditation to know and remember what we really are. In our natural state, our soul is nothing but love,
energy, peace, and bliss. Gradually we glide to a peak of realization and joy, exclaiming, "I am life! I am a living conscious
energy! I feel my life force moving in all my limps and awakening all my cells with awareness!"
* * *
At the heart of the experience of self reverence, we realize that the same energy which is pulsating in us is also vibrating in all
living beings. When this awareness dawns, we see through a new set of eyes. We feel an uninterrupted connection from our innermost being to the soul force alive in all.
This experience enables us to recognize, in Shree Chitrabhanu's words, "that the universe is not for man alone. It is a field of evolution for all of life's forms. Jainism teaches that life is life, not only in people of all lands, colors, and beliefs, but is of the
same sacred quality in all creatures, right down to the tiny ant and humble worm. Consciousness exists in everything which
grows, regardless of the size of its form. Though different forms are not the same in mental capacity and sensory apparatus, the life force is equally worthy in all."
From the moment this awareness becomes a par of our daily life, we find that traits and habits which used to limit us fall away naturally. We are no longer able to invite pain and disease to our bodies through uninformed eating habits. The vegetarian way
of life becomes a natural outcome of inner understanding.
At the same time, it becomes imperative for our well being and continued evolution to forgive, drop and forget those painful
vibrations we may still be carrying in our mind. With courage and compassion, we can remove them. It is a gradual process. If
we realize that the hurts and scars from the past came to us my our own invitation, we can stop focusing on blaming and
retribution. once we take responsibility for our own pain, we can transcend it. We can see its purpose to act as compost,
breaking open the harsh outer shell of our heart and helping the soft flower of compassion and kindness to blossom.
In this way, the trials of life become fuel for our growth, and we come closer to our goal, Self Realization. As an instrument
tuning itself to the right key, we tune ourselves to Reverence for All Life. By doing everything we can to minimize violence and pain to life, we enjoy living with a cleansed consciousness and a light heart.
WHAT IS THE JAIN APPROACH TO LIFE'S
ORIGIN AND EVOLUTION?
Jain masters hold that in each living being there is a partnership between the energy of matter which has no consciousness and
that of soul, which is conscious. Without the latter, the former would be inanimate. Because of the dynamic impact of soul force in the body, it grows and evolves. Both energies, attam (atom) and atma (soul) are considered to be the permanent constituents of the universe, without beginning or end in the sense that matter continually changes, regroups its molecules, and decomposes but never disappears, and soul keeps on evolving until it reveals its true identity and becomes fully liberated from the gravitational pull of matter and mind. The idea of creation is not a question here. Matter is, was, and will be, in one form or
another, and soul is, was, and will be, dwelling in a body until its ultimate release.
* * *
When Jains speak of evolution, it is primarily of consciousness, an unfolding of the divine potential through loving, kindness and awareness. It is experienced as an ascension to merge with those who have already reached the pinnacle and whose fragrance of universality perfumes the entire cosmos everlastingly.
Our physical evolution follows according to this inner refinement. Just as milk and water becomes indistinguishable in a mixed
form, so soul and matter seem to be inseparable while they are participating mutually in a continuous process. When we
become aware that we have been journeying from beginning less time from one form of life to another, from one lifetime to
another, our life's purpose becomes clearer. Also, our compassion for less developed life forms is increased. We realize that
we too, had to pass through those stages. Once we were among them; one day they will be among us.
When we discover that as humans, we are now at the highest rung of the evolutionary ladder, a new gratitude overwhelms us.
We are no longer helpless. We can take charge of our lives and take the last step of evolution consciously. For that, we work
toward freeing ourselves from remnants of previous instinctive stages; ignorance, anger, greed, fear, competitiveness. We stop
generating pain and start regarding each other with reverence and respect. Prosperity consciousness replaces emotional aridity, and an appreciation of the universe's bounty erases the feeling of poverty and lack.
HOW CAN WE LIVE IN THIS WORLD WITHOUT
TAKING LIFE AND CAUSING VIOLENCE?
In Jain philosophy, the answer lies in taking care to minimize the harm one does and to direct one's actions with the intention to
revere live. This requires vigilance, awareness of motives, and fearlessness to live in tune with nature's laws. The underlying
feeling is not to inspire fear in any living being; it is opening one's heart to life. Intention is what counts. Living in reverence
means not condoning or consenting to any form of violence, even if someone else is willing to be the active perpetrator. It also means trying to prevent it before it happens, and trying to stop it once it has begun. Throughout history, Jain monks have tried to stop priests from other religions from dragging animals to altars to be sacrificed. Under Mahavira's gentle influence, many kings abolished in their lands slavery, the caste system, degradation of women, hunting, butchering, and sacrificing of animals, and many people were inspired to live in Ahimsa and Non-violence.
* * *
It is true that just my breathing, using water, treading on earth, and taking plants as wood, we are causing lives to be lost. The
emphasis lies in reducing to a minimum the harm we do in order to survive.
We have to make a choice. Rather than take the flesh and blood of animals who have already evolved all five senses and a
highly developed brain, whose nervous system and emotional life are so similar to ours, and in whose veins blood runs, as in our own, we sustain our bodies with the help of the bloodless plant kingdom, which has not yet developed any of the senses of taste, smell, seeing, or hearing.
The more sensory apparatus, the more a life form can be sensitive to pain. Since fish, birds, and animals are equipped in this
way, we refuse to be a cause to their agony and pain. Also, when we observe how dearly animals cling to life and struggle to
survive, how much they are dominated my fear, we drop any notions of using or exploiting them. We feel for their helplessness in the face of man's gluttony, greed, and callousness; we want to see them live unmolested.
