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Ask AI3: What is ahimsa?
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Ashoka was a devotee of ahimsa ( nonviolence ), love, truth, tolerance and vegetarianism.
Avoidance of verbal and physical violence is also a part of this principle, although ahimsa recognizes self-defense when necessary, as a sign of a strong spirit.
Unlike in Hindu and Jain sources, in ancient Buddhist texts ahimsa ( or its Pāli cognate ) is not used as a technical term.
While the term ahimsa is not officially mentioned, one passage in the Rig Veda reads, " Do not harm anything.
The term ahimsa appears in the text Taittiriya Shakha of the Yajurveda ( TS 5. 2. 8. 7 ), where it refers to non-injury to the sacrificer himself.
The ahimsa doctrine is a late development in Brahmanical culture.
The Chāndogya Upaniṣad, dated to the 8th or 7th century BCE, one of the oldest Upanishads, has the earliest evidence for the use of the word ahimsa in the sense familiar in Hinduism ( a code of conduct ).
It bars violence against " all creatures " ( sarvabhuta ) and the practitioner of ahimsa is said to escape from the cycle of metempsychosis ( CU 8. 15. 1 ).
It also names ahimsa as one of five essential virtues ( CU 3. 17. 4 ).
Hence ahimsa as a binding code of conduct implies a ban on hunting, butchery, meat eating, and the use of animal products provided by violent means.
Medical treatises of the Ayurveda discuss and recommend meat from a purely health-related viewpoint without even mentioning the aspect of ahimsa.
Nevertheless the sources show that this compromise between supporters of ahimsa and meat eaters was shaky and hotly disputed.
Even the loopholes – ritual slaughter and hunting – were challenged by advocates of ahimsa.
The Manu Smriti ( 10. 63 ), Chanakya ’ s Arthashastra ( 1. 3. 13 ) and the Vasishtha Dharmasutra ( 4. 4 ) point out that ahimsa is a duty for all the four classes ( Varnas ) of society.
The texts declare that ahimsa should be extended to all forms of life.
They make it clear that criminals are not protected by the rule of ahimsa.
According to some interpretations, the concept of ahimsa as expounded in the scriptures and law books is not meant to imply pacifism ; war is seen as a normal part of life and the natural duty of the warriors.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi | Gandhi promoted the principle of ahimsa very successfully by applying it to all spheres of life, particularly to politics.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, prominent figures of Indian spirituality such as Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, Swami Sivananda and A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami emphasized the importance of ahimsa.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi promoted the principle of ahimsa very successfully by applying it to all spheres of life, particularly to politics ( Swaraj ).
In Gandhi ’ s thought, ahimsa precludes not only the act of inflicting a physical injury, but also mental states like evil thoughts and hatred, unkind behavior such as harsh words, dishonesty and lying, all of which he saw as manifestations of violence incompatible with ahimsa. Gandhi believed ahimsa to be a creative energy force, encompassing all interactions leading one's self to find satya, " Divine Truth ".
Sri Aurobindo criticized the Gandhian concept of ahimsa as unrealistic and not universally applicable ; he adopted a pragmatic non-pacifist position, saying that the justification of violence depends on the specific circumstances of the given situation.
A thorough historical and philosophical study of ahimsa was instrumental in the shaping of Albert Schweitzer's principle of " reverence for life ".

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