The Ahimsa Festival is the first festival across India, and perhaps the world, to be based on ahimsa or compassion. The event will run across 18 days and create awareness about the power of compassion, and inspire people towards making lifestyle changes towards health and animal cruelty-free choices.
The basic meaning of the word ‘ahimsa’ is–Do no injury, cause no harm. Ahimsa means non-violence, or to put it in a positive way–Compassion.
Ahimsa is a universal concept that applies to all living beings including all animals. All living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself.
The primary aspect of ahimsa is towards oneself–in particular towards one’s health. We have to take care that in our daily life, we do not cause harm to ourselves. No one will knowingly cause harm to themselves by putting their hand in the fire or by jumping off a cliff. What we have to be careful of, is the unknowing way in which we do harm to ourselves, either by doing things we should not be doing, or by neglecting to do things that we should.
The diet we consume is of primary importance. By consuming things that are harmful to oneself, we are doing ‘himsa’ on our body. Consumption of alcohol and tobacco in all forms is the most glaring example. Consumption of animal products – including dairy products – is another example not only of doing himsa to ourselves but also to the animals that are involved. Consumption of stale food, processed food, refined food, spicy food are also harmful to the body and should be avoided. Besides the quality of food, the quantity of food is another aspect. Overeating, eating when not hungry typically leads to obesity and consequently various diseases, all of which causes great harm. Ignoring our natural instincts is another way we do himsa towards our body. By not drinking water when we are thirsty, by not eating when hungry, by not resting when tired–we are causing harm to ourselves.
Ahimsa or compassion towards all other living creatures is another key aspect. Exploitation of our fellow man in the name of caste, creed, religion, colour of skin, race or nationality is not acceptable. And as far as animals are concerned, it is not only by hunting or killing/eating animals or their eggs–that we are indulging in violent behaviour. Stealing and consuming their produce–which they are producing for themselves or for their young–ie milk and honey–is equally reprehensible. Using and abusing animals for our own benefit – either for doing our work or pleasure is definitely not ‘ahimsak’ behaviour. By this definition– using bullocks in our fields, or horses, camels & donkeys for riding or pulling carriages is a no-no.. Using animals for our entertainment or pleasure (eg in horse racing, in circuses, in safaris) falls into the same category. The main reasons for this are that a lot of violence is used when “training” the animals to do these things for us, which are against their will and their basic instinct. If an animal does not do anything naturally and has to be “trained” to do something, rest assured it involves a great degree of violence. Killing an animal and then using its body parts or skin for our own selfish purposes is also himsak behaviour.
Ahimsa towards environment is an oft neglected aspect that equally deserves our attention. The Earth has enough for our need but not our greed. Exploitation and overuse of our natural resources–is doing great harm to our environment that will eventually come to haunt us. Polluting the air we breathe- with poisonous gases and polluting the water we drink by effluents – is a primary example. Polluting our lands, rivers, seas and oceans by dumping waste–industrial, chemical, e-waste–all without paying proper attention to recycling and pre-processing before disposal–is equally harmful. Deforestation is an indirect way we cause violence to our planet by reducing the trees that are the lungs of our planet. All of these need our attention.
Ahimsa is something we have to follow not just in our actions–such as in the examples listed above – but also in our words and thoughts. We can cause deep harm to the psyche of our fellow beings by violent words and behaviours. Often the pain of hurt feelings caused by harsh or uncaring or humiliating words or behaviours, far outlast the memories of physical pain. What’s more, Verbal violence usually precedes and then accompanies physical violence. What’s worse, Verbal violence can often incite others to physical violence. History is replete with such examples. But equally, If words can hurt, they can also heal. Words of love, care, affection, friendship and compassion can change the course of the life of a person, country or even the planet.
Ahimsa in our thoughts is the final frontier. Our thoughts are the fountainhead of our words and our actions. If we can become ahimsak in our thoughts, then the chances of us indulging in violent words or deeds, becomes greatly reduced.
It is therefore apparent that Ahimsa is a philosophy that touches all aspects of our life. Ahimsa is a way of life–in fact a superior way of life – which is why we have christened our group ‘Ahimsa Parmo Dharma’.