* * *
Most vegetables are harvested at the end of their natural life cycle. Many of them, such as berries, melons, beans, peas, squash, okra, pumpkins, nuts, and fruit from trees can be picked without uprooting the whole plant. Nevertheless, we realize with humility that every fruit, leaf, grain that we end on our plate had to lose its life in order to give us life. Without the plants to
whom we are helplessly bound, we would not be able to survive, and therefore, to evolve. That is why Jain Monks recite this
blessing before the daily meals:
Aho Jinehim asavvajja vittisahuna desiya
Mukkha Sahara heoosa sahu dehassa dharana.
O Jinas! What a wonderful teaching you have given us! You have taught us to take only that food which is innocent, benign,
and healthy, because it has not been procured through causing bloodshed.
You have taught us to know why we eat, to sustain the body, end to do so for one main reason, to unfold our life and reach ultimate liberation.
With this sense of appreciation, we eat with respect and restraint, without taking more than we need. And we say, as the native Americans did, "Dear plants, some day our bodies will return to you, to become food for the nourishment of your roots."
Often, it is considered that ahimsa is just an ethical view. It is much more: It is the consequence of the nondual perspective.
Ahimsa and nonduality are like the warm heart and the cool mind: remove one and one is crippled. Everything is Self; what is done to another creature is done to oneself. Pain and suffering, inflicted on creatures will cause one to experience pain and
suffering either in this life or a next one. One reaps whatever one sows. Even maltreating one’s own body (wrong diet, smoking etc..) is a violation of ahimsa. From this perspective, ahimsa is the one lifestyle preventing the build up of a large
karmic debt. As this karmic debt is the main obstacle to both enlightenment and nirvana, it follows that for many Westerners spiritual life can hardly be entered without having to entirely drink one's "beaker of sorrow". For instance, all major wars of
recorded history were fought in or by the West; the amount of killings (including animals) surpasses comprehension. Ahimsa is
the core of Jainism and it probably dates back to the "golden age" of humanity (satya yuga). On first thought one could think that a society, based on ahimsa, would be primitive. The contrary is true: any society based on ahimsa has to be highly
advanced. Consider traffic: in order to avoid road killing, it has to be completely underground, with the exception of slow,
noiseless, non-polluting traffic for local distribution. Flying machines have to work with different traction (no air intake) to avoid bird killing at low altitude and near airports. Economy based on ahimsa will target continuity and stability. In such a society, there wouldn't be the least controversy between "inner" and "outer" life; nirvana (with substratum) would be the "norm" and not the exception as it presently is. I hope it is obvious that in a state of surrender the controversy between "inner" and "outer" would never arise - the "I" is passive and everything is left to God.
Ahimsa means non-violence but it is
much more. On planet earth, the pigeon is symbolizing peace and
one might wonder if it is the correct symbol. In big cities there
often are big squares, with trees and benches, like the Plaza de
España in Santa Cruz.
There are many pigeons, looking for food and regularly one can see the pigeons fighting ferociously. If a relatives has pigeons, one could be familiar with the fact that pigeons can display rather aggressive behavior.
Eagles, condors, hawks (generally birds of prey) are lacking in this kind of aggressiveness. There have been investigations,
confirming this: an animal capable of effective self-defense doesn't show aggressive behavior - it has no need for it.
One might wonder about the aggressiveness of man. From the perspective of self, man is an animal without built-in means for self-defense; one has to learn various skills or to use devices in order to provide defense, be it for protection from animals or in competing humans, but essentially for proclaimed self-interests. From here, it is a small step to see the formation of groups of like-minded individuals to a tribe and the eventual formation of tribes into a state. Whereto this can lead will be obvious.
From the perspective of Self (one's real nature) there is nothing to defend as Self is all. Self is invincible as there is no one to
ever conquer it; it cannot be harmed in any way. Ahimsa is non-violence from this perspective too; it is one of power.
The Princess and the Pea, and other writings on Ahimsa
I have a confession to make to you.
Do you remember the 'fairy tale' of the 'princess and the pea'?
In that fine illustrative tale, the princess could not sleep, for there was
a tiny pea under her mattress.
That tiny pea formed a 'lump' which disturbed the exquisitely sensitive
princess; so disturbed, she was deprived of sleep.
Her courtiers and servants, thinking to help her, heaped more mattresses
upon her bed, hoping to ameliorate the disturbing lump, but to no avail.
The princess could not sleep, even with fifty (50) mattresses between her
and the lump-causing pea.
Finally, a prince who was in love with the princess, correctly diagnosed
the situation. He simply removed the pea, thus resolving the dilemma of the
insomniac princess. She of course, was deeply gratefull, and no doubt
invited him to share her now-comfortable bed, as a reward for his acumen
I offer this story to illustrate my own dilemma here, in our ongoing
discussion of Ahimsa.
No heaping of padding, no great number of mattresses, is capable of
ameliorating my discomfort.
Further, there is no hypnotic or sedative drug, no self-hypnotic saying, no
doctrine or for that matter, any rationalization whatsoever, which is
capable of quelling my discomfort. No aphorisms, slogans, or witticisms can
defer my awareness. I am indeed, exquisitely sensitive, and make no
apologies for how I am Being. I am unable to rest, as long as the pea is
My own 'remedy' for this "dilemma" is rather different that that offered in
the fairy-tale. My way is to water and fertilize the pea, to allow it to
grow into the full and mature plant which is contained in the seed.
In my own life of discovery and realization, such 'peas' are not to be
ignored. I have found a great and very real danger (to myself) in any act
which is ignoring any irritant. That I regularly clear myself of all
irritants, allows any irritant which enters or appears, to be immediately
seen and recognized; it is my openess and emptiness which allows any
irritant to be center-stage, alone and in the spotlight of awareness. It is
in the recognition of what that irritant is, that I am able to see and
manage the events surrounding the advent of that irritant.
I have, in my life, carried a veritable garden of growing and full-grown
pea-plants. I have not only tolerated them, but have made space for them
within myself; this is the garden of other. Yes, rather than reject the
peas which have been implanted in me by other, rather than apply any
broad-spectrum herbicide (such as 'roundup') to relieve myself of the
irritating presence of those (seemingly foreign) seeds, I allow them to
grow to maturity within me. It is then, that I may be successful in the
self-assigned task of knowing the actual nature of each and every pea which
I find within myself.
"By their fruits, ye shall know them"; meaning, that I see how I can
transmit to others, seeds of what grows within myself. It is in the very
conscious and deliberate withholding of those seed of irritation, which is
Ahimsa. Which is why it is said:
"Criticise not the mote in the eye of your neighbor, before removing the
log from your own eye".
I will share that in my reality, there is no exception from Ahimsa, none
whatsoever. No excuses are accepted. There is no balm for my irritation, no
anesthetic for my senses. I live in a state of constant sharing with my
living environment; every bit of information, no matter how tiny, receives
the full attention of my awareness, as it passes through me. In this, I
know well that each other is exactly like me in that regard, different only
to the degree which one honors one's own nature, that of exquisite
As exquisitely sensitive Beings, we are always aware of each and every
nuance of Being. No moment goes unnoticed; each impression is catalogued,
and as each catalogue swells with maturity, wisdom is thus born. The
catalogues are those plants which I mention; each plant allowed to grow to
maturity, reveals its nature, especially by the seeds that it drops as it
Some of our inner growths have a toxic nature, and are thus irritants;
Ahimsa is the empathic decision made, to avoid transmitting such toxic
seeds to others. There is no exception to this; if we conserve a supply of
toxics, it is the highest responsibility to avoid implanting others with
our own (received) irritants.
It is widely acknowedged that it is common human nature to assume the
purity of oneself; this is referred to as 'self-esteem driven
compensation'. One who assumes their own purity, will thus feel no
responsibility in the act of transmitting irritants to others, for how can
one who is pure, possibly transmit what is impure?
The concept of 'Ahimsa' acknowledges what is stated (and usually
misunderstood) in the Christian dictum of the 'born sinner' or 'original
sin'. Far from being a condemnation of human nature, the doctrine of
'original sin' is identical to that of Ahimsa; it is an illustration of how
we may consciously and deliberately avoid the trap of assumed purity, thus
to conserve our harmful impulses. It is that simple.
I could stop here, but I feel compelled to mention one more cogent point.
It is the vaunted goal of purity which is the primary irritant. This
supposedly attainable goal, as an irritant, abrogates the responsibilty
which is Ahimsa. It is the implantation of that irritant, that of attaining
purity, which is the seed of seeking and attainment, to which we so often
refer in our discussions of nonduality. The seed of seeking and attaining
of purity, is what makes one impure.
Purity is defined only in world-dream (samsaric) terms; thus, one seeking
(or assuming the attaining of) purity, will use the contrast of harm,
killing, torturing, exploiting of others, as the basis for measuring
relative purity. In this ongoing measuring process, which is the seeking we
so often refer to, one is judged by ones abstention from the samsaric acts
which are defined as 'impure'. It is this seeking of purity which is itself
the essence of the 'satan' who is called the 'father of lies'. The chief
lie, the seed of all lies, is the assumption of purity.
"All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God".
Thus, it is the young child, faced with samsaric versions of pure and
impure, who takes up the greatest lie as the greatest truth, and who then
unwittingly transmits the seeds of 'purity' to others. Those seeds of
'purity' are the very irritants which cause the 'contraction' referred to
by Adi Da/Da Free John; those seeds of 'purity' are the very irritants
which one lives in suffering to escape. It is the idea of purity, scaled in
samsaric terms, which is what begins the search, the seeking, and
promulgates the illusion of attainment.
Driven by this early implantation of the great lie, one then moves forward,
with a certainty of judgement which is an automatic replacement for
sensitivity; the samsaric version of 'purity', like a mirage of water on
the desert, draws those who thirst for righteousness, but the drink is of
hot and dry sand only.
It is the awakening from the trance of seeking and attainment which is the
event of realization of self-nature; it is the seeing of the lie, and our
universal vulnerability to the lie, which reveals the very nature of our
true and sacred imperfection. It is in this moment of self-realization,
that perfection is truely known.
I am certainly an advocate of 'non-violence', but I am much
more of an
advocate of _non-harm_.
In my years of reading and study, I have not seen Ahimsa defined as
'nonviolence', but instead as a deliberate way of opening oneself
empathically to the nature and thus needs of others, be they human or
'Nonviolence' is to me, a definition which allows the harms which are
perhaps more subtle and less obvious than overt violence.
