Thursday, October 2, 2008

Redefining Ahimsa

Today there is a silent and agonizing cry for peace. I am not talking about the world at large but the situation in India where there is a monumental increase in terrorism and religious intolerance. There is also massacre and destruction of the ecosystem. Last but not the least a total corruption of human values.

Though the origins of the concept of ahimsa are unknown, the earliest references to ahimsa are found in the texts of historical Vedic religion, dated to 8th century BCE. Here, ahimsa initially relates to "non-injury" without a moral connotation, but later to non-violence to animals and then, to all beings. The idea emerges again in the Mahabharata and Manu Smriti, where ahimsa is said to be merited by good Karma.

It is indeed sad that India, the land of advaita and which showed the way to non-violence through its philosophy and the Gandhian path of action, is in this despicable state.

This is the reason that in the twenty first century there needs to be a redefinition of the concept of ahimsa. We are not fighting a foreign enemy or an invader but our struggle is against factors that eschew and perpetuate violence emanating from innumerable, interconnected situations across the globe.

Looking at the concept of ahimsa at the time of Gandhi, I understand ahimsa as the optimum, functional good on the way to ultimate truth, and not as an unconditionally binding law of non-violence on social and political affairs.

The ultimate truth today is that the whole of humanity in an undivided whole and has its beginning about 40,000 years before as Homo Sapiens Sapiens in Africa from where all the six billion people on earth today came (Oxford university has done a ten year extensive research to map the Mitochondria DNA and the Y Chromosome before arriving at this conclusion).This beginning can also be extrapolated to the very cosmic and spiritual origin of all creation. All divisions, of cast and creed, are man made to engineer his own temporal and materialistic self interest. None of the spiritual leaders, Vedic seers, Buddha, Jesus or Mohamed, ever wanted to found a religion. They were out to bring out the divinity in man through how he can fulfil and find meaning to his life.

The violence of today is the brutal separation of man from his true nature. Only the realisation of divine element in all creation through unbounded love can cement this divide.
Hence ahimsa or non violence today has to transcend beyond passive abstinence from physical violence but proactive posture of realising the very source of all humanity and entire ecosystem and an aspiration towards empowerment and nurturing of every element of our milieu.

Love to you all


  1. Dear Sir,

    Well said.
    Ahimsa is the absence of any negativity from within the entire personality.
    When we realize that by harming others we in fact harm our own selves, we can begin to save ourselves from inner as well as outer destruction, and even accelerate the process by actually doing good to and for others, rather than just refraining from doing bad.
    The gift we give comes back to us, and the gift of being able to give love and understanding to others is the greatest gift of all.


  2. ‘Ahimsa’
    No doubt, it requires redefinition to suit the present time.
    From jungle law of ‘survival of the fittest’ it was undergoing many transitions.
    It is being twisted by myopic people to suit their interests.
    It should have been much easier now to convey the message with the aid of all modern communication tools. But on the contrary, nobody has the time to listen or think on such topics!

  3. Venkat,
    Very well put. It is the fabric of cosmic plenum in which every one finds existence snd the interconnectedness is the thing that we need to understand.

  4. Pramod,
    Ahimsa has been politicised to a very great extent both in public life as well as in religionm as a ritualistic practice.
    This is the reason that we need a relook at the concept of ahimsa