The Ahimsa Way

Ahimsa 1: Paths of Peace:

As Indian history unfolded, HIMSA - that which is violent, hurtful and brings great disharmony - is what people were used to. Tired of himsa, kings and warriors looked for an alternative to violence to hold on to their kingdoms, wealth and power. From the minds of these ancient men evolved the idea of AHIMSA - a negation of all that was himsa. Ahimsa - being non- violent in thought, word and deed, being compassionate and peaceful in relationships and bringing harmony to all of life, quickly became a way of life to those who practiced it. It became popular for a while, then the powerful and those who believed in violence and manipulation to get their way, took over again.

Today, as ordinary people, we are beginning to think of the benefits of living the ahimsa way. Our way of life becomes increasingly violent as we live in a hurried, selfish, greedy society, with little respect for others who are lower on a social scale. We demand more, tolerate less, are busier, angrier, have less time for family and friends and are judgmental. To get what we want, when we want it, we are often harsh, unfeeling and violent in words or action. Just think of being elbowed, glared at, silenced, ignored, put down, over- ridden, slapped, frozen. Many of us live and work in atmospheres of insensitivity, harshness and unkindness. In such an atmosphere our souls cry out for attention, care, affection, softness, compassion, sensitivity - all facets of ahimsa. But what we face around us instead, is the hard, coldness of himsa. At such times we long for ahimsa people around us. But where are they?

Because of the media’s attention on violence, it sometimes seems as if himsa / violence is more powerful and more contagious than ahimsa. It seems as if those who are ahimsa people are in the minority. But that is not true. Although it may seem that violence has the upper hand, today more and more people believe, act and stand up for the power of ahimsa both in their personal and professional life. People from every walk of life are choosing not to react to violence, and search for creative ways to confront violence peacefully.

The sad fact is that we never get to hear about such people.

I hope to introduce to you, ordinary men and women, who despite great personal difficulties, put their faith in ahimsa, and choose not to react to violence with violence.

Lakshmi, the girl who picks up my daily garbage told me how she had been beaten with a metal rod by an old man, because she dared to ask for water on a hot day. She was very upset, and cried angrily that day. It so happened that a few days later, as her cart was outside his home, the lady of the house had a stroke. The old man came out and called for help. He froze when he saw Lakshmi, as he was sure she would go away pretending not to have heard him. But Lakshmi went in and got the woman back on her bed, cleaned her up and stayed with her till she was admitted in hospital. The man offered her a five hundred rupee note, but Lakshmi refused it. “ I needed him to see my dignity, not my poverty,” she said.

I wondered about her generosity and asked her about it. “Since I was a small girl, I have believed that we should not give back hurt to one who has hurt us and I try to live that way.” A very simple philosophy that we can all practice. But do we all feel the same way? Are you a himsa or an ahimsa person? What fuels your beliefs on violence and non violence?

We often think of violence as being physical. We need to remember that violence is also in the words we say, the tone in which we speak, the way we look at each other, express in our body language and show in a variety of ways. We need to remember too that the ahimsa person is not a passive, apathetic, door- mat kind of person. They are brave, strong at heart and just do not believe in a tit for tat mentality. Are you a himsa or an ahimsa person? What fuels your beliefs?

There are many, many ahimsa people around us who turn away from violence. They practice forgiveness, compromise and reconciliation. They talk to each other rather than slamming the door on faces. They build bridges , not walls. Ahimsa people inspire us. They give us an example to follow. They make us take a good look at our own himsa ways and make us long to be like them.

We need to know their stories and share them with a larger audience, so that we can encourage each other and emulate them. So if you are an ahimsa person and wish to share your story, email the writer at ushajesudasan@gmail.com

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