It is easy (for me at least) to decline the impulse to perform overt
violence; there are very obvious civil and conscience-based penalties
reaped by overt violence, not to mention the pain I feel in myself if I do
commit a violent act (even toward an object) which is a 'violation' of
Do you get my point here? I am still going by my learned usage of the word
'Ahimsa'... nonharm, not nonviolence. I think that nonviolence is a
catagory of its own, certainly subsumed by Ahimsa, but still a specific
Does sarcasm, making fun of another, touting superior knowledge to produce
feelings of embarassment in another, etc etc, fall (critically) into the
catagory of nonviolence, or the catagory of Ahimsa?
Indeed, careless usage of language while attempting to convey 'truth' can
'cause harm', as we well know.
If we limit Ahimsa to nonviolence, what of the myriad means of harm that
are not _seen or understood_ as violence?
An example of subtle harm is lying, either to oneself or to another. The
harm is to oneself, and that is an abridgment of the Ahimsa principle. One
who is sensitive, will immediately feel the harm of lying, and realize that
such harm is damaging, although usually such is ignored. It is that sort of
subtle harm that I refer to, which I believe the precepts of Ahimsa were
designed to reveal and thus prevent.
Of course, if I see Ahimsa as an external set of rules to follow, rather
than experiencing Ahimsa as a naturally occuring event within myself,
trouble will arise; interpretations, judgements of one by another,
condemnations, isolation, etc.
For me, Ahimsa is the remedy for all of these ills, but I fear that for
others, Ahimsa is yet another expectation to fulfill, another bar to
hurdle, another mask to wear.
Righteousness says that losers can lose their pain, by
conforming to the
ideal. Nondualism (sic) purports no ideals but the ideals of the nondual;
therfore, all nonconformists (to the putative standards of nondualism) are
losers. That is why the spate of nondual realizers doing the circuit; the
language of the winner is unmistakable, being the manifestion of grace and
surity. But there is a pitfall waiting for those whose self-congratulation
would take their eyes off of the path for an instant; pride goeth before a
fall. Righteousness is that pride.
You might be recognizing that there is an ironbound algebra within
linguistics/languaging; it is so. Ironically, those who conform to that
esoteric algebra, (as revealed by L Wittgenstein, for example, or
Korzybski), find easy exit from the world-dream. The lie is revealed by the
twisting of words to conform to the need to escape the discomfort of Being.
That is called 'dissociation' and is the root of the separation which we so
often refer to.
'Existential angst' is less a prescription for spirituality, than for
awakening to the slyness which characterizes the one who is attached to
winning. That one who would win, sacrifices Ahimsa; that sacrifice is the
archetypal crucifixion of the flesh at the crossroads of Being and doing.
Who is that one?
Gene Poole's Home Page
Ahimsa is Stillness. It is Stillness
in Movement. It cannot be
captured and owned and defined, although it might be useful to
do it at many levels. TG put her finger on it. Ahimsa can be
felt as Peace. Peace with one's nature. It can
be felt as Clarity. Clarity with one's own purity.
>Here is a nice quote i like from
Morehi Uyeshiba at:
>" When an enemy tries to fight with me, the universe itself, he has to
>break the harmony of the universe. Hence at the moment he has the mind
>to fight with me, he is already defeated. There exists no measure of
>time -- fast or slow."
>Is there "someone" who kills the living cells of your body?
Not to one who has realized the nondual perspective. But if there is
duality, there is karma. If there is duality, there is someone there to
kill or injure, and something to kill or be injured. When there is no
duality, there cannot be karma. Ahimsa then arises as naturally as breathing.
>From: "Linda Callanan"
>I had reason today to go to the Sanskrit dictionary and look up the meaning
>of 'ahimsa'. The official definition of this Sanskrit word is
>"Harmlessness, abstaining from killing or giving pain to others in thought,
>word or deed".
>One can take this concept to great lengths if he chooses to do so. Guess
>there is more to it than simply not eating a Big Mac :).
That could only be true. It's especially interesting to look at the idea
of Ahimsa as related to thought and word (deed seems more self-evident).
Those who feel they have enemies and think of them coming to harm are
violating the principle of Ahimsa. Those who simply make a cutting remark
that causes hurt to another are violating the principle of Ahimsa. He who
swears at another driver, calling him or her an idiot, while in an
automobile, is violating the principle of Ahimsa. He who harbors even a
single harmful thought toward another is violating the principle of Ahimsa.
And why not? We are all One in the Absolute, thus he who harms another
harms himself. There is no concept of evil at all in nonduality, only
ignorance. Thus, if one being is more ignorant than another, why does that
being deserve our scorn? Perhaps at some time, in some incarnation we were
cockroaches infesting a building. Perhaps we were stepped on and crushed
for the simple reason that we wished to survive in whatever way we could.
All beings are trying to survive as best they can. Shall we then step upon
them for that simple divine urge to live as well as they know how?
Tonight a spider crawled across my bare foot.
I looked down, and my first reaction was revulsion--
Just a momentary reaction before I grasped it at the root,
and plucked this reaction out before it flowered,
and remembered... Ahimsa... not of the mind, but of the Heart.
All in the space of an instant, almost timelessly.
And I looked at the spider, now crawling elsewhere,
and thanked it for the gentle, whispering caress
of its legs across my foot...
and wished it well.
You passed the test.
My spider test
If a damn spider
crawls on my foot
and shaking it off
to go find the biggest shoe
I can find to smush it to
so it never gets near me again.
Ahimsa doesn't include
creepy crawly spiders
in my book.
That they really do not exist
(even with the help of a shoe)
is what gives me peace.
