Ahimsa (Non-Violence) means complete restraint from causing any pain or harm whatsoever to any living creature, either by thought, word, or deed. Most people think of ahimsa as not causing physical injury. But what we conveniently forget is that it includes our thoughts and words as well. For example, showing contempt towards others, thereby, hurting their self esteem is a form of violence. Backbiting is another. Even, not relieving someone of their pain can be considered as brutality.
In India, from a very small age, children are taught by the parents and the society that ahimsa is a virtue. The literature has numerous incidents portraying ahimsa as a tenet of the noble and the able. It is, indeed, an essential aspect of a peaceful world. However, is the modern world peaceful? When countries fight for wealth, when politics is concerned with mere power, when the value of the lives of millions of people is crouched in comparison with the value of that one person‘s comfort, is ahimsa a desirable ingredient? If the answer is no, should children be taught ahimsa? Should adults practice ahimsa? Should the country follow ahimsa?
Take daily life. Inside a family, it is best to follow ahimsa. Why? Because mutual love and trust are the basic building blocks of it. Violence, both physical and mental, breaks the institution of a family as it shakes the fundamentals elements. Let us point out, once again, what these elements are – mutual love and trust (with the word ‘mutual’ italicized). So, when you find yourself in a situation which doesn’t have the ‘mutual’ factor, what should you do?
The word ‘ahimsa’ reminds of Mahatma Gandhi to most of us. Though he is known as the father of the Indian nation, people, worldwide, know him for his philosophy of non-violence. There are lots of books and websites describing his preaching on the topic. What I would like to draw your attention to, is this particular piece of advice he offers women. He says, “When a man tries to abduct you, I would not exhort you to follow ahimsa. At that time, I would encourage you to follow violence. You could use any weapon to recover yourself from the barbarian. If you do not have any weapon by your side, you could use the nails and teeth given to you by nature. Murder or suicide that you commit at that moment is not considered unethical”. Thus, we can see that the father of non-violence, himself, encourages violence at appropriate times.
As already said, ahimsa is not restricted to physical violence; the thoughts to sabotage others and the words aimed to torture them are also considered as violence. Take the key characters, Saguni and Krishna, of the epic Mahabharata. Saguni is portrayed as the mastermind of the bad guys. He uses effective strategies to strengthen his side and weaken his opponents’. What is interesting here is that Krishna uses the same approach of trickery to beat them. He, who preaches spirituality, himself makes tactical plots to win the game. Yet, why is he accepted as an aristocrat? What makes him the mastermind of the good guys? It is the intent. It is the motivation behind the action. Saguni makes offensive plans, while Krishna makes defensive plans. Thus, the epic suggests that violence to destroy others is immorality, while violence to protect oneself is righteousness, as well as, savviness.
Ahimsa is definitely a virtue to be instilled into the next generation in order to make the world a better place. But it is also necessary for us to impart the skills of conspiracy to our descendants. Intelligence is knowing to be diplomatic. Wisdom is being able to choose when to be and when not to be so.