Ahimsa Paramo Dharma
24. June 2014
Ahimsa Paramo Dharma.
Dharma himsa tathaiva cha
Non-violence is the ultimate dharma.
So too is violence in service of Dharma.
Loosely translated, Ahimsa means Non-violence, paramo means topmost, ultimate, or supreme, and dharma means duty. Thus, the entire phrase means that non-violence is the topmost duty to the extent that it supersedes all other duties. For someone who holds this true, it means that there is no selective application of ahimsa…it must be applied in every case and in all matters. This universal sense leads to an unconditional and unilateral abandonment of violent resistance, under any and all circumstances (as in the philosophy of Buddhists and Jains).Ahimsa is only loosely translated as non-violence. Unlike the English word ‘non-violence’ (which is absolute in its meaning), ahimsa means non-violence in a relative sense. There are times when violence can also be considered ahimsa if that violence is used to stop greater violence. For example, a king should always raise his rod of chastisement to keep peace and order in his country. He will fail in the discharge of his duty if he does not punish the wicked, and his country will be in a state of utter chaos. To hang a murderer is Ahimsa for a king. To kill a man who is taking away the lives of many is Ahimsa. A real Sannyasin, however, should not defend himself even when his life is in danger. A Sannyasin is one who doesn’t associate with his body, instead identifying himself with the Atman. .
Ahimsa is one of the cardinal virtues and an important tenet of major Indian religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism). Ahimsa is a multidimensional concept, inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy; to hurt another being is to hurt one. Ahimsa has also been related to the notion that any violence has karmic consequences. While ancient scholars of Hinduism pioneered and over time perfected the principles of Ahimsa. Most popularly, Mahatma Gandhi strongly believed in the principle of ahimsa. The concept reached an extraordinary status in the ethical philosophy of Jainism. Jainism is the religion which came out of Hinduism. The Jain concept of Ahimsa is characterized by several aspects. It does not make any exception for ritual sacrifices and professional warrior-hunters. Killing of animals for food is absolutely ruled out Jains also make considerable efforts not to injure plants in everyday life as far as possible. Though they admit that plants must be destroyed for the sake of food, they accept such violence only inasmuch as it is indispensable for human survival, and there are special instructions for preventing unnecessary violence against plants. Jains go out of their way so as not to hurt even small insects and other minuscule animals.
Ahimsa Paramo Dharma
The hand with a wheel on the palm symbolizes the Jain Vow of Ahimsa. The word in the middle is “Ahimsa”. The wheel represents the dharmacakra which stands for the resolve to halt the cycle of reincarnation through relentless pursuit of truth and non-violence.
Conclusively, “Ahimsa Paramo Dharma” can only be practiced by Sannyasins who tread the path of Nivritti Marga. It cannot be strictly practiced by householders. If someone enters the house and molests a lady, a householder cannot keep quiet. Similarly, in a war, a soldier cannot put down his weapons. In either case, practicing ahimsa would be adharma, not dharma. Similarly, a king must protect his subjects even if it requires violence to punish criminals or going to war with neighbouring kingdoms if they attack.
Written by Priyank Gothwal