The official Ahimsa FAQ (Frequently
Keeper of the FAQ: Tim Gerchmez ([email protected])
Contributors: <None yet>
Date Released: 29 June, 1999
All contributions for this FAQ should be directed to the keeper
([email protected]), who may or may not include them according to
the relevance of the contribution to the topic at hand.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
(1) What is Ahimsa?
(2) What are the benefits of practicing Ahimsa?
(3) Do I really need to "go all the way?"
(1) What is Ahimsa?
Ahimsa is commonly defined as "nonviolence," but this single word does not
do the concept justice. Ahimsa is a spiritual "moral" precept or principle
defined as "harmlessness, abstaining from killing or giving pain to others
in thought, word or deed".
It should be noted that Ahimsa is usually considered the abstention of
*conscious* or *purposeful* harm (depending on who is asked). Accidental
harm is not necessarily included in the definition of Ahimsa. After all,
who can avoid something that is purely an accident? If you run over an
animal with your automobile because that animal dashed out into the street
before you could stop, you had no control over it. But it would be best to
stop the car, get out and say a prayer for that animal's Atman (soul) that
it may be guided to a higher physical and spiritual position in its next
life. The body should be buried or burned, not left rotting in the road.
The owner, if possible, should be located and apologized to, empathized
with, for perhaps that owner deeply loved the animal who ran under your car.
What is meant by "others?" This is a good question. Usually this applies
to living beings (humans, animals or plants). But "others" can be greater
in scope, as for example:
* Pouring automobile oil down the drain would be a "violation" of Ahimsa,
because this causes harm to the environment in general.
* Unnecessary waste and squandering of the Earth's natural resources in any
way could be included in the precept of Ahimsa.
* Some even include the eating of meat as a violation of Ahimsa, because
they feel those who eat meat are participating in the violence done to the
animal. This is up to the conscience of the individual. I say that any
self-righteous vegetarians or vegans should know that plants are also
"others" in a very real sense, and so the same imperative might apply to
them as applies to the meat-eater. And they should note that having a
self-righteous attitude when dealing with another, that causes that person
any sense of pain, is a "violation" of Ahimsa in itself.
It should be noted that "thought" and "word" are just as important as
"deed" when defining Ahimsa. Thinking negative thoughts toward an enemy
(or friend), speaking harshly without concern for another's feelings
(unless that speech is intended for the highest good of the "other,"
causing temporary pain but long-term blessing), these things are *equally*
as important as nonharm in a physical sense. In fact, they ultimately may
be *more* important.
In the "enlightened" or "realized" being, Ahimsa springs forth naturally
and needs no practice. But for the rest of us, it must be consciously
practiced (see "What are the benefits of practicing Ahimsa?").
(2) What are the benefits of practicing Ahimsa?
The benefits of practicing Ahimsa are a thousand-fold. The conscious
practice of Ahimsa lessens "negative" karma and increases "positive" karma.
It also purifies the mind, creating over time a loving and compassionate
heart and mind, and makes it easier to see one's own true nature as being
At-One with the world, the Universe, and 'higher' realms of consciousness.
Those who make a determined, conscious practice of Ahimsa will reap the
most positive benefits imaginable. For some, Ahimsa comes naturally, while
others must "really work at it." If you practice Ahimsa, you will never be
disappointed, because all sorts of blessings will come your way, some in
the most unexpected form.
(3) Do I really need to "go all the way?"
Of course not. ANY movement in the direction of Ahimsa is positive and is
never wasted. You can start by trying to understand why insects and bugs
should not be swatted, but released outside (or if this is impossible,
simply left alone). Even an insect has a right to life, as much of a right
as you do. It has the right to obey its natural imperatives and live out a
normal life cycle. You do not have the right to kill it. "Thou Shalt Not
Kill." If you do so, you are a murderer. Cultivate such thoughts, and
begin with the non-harm of insects. You don't have to share this with any
of your friends, if it feels embarrassing. Just don't kill any living
thing - period.
As you begin this way, even this will purify your heart. Extend that
feeling of love, of non-harm to all living beings, and eventually ALL
THINGS, living or nonliving, and the principle will grow within you.
Leo Tolstoy on the Law of Love;
"A Christian does not quarrel with any
one, does not attack any one, nor use violence
against one; on the contrary, he himself without murmuring
bears violence; but by this very relation to violence he not only
frees himself, but also the world from external power. "
" War is so unjust and ugly that all who
wage it must try to stifle the voice of conscience within
"The evil committed by man not only weakens
his soul and deprives him of true happiness,
but more often than not
falls back on the one who commits it."
"Eventually institutional violence will
disappear, not as a result of external action,
but thanks only to the calls of conscience
of men who have awakened to the truth."
"Every man, in refusing to take part in
military service or to pay taxes to a government
which uses them for military purposes,
is, by this refusal, rendering a great service to
God and man, for he is thereby making use of the most
efficacious means of furthering the progressive movement of
mankind toward that better social order which it is
striving after and must eventually attain."
Tolstoy explains how not resisting evil with evil is the way to
eliminate evil altogether;
It alone makes it possible to tear the evil out by the root, both
out of one's own heart and out of the
neighbor's heart. This doctrine forbids doing that by which evil is
perpetuated and multiplied. He who
attacks another and insults him, engenders in another the sentiment
of hatred, the root of all evil. To
offend another, because he offended us, for the specious reason of
removing an evil, means to repeat
an evil deed, both against him and against ourselves.
