The word ahimsa is derived from the Sanskrit verb ‘hims’ which means to kill, to injure, or to hurt. The absence of these violent tendencies is ahimsa. The practice of non-violence calls for an understanding of violence and its cause. The principal cause of violence is ignorance of the true nature of the Self that is characterized by happiness, peace and completeness. This ignorance results in insecurity, selfishness, hatred, aggression and competition.
Ignorance propels a person to resort to violence to fulfill his egocentric needs. It is for this reason that scriptures advice: “Do not harm any living being.” Why, because I do not want to be harmed. I should not do unto others what I do not want done unto me. In this way, ahimsa becomes a universal law to safe guard the order of the universe.
Violence occurs at three levels in deeds, words and thought. The more we increase our needs and the more extravagant we are, the more the violence. An awareness of this would require one to cut down one’s needs and live a simple life as much as possible.
Subtler than ahimsa at the level of words is that at the level of mind. Nursing hurtful thoughts for others is violence, too. When entertained for a long time, violence is bound to find on outlet through words or deeds. Words and deeds are generated in the mind, and this is also where violence in thought occurs. So the first step is to check violence in the mind.
One way of doing this is to constantly replenish the mind with positive thoughts. If, for instance, the mind is full of anger, hatred and jealousy for someone, we could flood the mind with feelings of forgiveness, tolerance and accommodation, to flush the mind of violent tendencies.
Source – Excerpts from the Speaking Tree section of Times of India.
(Swami Viditatmananda is the disciple of Swami Dayananda Saraswati and is the founder of the Tattvatirtha Ashram in Ahmedabad.)