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The Real Meaning of Ahimsa

Ahimsa - The Art of Living Retreat Center


Ahimsa is the intention to harm nobody and nothing. That is the main thing. But you should not stretch it too much.


See, in your body, whether you like it or not, whether you want it or not, your immune system is doing it. Your immune system, if it is strong, is destroying harmful bacteria. In your very existence, you are killing many things. You breathe in, you breathe out, and you are killing already. But this is not with a rage or any intention to harm anybody.


Ahimsa is all about intention

If a soldier or policeman does his duty, it is not Himsa, it is not violence. If they don’t have any prejudice, if they don’t have any intention to harm anybody, it is not considered violence, it is still non-violence. A soldier who is trying to protect more people who are trying to harm them is not practicing Himsa. Ahimsa, or non-violence, should not be taken out of context, out of logic.


A reasonable approach to ahimsa

There are some Jain communities that, in ancient times, said that you should not drink water without filtering it through cloth. Now, people may take it so literally that they say you should not use water that is not filtered, so they tie a piece of cloth on all taps and on the cloth, flies would come sit, and the cloth would collect dirt and dust, but the water is used anyway! All because of an ancient scripture that is taken too literally. On the Sabbath, it says you should not do anything, but the spirit behind this rule means that you are not to distract yourself from the intention of going inward and resting.


If you misinterpret the scriptures and take it to the extreme, then it just causes more discomfort and problems for everybody.


Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian and spiritual leader, an ambassador of peace and human values. Through his life and work, Sri Sri has inspired millions around the world with a vision of a stress-free, violence-free world.  He has founded courses that provide techniques and tools to live a deeper, more joyous life and he has established nonprofit organizations that recognize a common human identity above the boundaries of race, nationality, and religion.



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