Ahimsa is an ancient Sanskrit term and virtue that roughly translates to “the negation of the desire or intent to harm or kill.” Gandhi went so far as to assert that it–and not violence–is the law of humanity. Our capacity to endure and persevere in spite of our environments defines the spirit of what makes us the species that “knows it knows.”
One story that illustrates the virtue of ahimsa in action is that of the sage and the scorpion.
A sage was sitting on the banks of a sacred river beneath a large shade tree. Along comes a scorpion, who, climbing on the branch above the water, falls in. The sage sees the creature in distress and reaches in to save it. When his hand touches the scorpion, he is stung, but he does not fling it back in, instead, he places it gently back on the ground. The creature climbs back on the tree and falls in once more. Again, the sage saves it and again he is stung. The process continues like this until a villager who had been watching the whole time finally comes over and asks the sage if it would not be better to let the scorpion drown. The sage replies, “It is his dharma (nature) to sting; it is my dharma to save.”
This story is powerful precisely because its aim is to encourage our capacity to nurture all of life. What would our world be like if we had more stories like this, and less that emphasize cruelty and violence as our nature?
We are not called upon to put ourselves in the way of harm like this, but we can express compassion in our own way for another form of life today. Note how it felt.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org