Path of Ahimsa

By Dr. K S Radhakrishnan on 31-12-2013

The whole system of Indian Thought is unique for its concept of Dharma. The definition of Dharma may be varying from system to system, but every system accepts the preservation of dharma as a necessary precondition for the preservation of life and universe. The term dharma means anything that preserves one own existence as well as the co-existence of others. That is, it aims at the co-existence of man and the universe. What is essential to preserve the co-existence of man and universe may be a debatable matter. For Eg; the Carvaka system, the Indian materialistic thought strongly believes that bread alone is enough to preserve human existence.  But all other systems have the opinion that human existence can be preserved by something more than bread and its’ fabrications.  In biblical terms, man needs every word that comes from the mouth of God apart from daily bread.
If we accept that bread alone is enough to preserve human existence then the natural outcome is that every human being has to accumulate the maximum amount of bread to ensure the longevity of human existence. If everyone tries accumulating the maximum for oneself, then the result will be competition, conflict, crisis and war.  In such a set up no one will be able to live a normal life. This shows that if one believes in bread alone, it cannot guarantee even his own existence because victory in any war needs something more than skill and efficiency. That something can be termed as good luck.  But one cannot be sure that the good luck will always be with him.
Therefore, the Indian Rishis introduced a very unique term to the philosophical world, ie, Ahimsa. Literally, it means abstain from killing. But it is impossible to lead a normal life without annihilating the other beings because we want to eat something. Eating something means annihilation of one form of life or other. Even a strict non-vegetarian cannot make a claim that he is not annihilating anything because life element in a piece of grain can never be different from the life element in me. Then the question arises is whether ahimsa is an impractical concept or not. The answer given by the Indian tradition is that it is practical because the term Ahimsa means to take only the minimum from the world. That is Ahimsa means the minimum use of wealth, power, position, fame etc. The use of the minimum guards you from competition, conflict, crisis and war and it guarantees peaceful co-existence.  

About The Author

Dr. K S Radhakrishnan

Dr. K S Radhakrishnan (formerly Vice-Chancellor of Sri Sankaracharya University and Chairman, Kerala Public Service Commission) is a learned scholar who has been earnestly trying to revive the ancient knowledge in Indian culture. He worked as a lecturer early in his life and now lives an eloquent advocate of social and cultural causes.