As I look around me at the high
school shootings, bombings of
embassies.....etc. I can't actually avoid looking at Ahimsa. The state of
the world is obviously a manifestation of the current level of consciousness
and I believe that until we raise the level of consciousness war and
violence will continue. However, non-violence needs to occur in thought and
word as well as actions. Lately, I've become very aware of how often one
does not even practice ahimsa towards one's self. This is something I've
become very aware of lately as I watch friends, family, students and
clients deal with the challenges of their lives. A job is lost and one
person will go from feeling hostility and anger towards his boss to berating
himself for a decision or action of the past that contributed to the
situation. A relationship ends and from anger at the other person he then
moves into thought or action towards himself....for example being angry at
himself for loving someone who did not love back or choosing to avoid pain
by drinking or overplaying and hurting his physical body.
Becoming aware of self-violence in thought and word leads me to realize just
how conscious we all need to be on every level of life if we are to truly
practice ahimsa. I've heard that there are some who believe that had Gandhi
truly mastered ahimsa he would not have been shot. I do not necessarily
agree with that as it is just as possible that he chose to allow himself to
be shot to deflect some violence or to stage a lesson. However, either way
one looks at it there are many levels to true ahimsa and we need to not jump
to a conclusion that because we are not physically or verbally violent we
have mastered ahimsa. Like so much else it starts with one level of
understanding and continues to move and evolve but it is also an important
journey to take if we want to affect the world in a positive manner.
It's important to realize that
nonviolence is the natural state of Humans. Before 10,000 years ago, we lived in
harmony with each other and nature, and there was no violence beyond the occasional
chemically/genetically insane person. Most of the time, everywhere on Earth, folks
are not violent or even angry. Humans get along well, and individually, most are
very much reverent about nature as well. Humanity, however, have our minds filled
with what I call social algorithms, which are designed to prevent us from thinking
outside certain perimeters. This is reinforced by the media's concentration upon
negative news, that is the exception to the peace, which is brought to us from all
over the world. A few million are violent, and 6 billion are not, yet we hear of
the few million. This reinforces the social algorithms, which are powered by stress
The path of ahimsa is the path of becoming aware of these social algorithms and
choosing to see them and beyond them. The object is not to overcome the ego, but to
see beyond it. Only the ego holds these social algorithms, and to see beyond the
ego is to find the essence of ahimsa. Once this vision is gained, the ego is no
longer a problem, and it's intense conflict and confusion fades naturally. To see
beyond the ego is to discover our Real Self, from which intuition, compassion,
telepathy, empathy, true understanding, comprehension, and gestalt thought, among
other natural abilities, comes from.
Ahimsa is not a religion... It is a
way of life
By - Clare Rosenfield and Linda Segall
We live in a spendthrift universe of continuous giving. Everywhere the sun is radiating its warmth and light. The very breath of life is carried to us upon the air and wind. Clouds and oceans follow the same law to shower upon us their precious waters. Earth cultivates all manner of vegetation from which grain and fruit sprout forth. Our bodies are molded of all these gifts.
What are we giving back to this all providing universe? Where there is abundance in our lives, are we sharing it or taking more than our share? Though we are receiving of its bounty, are we allowing ignorance, fear, apathy, or ego to blind us to the generous heart of our earth? Are we saturating the atmosphere, the seas, and the land with deadly wastes and pollutant? How long will mother nature continue to bear with our ingratitude?
When blood soaks the land, we label it enemy blood or friend blood, locking up or letting loose our emotions accordingly. In the same way, when the throats of helpless creatures are cut, human minds categorize, rationalize, and explain, cutting hearts off from natural compassion. Where has our human capacity for feeling and empathy gone?
Short though it is, our time on this planet can be valuable and meaningful, if we choose to discover and live by the laws of life. War, butchering, and all kinds of killing are abominations, antithetical to life. When we live in the cocoon of possessiveness, resentment, or cold heartened intellect, we support, whether we mean to or not, the machines of power and domination, exploitation and killing. We become accomplices in the large-scale destruction of billions of other human and non human lives who, like us, are equally eager to grow, fulfill their needs, and bring their lives to fruition.
What we need is a new dimension of thinking, a new directive for living. We need to perceive all planetary life as one interdependent family from which no living being is excluded. We need to experience the plight and pain of all living beings as if it were our own. Indeed, the pain of others is our own, for the consequences of neglect and apathy cannot be long in coming our way.
Such a philosophy and practice does exist. Known as Jainism, it originated thousands of years ago in prehistoric India and was transmitted by twenty-four exemplary individuals who left the well-worn ruts of thinking to discover the causes and cures of violence, greed, dogmatism, and war in the human psyche and in the world. Beginning with Adinatha (or Rushabhadeva) and ending with Mahavira (or Vardhamana) who lived from 599-527 B.C., each enlightened master or Jina rediscovered the immortal laws of life, placing Ahimsa or nonviolence first and foremost among them.
Mahavira matured his consciousness during twelve and a half years of silence, meditation, and fasting practices. The insights he shared during the next thirty years were gathered into forty-five books known as Agamas. Thanks to them, the heart of Jainism has been preserved. In one of the sutras, he spoke of Ahimsa in this way:
Unless we live with non-violence and reverence for all living beings in our hearts, all our humaneness and acts of goodness, all our vows, virtues, and knowledge, all our practices to give up greed and acquisitiveness are meaningless end useless.
Jains come from all faiths and all ethnic groups. What they have in common is the guiding of their lives my Reverence for All Life, a principle which includes pacifism and vegetarianism. Jains have been unique in the history of mankind in never having condoned war, the caste system, animal sacrifice, and the killing of animals for food, clothing, or any reason. As conscientious objectors, Jains relieve that anyone who would not harm an animal would be equally unwilling to shoot his fellow man. The Indian government respects this, and the four million Jains living in India today and thousands more living abroad are exempted from the draft.
