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Ahimsa is a Sanskrit term which translates roughly into non-injury to living beings, or dynamic harmlessness Dynamic ahimsa signifies an active inner state of being and not merely a passive state of refraining from violence. Ahimsa is not limited to not hurting another living being. It also includes ridding yourself of contempt towards others, developing dislike or prejudice, frowning, hating or abusing fellow humans, backbiting, vilifying or ruining another man.

Though ahimsa plays an important role in Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and other religions, no religion has given it as much importance as Jainism, where all actions are directed towards avoiding harm to other living beings, whether through physical, verbal, or mental violence.


Why should I be aware of this?

Traditions such as ahimsa are an entirely different way of looking at the world and dealing with the problems and dilemmas that we encounter in everyday life.

Ahimsa is first step towards elimination of man’s beastly nature. Ahimsa means non- violence. But in its more comprehensive meaning it implies abstinence from causing any pain or harm whatsoever to any living creature, either by thought, word, or deed. Ahimsä is is based on love and kindness for all forms of life. It involves abstinence from use of meat, chicken, beef, fish and any other living creature as source of food.

Ahimsa and culture

Earlier practitioners of ahimsa did not even want to plow the land for fear of killing the worms or other small living beings. In the same vein Jains wore face masks to prevent insects flowing into their mouths when they breathed in fresh air.

Ahimsa in Statecraft

There are numerous instances where ahimsa has been used in political struggle and statecraft. The first world leader to put ahimsa in practice in the political and administrative field was Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC.

Gandhi was the most famous proponent of ahimsa in this century. In Gandhian thought ahimsa not only precludes inflicting physical injury but also mental states like evil thoughts, hatred, unkind behavior such as harsh words, dishonesty and lying. To Gandhi ahimsa was not "a resignation from all real fighting.” On the contrary it was a more real fighting “against wickedness than retaliation whose very nature is to increase wickedness."

Later ahimsa got restricted to not causing harm to humans only, and the slaughter of animals was considered acceptable,

Ahimsa in religion

The ahimsa code of conduct among the Hindus prohibits hunting, butchery, meat eating, and the use of animal products provided by violent means. Violence against domestic animals is also barred except for ritual sacrifices, as expressed in the Mahabharata, Bhagavata Purana and the Chandogya Upanishad.

Hindu scriptures, however, support violence in self defense. A king is obliged to punish offenders, even with death.

All about Ahimsa

Ahimsa is a doctrine of peace and equality and involves a respect for all life. Apparently many of us have forgotten the concept of non-violence or peace. There are many attributes to the doctrine of Ahimsa. In fact, the Jainist religion operates on a strictly vegetarian basis, so as not to even induce suffering to animals. In another very interesting ideal, the saints of Jainist religion have actually starved themselves to death, so as not to cause suffering to any life whatsoever in an attempt to further their own.

Ahimsa and violence

Today there are increased instances of violence towards both human and non-human species. Factory farming is probably the most glaring example of human violence towards non-humans. Decades of agitation against battery egg production has yielded no result.

Things were different half a century ago when the farm's trade was 'animal husbandry', their duty being to provide care. With the advent of factory farming, animals are kept in extremely over-crowded conditions and as immobile as possible.

Factory Animals

Factory animals are denied even their most fundamental needs. Caged hens are exposed to artificial light to deceive them into laying more eggs. The hens are de-beaked without the use of painkillers and unwanted male chicks are simply disposed of by gassing or suffocation.

Broiler chicken growth can be artificially hastened with applied science. As a result half of them become crippled or find trouble walking because of their body weight. Newborn calves are separated from their mothers. Many dairy cows are given no more than three months rest between pregnancies and are slaughtered after their calf-bearing years are over to provide cheap hamburger meat. Sows are made to sleep on bare concrete in intensive piggeries and often kept in small crates for their entire lives.


Environment and Earth as One Body

Ahimsa should ultimately be allowed to permeate the whole of our society. Ahimsa encompasses the concept of environment and the earth as one body, and every living thing forms a part of the greater whole.

Ahimsa can also be extended to one’s own self. Our body is where we live and we should avoid harming it with polluting substances. We need to be conscious of our actions and make sure that our choices do not harm our body and psyche. We need to avoid actions which not only have a direct impact on our body but also on our minds.

The vow of Ahimsa

The vow of Ahimsa is broken even by showing contempt towards another man, by entertaining unreasonable dislike for or prejudice towards anybody, by frowning at another man, by hating another man, by abusing another man, by speaking ill of others, by backbiting or vilifying, by harbouring thoughts of hatred, by uttering lies, or by ruining another man in any way whatsoever.

What can I do about it?

Ahimsa, like most things, is practice. There are times when we will falter, feel lazy or distracted. But with practice we are sure to refine our finer qualities and discipline.

Apart from treating our fellow human beings with kindness and care, It will be ideal if we can adopt a vegan lifestyle. You can also stop supporting other industries that thrive on animal exploitation, such as zoos, aquariums, hunting, etc. With few notable exceptions (Keiko, for instance), none of the animals involved get out alive.


  • Ahimsa, animal rights and spirituality
  • The small side of Ahimsa

Additional Information

  • Visit Ahimsa from a brush.