Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ahimsa - Without Intent to Harm

The english word "nonviolence" suggests only a absence of violence, but the word ahimsa, technically meaning "no harm", also implies a principle much deeper, the principle of intention. As someone that teaches nonviolence and works very hard at living nonviolence I'm often asked how it's possible to live without harming any other living thing. What about plants? What about viruses? What about the ant my car tire crushes as I drive? My reply hinges on intent. It is not my intent when I get into my car to crush insects or cause them suffering. It is not my intent to kill viruses, but fortunately my immune system handles that without my giving it instruction.

But then there's gardening, and I, as a vegetarian, do love my fresh vegetables and fruits. This is were I must look directly at the questioner and wonder how the wholesale slaughter of millions of animals daily compares to farmers picking the fruits of the Earth. Slaughter houses are not only wretched endings of life, but also the most dangerous work for humans. As I take a bite from my apple I can taste the sunshine and rain, not blood and pain.

Nonviolence is so much more than a dietary choice. As we examine each product we buy we must ask ourselves what suffering is in this product. Was is made with the small hands of a child working long hours in a third world nation? Was it created in a process that generates toxic byproducts later dumped into the environment? Living nonviolently is not convienient, it's ethical.

Nonviolence starts in the heart, then expands through practice to the family, the community, to the state and ultimately to the world. The Mahatma opened our eyes to the possibilities and over and over again we see that the path of nonviolence is better for all of us. Think about it. Meditate on it. Be it.

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