Attesting to this rare heritage, American scientist Carl Sagan said in a Time Magazine, Oct. 2O, 198O interview: There is no right to life in any society on earth today, nor his there been it any former time with a few rare exceptions, such us among the Jains of India. We raise farm animals for slaughter, destroy forests, pollute rivers and lakes until no fish can live there, hunt deer and elk for sport...
Mahatma Gandhi acknowledged the powerful impact the Jain philosophy of Ahimsa had upon his personal and political decisions. His example inspired pacifists around the world, including the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
For generations, Jain teachings have teen transmitted from master to disciple. Present day philosopher, teacher, and spiritual leader, Pujya Shree Chitrabhanu, is now making this ancient philosophy available to a large number of people in countries beyond the borders of India. In his youth, after working with Gandhi for the freedom of India, he decided to become a Jain monk. Under the guidance of his master, he used the first five year for silence, meditation, and study. Leading the itinerant life, he covered thousands of miles on his bare feet, and in twenty eight years as a monk, became a beloved figure to his countrymen. Through talks in villages and towns, he inspired people to experience the miracle of their life and to lift their vision to a global purpose.
A contemplative who believes in translating humanitarian dreams into action, Shree Chitrabhanu founded (in 1964,) the Divine Knowledge Society in Bombay where he initiated social welfare projects, disaster relief work, animal shelters, and children's homes. He and his colleagues brought about an agreement with the legislators and butchers of Bombay to close the slaughterhouses each year on eight holy days celebrated my people of all faiths. In visits to Kenya, he has inspired the Indian community to raise funds to help fellow Africans who are handicapped and crippled, and those suffering from eye ailments. They opened free clinics and eye camps where volunteer Indian doctors removed cataracts from people who had relieved themselves incurably blind.
Through talks, books, and meditation centers, Shree Chitrabhanu is helping people worldwide to appreciate the sanctity of all life and to uproot the causes of war. For the sake of our children and all of planetary life, we seek to create a new dawn in human consciousness. We want to bequeath to all not only a planet and ecosystem free from man made suffering, bloodshed, and war, rut also the positive legacy of Reverence for All Life. It is our hope that this series of questions and answers will add to the momentum for peace in the world and contribute to it the clarity and harmony of the Jain approach.
David Frawley, the author, is a
gifted and respected writer of many books
and articles dealing with Ayurveda, Hinduism, and Vedic astrology.
Himsa and Ahimsa: The Need for a New Policy of
In spite of modern Gandhian stereotypes the
classical Hindu way to deal with Rakshasas and
Asuras (people of egoistic or violent
temperament) was never simply ahimsa. It could in
fact be quite aggressive. Ahimsa in the sense of
absolute non-violence is a sattvic or deva dharma
for people of devic or refined temperament. With
gentle people you have no need or right to be
However, when dealing with hostile and violent
opponents a completely different response is
required. Asuras require the danda (punishment).
Let us not forget the many epic and Puranic
stories in which Gods, Goddesses or Avatars
fought and defeated the Asuras or Asuric human
beings. Whether it is the Goddess and
Mahishasura, Rama and Ravana, or Skanda and
Taraka, there is not a single instance in which
the Asuras were simply forgiven and allowed to go
their own way without punishment. Let us also not
forget how the Mahabharata extols the use of the
danda for social harmony and justice.
There is only one way to really deal with Asuric
people, which is to make them feel pain. As
Asuric types have a materialistic consciousness,
this pain must be of a material type, pain to
their bodies, to their homes and to their
possessions. It must be a pain where they live.
Asuric types are immune to platitudes or to any
kind of moralistic guilt, hardened as they are by
their own drives and compulsions.
Once Asuric types have committed a transgression
they must be strongly punished or they will cause
harm again. Merely to let them go or to have them
say that they are sorry means nothing. Asuric
types will take it as weakness and just plot a
new attack. They are quite capable of deception
or false sentiment to further their cause.
The main recent Hindu way has been to deal with
hostile invaders by simply forgiving them and
allowing them to go back home if they are
defeated. Hindu enemies therefore don't have much
to worry about. If they win, they get what they
want and can ruthlessly promote their agenda. If
they are defeated they have nothing worse to fear
than returning from whence they came without any
real punishment. They can then regroup and attack
again, having gained much experience by their
Such a prescription only encourages repeated
attacks until the enemy finally wins. One is
reminded of the example of Prithivi Raj Chauhan
in the twelfth century who repeatedly defeated
Mohammed Ghauri, who invaded India from
Afghanistan. Each time he defeated Ghauri, he
forgave him and sent him home. Yet when Ghauri
finally won he killed Prithivi Raj and started a
reign of terror in India. One should consider how
much respect and honor Ghauri offered to Prithivi
Raj for being forgiven so chivalrously so often.
All such forgiving souls will similarly become
dead meat for such Asuric invaders, once they are
able to win. And if one allows them to attack
again and again, they will eventually win, just
by the law of chance. One victory is all they
need. They will forgive no one and use all
possible force and intimidation, including every
sort of ethnic cleansing, to get their way - and
all with no sympathy to the kind people who once
defeated them and treated them with forgiveness.
