Ahimsa, a moral principle guiding human behaviour to abstain from violence in thoughts, actions, and deeds, encompasses both the negative refusal to cause harm and the positive pursuit of good through compassionate acts.
Its significance in the contemporary era can be understood as follows:
Negative Refusal to Cause Harm:
- Promotion of Peace: Ahimsa can contribute to the avoidance of wars, as exemplified by Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, renouncing the sovereign right to wage war and maintaining armed forces solely for defensive purposes.
- Reducing Social Issues: Practicing ahimsa can aid in curbing crimes against women, alcoholism, and drug abuse through self-restraint and fostering a culture of non-violence.
- Mitigating Religious Intolerance and Communalism: By refusing to perpetuate hatred and breaking the cycle of communalism, ahimsa can be instrumental in resolving religious conflicts and promoting communal harmony.
- Environmental Stewardship: Embracing ahimsa can lead to environmental sustainability, such as adopting vegetarianism and reducing personal plastic consumption.
- Constructive Patriotism: Instead of disruptive protests, ahimsa encourages constructive approaches that prioritize the nation’s well-being, exemplified by the striking Japanese workers who would manufacture only the left shoe.
- Non-violent Means: Ahimsa can be practiced by reducing excessive consumption, refusing to support exploitative industries that employ child labor or operate sweatshops.
Positive Pursuit of Good:
- International Relations: Ahimsa-based approaches, emphasizing mediation and peaceful resolution, can foster trust between nations and help resolve conflicts, like the mediation efforts in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
- Reformative Justice: Embracing ahimsa entails opposing capital punishment and advocating for humane conditions in prisons, promoting a compassionate and rehabilitative approach to criminal justice.
- Compassion in Action: Ahimsa, as emphasized in the Jain tradition, involves showing compassion in body, mind, and spirit. This includes providing assistance to people in distress and aiding victims of road accidents.
- Eco-friendly Initiatives: Promoting vegetarianism and developing eco-friendly solutions, such as Thaely’s sneakers made from recycled plastic bags, align with the principles of ahimsa.
- Climate Action: Embracing clean and green energy sources like solar power and green hydrogen can alleviate the suffering caused by climate change, benefiting small farmers and mitigating droughts and crop failures.
Ahimsa, rooted in the belief in the inherent divine nature of all beings, appeals to the conscience and brings out the innate goodness in human nature. In a world threatened by ongoing quests for material gain that endanger peace and sustainability, ahimsa stands as a global principle vital for fostering peace and ensuring a sustainable future.