May , 2023
Ahimsa in the Sanatana Dharma
15:34 pm

Padma Shri Professor Dr. Ravindra Kumar

The word Ahimsa (non-violence) literally means the absence of Himsa (violence). In other words, the absence of violence or the exact opposite state of violence is non-violence.

What is Himsa –violence? The word Himsa, derived from ‘Hims’ means to strike or assault. Thus, Himsa (violence) is to harm someone. To cause pain to someone or even further to kill someone, i.e., to take someone’s life is Himsa (violence). In the description of violence by the great Samskrit grammarian Acharya Panini, violence appears in terms such as intent or action to cause pain and take life.

Violence is, thus, a great evil. This is a big obstacle in life. That is why; in the First Sukta of the First Mandala of the Rigveda, the foundational scripture of the Sanatana Dharma itself, a prayer has been made to Paramatma, the Creator, the Nurturer, the Master and the Saviour of the universe Who is Himself completely free from the evil of violence, to get humanity free from all kinds of violence. The word ‘Adhvaram’ appears in the Fourth Mantra of the First Sukta of the First Mandala of the Rigveda. It means, “free from the evil of violence”. The basic spirit of this word has, in fact, been expressed in man’s longing in indulging violence-free deeds; for this, Paramatma, the ultimate source of Ahimsa (non-violence) and the great Compassionate Creator of the Universe has been prayed to. May God guide and lead man to attain a state of freedom from violence.

The basic spirit of the word ‘Adhvaram’, along with the essence of the entire Mantra, lies in the embrace of non-violence as opposed to violence. In this, there is a longing to engage in non-violence-based broad welfaristic activities or deeds. There is a strong desire therein to pave the way for greater welfare by establishing mutual co-operation and harmony through forbearance and tolerance, the best practices of non-violence itself, in an environment surcharged with friendliness and active goodwill.

Non-violence, therefore, is continuously found in the successive Mantras of the Mandalas/the Suktas of the Rigveda itself also in the Mantras of the Yajurveda, the Samaveda, the Atharvaveda, in the mentions of the Upanishads, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Shrimadbhagavadgita, which is established as a unique treatise of the Vedic-Hindu Dharma, the Puranas etc. indirectly and directly, both, urging man to embrace non-violence with its basic spirit and following Ahimsa taking it as a highest human Dharma with a sense of duty.

Prayers made through the Mantras of the Rigveda (2: 33: 15/18, 5: 64: 3, 6: 54: 7, 10: 15: 5-6, 10: 121: 9), the Yajurveda (36: 18-19 and 22-23), the Samaveda (1: 1: 9) and the Atharvaveda (19: 15: 5-6, 19: 60: 1-2) very specifically divulge human longing for the freedom from violence, protection and safety from it and, thus, indirectly-directly express man’s wish for natural, the supreme and all-welfaristic value of Ahimsa.

The words mentioned in the Vedic Mantras,Na Hriniishe’ (do not harm or destroy), ‘Ahimsaanasya’ (without violence/non-violent), ‘Maakirneshanmaakiim’ (not to perish /do not destroy), ‘Teavantvasmaan’ ( the protector), ‘Nah Maa Himsishta’ (do not hurt us), ‘Nah Maahimsiit’ (do not kill us),  ‘Mitrasya Chakshushaa’ (with friendly eyes), ‘Jyok Jiivyaasam’ (to live a constant life), ‘Abhayam’ (without fear or fearless), ‘Sumitriyaah’ (equal to a friend), ‘Atharvaa’ (a non-violence-avowed Yogi or a great non-violent),  ‘Mitraat Abhyam’ (free from fear from a friend), ‘Anibhrishta’ (without falling) etc., are the manifestations of the strong human wish to get rid of harmful violent instincts and longing for ever benevolent/welfaristic non-violent activities. These Vedic references confirm non-violence to be a fundamental of the Sanatana Dharma and God Himself is the supreme ideal of Ahimsa. Further, these references, along with divulging the prestige of Ahimsa as the highest human value, reveal in a way or the other that non-violence is the medium or means of physical, mental and spiritual upliftment of human beings as well the best way of greater welfare.

In all other major treatises of the Sanatana Dharma, non-violence has been directly manifested with its basic spirit. In this regard, along with the Chhandogyopanishad, the Kathopanishad, the Mahabharata and the Shrimadbhagavadgita, the manes of many Puranas can be mentioned. In the Kathopanishad (1: 10), non-violence appears in the form of protection from anger, fury, etc. and also the presence of the state of peace. On the other hand, in the Chhandogyopanishad (3: 17: 4) Ahimsa emerges as the highest human virtue. In the Anushasana Parva of the Mahabharata, along with its many superior features, Ahimsa is described as the Dharma in grandeur –the highest duty.

In the Shrimadbhagavadgita (Chapter 10: 5), Ahimsa is (in line with the Fourth Mantra of the First Sukta of the First Mandala of the Rigveda) declared a God-emanated virtue; Ahimsa has been called (chapter 16: 2) a supreme human characteristic.

Yogeshwara Shrikrishna has said that there is no alternative to non-violence. For Dharma-Raksha –the protection of humanity, the path of non-violence should not be abandoned till the end. Since the basic spirit of non-violence is to pave the way for greater welfare; the continuation of practices for greater welfare and human acts accordingly is the aim of Ahimsa, therefore there can be no compromise with those who misuse non-violence. Resistance to those who behave against the basic spirit of non-violence is in itself the best practice of Ahimsa. In this way, Yogeshwara Shrikrishna on one hand glorified Ahimsa as a high virtue. He, on the other hand, clarified the basic spirit of non-violence as the conception of the Sanatana Dharma

The concept of Ahimsa of the Sanatana-Vedic-Hindu Dharma is in having active goodwill towards not only the fellow beings, but also towards all living beings in mind, speech or words and actions. Non-violence is the pathway of continuity of life. Ahimsa is the means of progress in life. It is also the medium of achieving the goal of life. The acid test of non-violence is the intent underlying the act (by thought, speech and action). An act (completely free from any kind of selfishness of one’s own or group interest) performed for the physical, mental or spiritual upliftment –well-being of anyone, is within the ambit of non-violence even if it appears violent outwardly. Such an act (even outwardly appearing violent) is for the time being, and viewed as non-violent. The basic spirit of such an act is, can be repeated, the welfare of the other, not the selfish motive or the interest of the group. Eventually, this is also the spirit of Ahimsa –non-violence. In short, it is the essence of Ahimsa as the conception of the Sanatana Dharma. 


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