Most modern Hindus, including prominent leaders
like Mahatma Gandhi, have failed to understand
Asuric aggression, particularly if it takes a
religious garb, which Islam and Christianity have
often been the pretext for, in their military and
missionary assaults to convert the world. Hindus
have tried to compromise with such aggression,
placate it or moralize it into peace. Not
surprisingly their policy has failed, like
letting a tumor spread to avoid the necessary
violence required to cut it out. Eventually the
patient himself dies. Those Hindus like Sri
Aurobindo who raised a contrary voice were
ignored. Their prediction that such a policy
would lead to partition, division and calamity
for Hindus was similarly forgotten once it turned
out to be true.
The Gandhian pity not only for the victims of
violence but also for the perpetrators of
violence must come to an end. Perpetrators of
violence are not victims, nor should we classify
them along with them. Such pity for the violent
is one of the most debilitating and confusing of
all emotions, and is the very sentiment that
Krishna strove to uproot out of Arjuna in the
Bhagavad Gita. Pity or compassion for the
perpetrators of violence only sanctions that
violence and causes further pain to the victims.
It denies the responsibility that goes with the
law of karma. Only when we make people
responsible for their actions can they grow and
become more humane. To excuse those who are
violent under the pretext of non-violence is only
to excuse violence. While compassion for the
victims of violence is in order, the perpetrators
of violence must be handled in a different way,
so as to ensure that they don't strike again.
Otherwise we are only abetting their crimes.
Perpetrators of violence always like to play the
victim anyway, because it justifies their
aggression. To treat them as if they were also
victims only makes them feel right in the harm
that they have already done and encourages them
to do more. One who attacks other people in the
name of religion is not a martyr but a criminal
intruder, in spite of what some misguided
religious leaders may say. A religious teaching
that extols such violence is not something
spiritual but an Asuric dharma. Many Hindus have
been murdered by such so-called martyrs.
Terrorists who have indulged in killing innocent
civilians, including torture and rape, have no
real conscience anyway. They have already killed
innocent victims who were offering them no
violent resistance. Their action has already
rejected ahimsa. Why should they honor the ahimsa
of those who capture them? Political and
religious terrorists are also warped by an
ideology that says that it is right for them to
attack and destroy those of different beliefs,
even ruthlessly. Until that ideological belief is
changed such terrorists will continue in their
brutality, however many times you forgive them.
In addition violent actions create powerful
samskaras in the mind that are hard to overcome.
Like a dog that first tastes blood, once that
taste for violence occurs, the perpetrator will
go after it again and again. While one can try to
rehabilitate criminals one must be realistic
about how much success is really possible in this
regard. Obviously if one offers a criminal or a
terrorist the choice of saying that they are
sorry or of getting punished, they will choose to
say that they are sorry in order to avoid the
pain of punishment. Such apologies and promises
of forgiveness mean nothing. The same thing
occurs in dealing with terrorist countries.
While one could possibly argue the need for
compassion for individual criminals who are
victims of oppressive social orders and represent
isolated cases, one cannot argue the same
compassion for terrorist groups or for terrorist
nations, which represent organized attacks.
Compassion for inimical nations and the
separatist movements that they incite will not do
a national defense policy, unless a nation wants
In this regard we should remember Pakistan's
recent signing of the Lahore declaration
proclaiming peace, while at the same time
preparing for the massive attack on India via
Kargil. This is how aggressive groups work when
faced with what they perceive as a weak form of
ahimsa: give lip service to peace to encourage
their enemies to weaken their defenses, and then
attack with impunity.
True ahimsa means reducing the amount of harm in
the world. This may require violent action
against the perpetrators of harm. One must not
only defeat the enemy but also take away their
weapons and insure that they cannot attack again.
Once must cut off the roots of violence where the
enemy lives. One doesn't merely send a scorpion
back to its nest after it bites you. One has to
remove its stinger.
Modern Hindus must once again proudly honor himsa
or a policy of harming the enemy, and the danda
or a policy of strict punishment for those who
use force to attack them. This is not to promote
unnecessary violence but to prevent violence from
spreading or being abetted. The same policy
should extend to all spheres of current cultural
Those who use a verbal assault against Hindus,
like the Christian missionaries, must similarly
be dealt with through the weapon of speech. Vak
is the Danda of the Brahmins, as the Mahabharata
says. Hindus should challenge missionaries to
debate and promote forums and publications to
expose their intolerant agendas. Until they feel
pain for their aggression against Hindus, the
missionaries will not stop. You can be certain of
that, all talk of religious tolerance to the
contrary. This doesn't mean physically assaulting
missionaries but it does mean subjecting them to
scrutiny and criticism of a rigorous nature,
exposing their dogmatism and exclusivism as much
Hindus must learn how to use the courts and bring
legal suits against their denigrators, not only
in India but also in the West. The legal danda is
very important in the world today and has been
the key to many social changes. Hindus must learn
how to use the weapons of the media as well,
presenting cases, information and programs that
promote their point of view and strongly
challenging media distortions.
They must attack their enemies on the level where
their enemies really feel and with the weapons of
the age. Some metaphysical moralistic high
ground, such as many Hindus like to take, will
not do but is only escapism, though Hindus should
continue to practice rituals, prayers, mantras
and meditations for peace but not to the
exclusion of more direct forms of action in the
The Gods always worked to drive the Asuras from
this world and send them back to the netherworld.
They never accepted a compromise in which the
Asuras were given some portion of this world in
exchange for a promise to live in peace.
It is time for the Devas to go on a new offense
and to take up again their many weapons on all
© Sword of Truth, 1999 All rights reserved.