Ahimsa Unplugged

Amongst the many good Indian traditions, there is one excellent and deep concept, known as “Ahimsa”, or non-violence. This is a concept that was first formulated in the Chandogya Upanishad, in the 7th or 8th century BC. Ahimsa is a fairly deep concept, and it covers non-violence to all beings. This concept of non-violence is not limited to physical harm only, but extends to the emotional, spiritual realms as well.

Much has been written and spoken about Ahimsa, and this is something that Mahatma Gandhi also focussed on as his political creed. The truth, as he verily said, is as old as the hills. For this, he was known as a Great Soul, and Indians gradually gained the reputation of being a peaceable and non-violent people.

Not too many people, however, are familiar with the concept of “Himsa”, or violence. The fact is that violence was permitted, as long as there was a justifiable need for it, and extreme violence was frowned upon. At the start of the great war between the Pandav Brothers and the Kaurav Brothers, in the Mahabharatha, Arjun asked Krishn to take his chariot to the front, and there he was faint with the idea of fighting his blood relatives. Krishn then “recited” the Bhagwat Geet, and at the end, he urged Arjun to do his duty and fight.

So, here is the nub of the matter – violence can be acceptable, however, the circumstances must demand it. Secondly, violence for the sake of  violence is not acceptable. The question is, and this is something that will be debated until the end of time is, who decides what is acceptable? Who decides when violence is acceptable, and how much violence is acceptable?

In modern times, The Kali Yug as per Hindu mythology, and with the rise of the Alpha Male and Alpha Female cult, it would appear that violence is indeed something to glory about. Movies, comic strips, stories are often centered around violence, but the good villain (the hero) wins the day.

Yet India, where we speak with pride of our culture, we don’t seem to practice too much of it these days. As per the Global Peace Index, as quoted in the web-site ,www.visionofhumanity.org,  India is ranked 142 out of 162 odd nations in terms of violence. This is a sorry record indeed, and while there is definitely an element of our relationships with our neighbours that accounts for this low rank, the fact is that we have enough domestic problems of our own. Even if you take away the Maoist insurgents in many parts of the country, the papers are full of tales of rape, murder and theft. This, sadly, is only the stuff that is reported, and does not include all that is not reported.

The good thing, is that people have protested a lot these days, but the official response is knee-jerk, and does not address the fundamental issues. After the corruption and rape protests at India Gate, the authorities have sealed India Gate. The fundamental issues have not been addressed.

Comments by our political overlords often smack of contempt and a complete disregard for the people who they claim to represent. They then go on to talk of our glorious heritage, culture and history.

Ahimsa has indeed been unplugged. The chord is out of the socket, and there is no power in the concept of Ahimsa and Himsa.

We, each of us, needs to find the solution in us.

 

5 Comments

  1. Interesting and thought provoking article. I wonder if because India is in a period of such social and economic change at the moment whether this causes many problems? For example, economic migrants who are disconnected from their families, living in poverty and are without status.

    But then again India is probably always going through a lot of change!

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

    1. India is going through a lot of change, yes. The changes that India is going through is definitely part of the problem, as is indeed the fact that many economic migrants – and tribals – do not have any status. This is part of the reason for the Maoist rebels in many parts of the country.

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