The first appearance of the term ahimsa dates from the 5th century BC. JC., In the context of Indian philosophy, more concretely in the Hindu scriptures Upanishads. However, it is also used in Buddhism and Jainism.
Ahimsa is also linked to respect for the spirit, nature and cultures. It is therefore about leading a life in peace with all that surrounds us. In a way, this term represents the congruence between what we say, think and do. It is related to offering love and being in harmony with the world. Let’s explore this idea further.
The concept of Ahimsa in the West
Mahatma Gandhi was the forerunner in the incorporation of this concept in the West. He considered it to be the common denominator of all religions. However, over time, many leaders who fought for civil rights included it as part of their doctrine.
Martin Luther King, the foremost civil rights representative of the African American population, was influenced by this concept. He has led peaceful protests against violence and poverty globally.
Despite everything, the inclusion of the term ahisma in the West still continues through various practices such as yoga or meditation. In this way, many westerners begin to study new concepts and feel drawn to eastern culture. In fact, the nonviolent communication developed by Rosenberg is a good example.
The meaning of Ahimsa for Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology about non-violence stems from his interest in Hindu and Jainist doctrine.
Thus, for Gandhi, ahimsa obviously indicates not to kill but also refers to the human capacity not to harm the other. Do not cause him the slightest pain, even if it is psychological pain. For that, one must have an absolute state of consciousness.
Furthermore, he asserts that one who practices Ahimsa needs to have absolutely peaceful mind, mouth and hands. It should also be emphasized that for Hinduism, the fundamental objective of non-violence is to avoid the accumulation of harmful karma. Therefore, the individual will have to practice a state of integral peace with oneself and with the environment that surrounds him.
In this way, by sharing an absolute respect for life, one establishes an unconditional reverence for nature. The individual will be at peace with himself, with the other and with the environment in which he lives. It is a principle of equality, respect and balance. Nothing matters more than life in all its forms.
Ahimsa as a global and humanist practice
Thinking about the other and not to hurt him is a supreme principle of equality. If we link it to a cultural and humanist practice, we can establish a respect for all cultures, without difference. Ethnocentrism would therefore have no reason to exist.
For a long time, throughout human history, violence against other cultures has been justified by their inferiority. Ethnocentrism through a false notion of superiority, in addition to being a way of dominating, was based on unfounded reasons, a colonialist goal.
Establishing new parameters of cultural equality is a way of reducing the level of suffering and abuse reproduced for centuries at different scales: social, economic, political, educational, psychological and, of course, cultural.
To consider the other as someone different and at the same time equal to us, with the same rights for life, is a principle of equity which must be followed in an integral way if one is to achieve the a. himsa : integral peace on the face of the earth.