The word "ahimsa"
means harmlessness in Sanskrit, the ancient language of Indian
pundits and perhaps the mother of all Indo European languages.
Harmlessness is the basis of the philosophy of nonviolence
and is supported by a belief in the sanctity of all life, animal
as well as human existence. To live in accordance with this
doctrine, one must practice pacifism and kindness towards all
beings in all kingdoms of Nature.
Ahimsa is a profound philosophy, the one in which
Mahatma Gandhi found the inspiration for passive resistance to
the British occupation of India. This political strategy was
adopted by Civil Rights activists in the United States and opponents
of apartheid in South Africa. People with the courage to oppose
injustice shame adversaries who adopt cruel behaviors to protect
their political and economic interests. While the ahimsa is the
core of the Jain Religion, history has demonstrated that since
virtue holds the moral high ground, it always prevails in any
struggle for peoples' hearts and minds.
Contrary to what some people believe, ahimsa is
the path of moral courage, not cowardice. Granted, anyone guided
by this philosophy must be pacifist. He or she must oppose violence
of all types: war, cruel research on animals, exploitation of
individuals and natural resources. Such persons must be conscientious
objectors. They must oppose abortion as well as the death penalty.
The reason is that all life is given by God the Creator. Thus
regardless of the outrage, the ultimate penalty, death, cannot
be decided by man.
Pacifists must not only walk their talk but refuse
to engage in activities that could incite others to acts of violence.
Therefore, their talk should be peaceful and harmonizing. To
experience peace, it is necessary to offer this peace to others.
One's behavior should not enrage anyone else. One might argue
that while tolerance may be a virtue, compromise where moral
values are concerned is not virtuous. Therefore, ahimsa is a
morally demanding code of conduct that forces us to consider
the effects our actions have on those around us, not merely members
of our family and community, but people with different customs
living in other parts of the world. It forces us to be vegetarians
because it is unacceptable to take life so as to nourish oneself.
There is abundant nutrition in fruits and vegetables and legumes,
and Nature provides fine medicine in the form of herbs and minerals
so there is no need for food or medicine containing animal products,
much less for products based on research that causes suffering
The rules of ahimsa are clear:
- There can be no war.
- There can be no abortion.
- There can be no capital punishment.
- There can be no fish, fowl, or meat in the diet.
- There can be no genetically modified food (because
all these products involve the use of viruses.)
- There can be no use of pesticides because killing
of insects is prohibited.
- There can be no use of hormones derived from
animals if the animal suffered as a result of the process used
to provide the hormones.
- There can be no use of vaccines based on weakened
strains of bacteria or viruses because small as these life
forms are, they are living creatures.
The ramifications of ahimsa are far reaching:
- There will be peace because all conflicts must
be resolved peacefully. This implies that resolutions will
also be fair and amicably settled, i.e., all parties will be
satisfied that the settlement is in the highest interests of
the affected individuals.
- Intimate relationships are likely to be more
harmonious if the precepts of harmlessness are accepted. They
are also likely to be more responsible if abortion is not seen
as a way to terminate pregnancy.
- The criminal justice system will be forced towards
more creative rehabilitation of offenders so that society is
brought into harmony and offenders realize that restitution
will require them to face their victims and accusers and work
through the emotions and losses their crimes caused.
- Nature will be permitted to be natural and to
heal of the poisons put into the air, soil, and water.
- Food will be more wholesome because it is organic.
- People will know themselves because they are
free of the influence of foreign hormones. They will be more
in touch with their feelings and the sensations in their bodies
and better able to function because the distortion caused by
hormones will no longer haunt them.
- The relationship between the animal and human
kingdom will improve and there will be fewer diseases passed
from animals to humans.
- Medicine will have to devote itself to
immune enhancement and healing since destructive methods
of dealing with injuries and disease are not permissible.