Is non-violence out-of-fashion in the 21st century?
London, UK - 13 August 2006 - Mahatma Gandhi said,
"Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is
mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity
of man." Ahinsa is a concept which advocates non-violence and a respect
for all life.
Ahinsa is Sanskrit for avoidance of hinsa, or injury. It is interpreted most
often as meaning peace and reverence toward all sentient beings. Its first
mention in Indian philosophy is found in the Hindu scriptures called the Upanishads,
the oldest dating about 800 BC.
Latterly, Ahinsa was introduced as a political doctrine to the West by Mahatma
Gandhi. Inspired by his actions, Western civil rights movements, led by such
luminaries as Dr Martin Luther King Jr, engaged in non-violent protests. The
more recent popularity of yoga and meditation in the West has also served
to introduce many westerners to Ahinsa and related concepts, at an individual
level. Non-violent Communication, developed by the American Dr Marshall Rosenberg
and practiced and taught around the world, is inspired by Gandhi's example.
Mahatma Gandhi drew many of his concepts of truth, nobility and ethics from
the doctrine of non-violence. Gandhi's concept of life and Ahinsa, which led
to his concept of Satyagraha, or peaceful protest, also stem from his association
with the doctrine of non-violence.
Literally speaking, Ahinsa means non-violence towards life but it has much
higher meaning. It means that you may not offend anybody; you may not harbour
uncharitable thought, even in connection with those who you consider your
enemies. To one who follows this doctrine, there are no enemies. A man who
believes in the efficacy of this doctrine finds in the ultimate stage, when
he is about to reach the goal, the whole world at his feet. If one expresses
love - Ahinsa - in such a manner that it impresses itself indelibly upon one's
so-called enemy, then, according to the doctrine, the recipient must return
This doctrine tells us that we may guard the honour of those under our charge
by delivering our own lives into the hands of the man who would commit the
sacrilege. And that requires far greater courage than delivering of blows.
Ahinsa or non-injury, of course, implies non-killing. But, non-injury is not
merely non-killing. In its comprehensive meaning, Ahinsa or non-injury means
entire abstinence from causing any pain or harm whatsoever to any living creature,
either by thought, word, or deed. Non-injury requires a harmless mind, mouth,
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