Guiding Light: The true meaning of Ahimsa

-- Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshbhai

Bhagwan Mahavira expounded ahimsa as the ultimate dharma. One may question why a negative word ahimsa meaning non-violence was used. Should religion not denote something positive?

Ahimsa - The state of love

In truth, though non-violence sounds negative, it is an extremely positive state. It is the state of absolute and complete love – and what can be more positive than love itself? It is only because we are familiar with the state of violence, that this term has been used. It is to ease our transition from the known state of violence to the unknown state of love that the term non-violence has been used. In order to obliterate darkness; the presence of light is necessary. So also, the darkness of violence is dispelled only in the positive light of love.

This state is so pure, so fulfilling and established in the wellness of one’s being, that neither can you think of causing harm to any other being, nor to your own self. You have become love itself! So now, only love can emanate from you. It does not matter if there is another to receive your love, as that no longer is of importance to you. A lamp in the dark will radiate light, even if there is no one to witness it; a flower will emit fragrance everywhere, irrespective of whether anyone imbibes its fragrance or not!

Proactively positive

Ahimsa is a state of active positivism i.e. being proactively positive. Ahimsa means consciously extending love to one and all. The meaning of love is ‘I wish others well, I pray for their well-being, I will be instrumental in bringing joy to their lives and will offer flowers on their path.’ This is the real meaning of ahimsa. If ahimsa was merely negative, then it would read as ‘I will not cause unhappiness to others, nor cause them injury’ and this would be its restrictive or myopic meaning, as it would constitute no positive element. To put no thorns on anyone’s path – that is not all, but going beyond that to decorating their path with flowers is the essential meaning. To restrict oneself to non-violence alone is not the definition of ahimsa, but to make others truly happy is ahimsa.

Suppose a man is walking on a road and he falls down. If you have limited yourself to the negative understanding, this event will have no effect on you, as you bear no relation to him. You have not caused him to fall down, so you are indifferent to the situation. But if you have comprehended the positive aspect of dharma, then you will rush to help him stand upright again. In this way, dharma expects a positive state of being.

Dissolution of the ‘I’

If a person is not full of love and only restricts himself to not harming others; thus believing himself to be an ahimsak person, then one may question why he wants to be non-violent. Let us say that he loves animals, then it is understandable that he does not want to cause them any harm. But if he has no real love for them and still does not want to harm them, then his abstaining from violence is surely due to some other reason. In reality, he does not want to step on them as he may harbour this belief, ‘If I cause them harm, I will accrue sin, and I will go to hell and be miserable. But I do not want to be unhappy, so I don’t want to harm them.’

The real intention behind not wanting to harm others actually stems from not wanting to make oneself unhappy. Here, the other is of no importance, as here the ‘I’ is enlarged. ‘If I do not harm others, I am being religious and I will go to heaven’ etc., are feelings full of selfishness. How can one be religious with such ulterior motives? Where there is love, selfishness cannot co-exist as the ‘I’ has become unimportant. Dissolution of the ‘I’ is true religion and that is only possible with love. This is the true meaning of ahimsa and that is why ahimsa is the ultimate dharma.

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