Guiding Light: The True Meaning of Ahimsa

Ahimsa is widely understood as ‘not harming or hurting others.’ But is this its complete meaning? Pujyashri Gurudev offers an invaluable insight into the true essence of ahimsa.

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?

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. Ahimsa is a state of active positivism, that is, 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. To restrict oneself to non-violence alone is not the definition of ahimsa, but to make others truly happy is ahimsa. 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.’ Here, the other is of no importance, as here the ‘I’ is enlarged. 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.

— Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshbhai