Ahimsa is often thought of as a negative concept: a-being a negation and -himsa, meaning harm (or, technically, the desire to harm). Eknath Easwaran, however, has explained the concept of ahimsa not as much as a negative but as positive as the word “flawless.” When we think of something without flaws, we see directly into its true nature. Yet, to achieve flawlessness in anything is an art, if not a seemingly impossible goal.
Setting aside word and thought for a moment, living in a body, the great sages have admitted, it is impossible to be entirely nonviolent all the time. For water to be potable, for instance, the microbes in it must be removed. When we walk down the road, we might step on some small life-form, even if we try not to. If we drive a car or, or ride in one, we are contributing to exploitation somewhere–whether to workers or to the planet itself.
We cannot impose our own practices and choices on others. Everyone draws their line in different places. Maybe one person is vegan, and another person is boycotting any clothing not made with organic fibers, while someone else is doing both, but is using electronics made with conflict minerals. Should we then give up the ideal of living the nonviolent life? Gandhi says “no.” What we can, and must do, is to increase the ahimsa in any area that we can, while we do our best possible to limit and reduce our himsa, or harm. There will never be a time when we are totally nonviolent or totally violent. We are on a long journey of evolution.
Where is one area in your life where you could increase the ahimsa?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org