Ahimsa 6: Embracing Love

So far we have been looking at the concept of ahimsa and himsa in the context of our daily relationships. We need to remember that ahimsa values go further than just non violence. We also need to think of ahimsa and absorb and practice it as an all embracing love, in which other qualities are also crystallized……. compassion, justice, activism, hope, love for people and all of creation, and a vision that includes and connects everything and everyone with love and compassion.

Such an ahimsa mind does not come automatically or even easily to us as today we live at a time, when only “I” and “ Me” matter. “What’s in it for me?” “How do I benefit?” “ If I don’t benefit,” then with a shrug of the shoulder, so much is thrown away – relationships, friends, jobs and we become selfish, insensitive himsa people. We live too at a time when people around us don’t affirm ahimsa behaviour or values. Says one reader, “ We are looked at as fools and laughed at.” So is this all embracing love only an ideal? Where today do we find examples of such ahimsa love that we can believe in and emulate?

I was at a camp In Sirgahzi, Tamil Nadu where some of those affected by the tsunami are housed. There I met nine year old Murugeshwari. On the morning of January 26th, 2004, she was on her way to buy tomatoes for her sister. Her mother was outside, cleaning fish. Sudddenly Murugeshwari heard a strange sound, She turned and saw the sea rushing towards her. The people around her saw this too and urged her to run. Her first thought was to run and warn her sister and mother, but before that thought could turn into any kind of action she saw the sea swallow them both. Terrified, she ran and ran and ran.

Today Murugeshwari is at a tsunami camp. Her bright eyes fill with tears as she tells me her story. She wipes them away with the hem of her skirt. Some children playing nearby see her wiping her eyes and come running over. They quickly surround her and two of them put their arms around her.

“ We are her friends, whenever she cries, we try and make her happy, “ they said.

“ How do you make her happy?” I asked them.

“ Some of us go and sleep with her in the night, so that she does not miss her mother and sister too much,” said one.

Another said, “ We always hold her tight when we sleep.”

“I thought a present would make her happy. I asked my mother for some money to buy her a present. I bought her these, “ said another girl pointing to a row of brilliant, green, glass bangles around Murugeshwari’s wrists. Yet another little girl said, “ I gave her this,” pointing to a beautiful, black, red and gold bead necklace Murugeshwari was wearing.

“ Where did you buy it?” I asked her.

“ I didn’t buy it,” she said, “ The sea swallowed my mother and my sisters also, so I don’t have anyone to ask money from. It was mine; it was round my neck when the tsunami came. I gave it to her to make her happy,” she said.

The ahimsa love came so naturally to these children who had lost all that was important to them – their families, homes, and little possessions. While I was with them, I noticed that they were constantly looking out for those who needed some form of care - taking the older people to the bathroom, fetching water for women who were not their mothers, drying someone’s clothes in the sun, or just carrying someone’s baby on their hips as if it was their own brother or sister. Why does it not come so easily to us who have so much? Is it because our materialistic and largely uncaring society has taken over respect from people to things? Is our own personal selfishness and greed for material luxury hindering us from being sensitive and human?

Two young women in an academic institution were applying for research grants. Although both were applying for different grants, there seemed to be some rivalry between them. Their boss told them to help each other with the grant applications and check on the last dates to make sure that they submitted them well on time. One of the girls was very competitive and did not want her colleague to get her grant, so she quietly sabotaged her application.

In another institution, two other women were due for a promotion and were short- listed to head the department. One lady was thrilled to know that she was being considered for the post. She knew that she was qualified, had the right experience and had put in the required number of years in service. She knew too that if chosen, she would perform well. But after a while, she went to her boss and asked that the post be given to the other person. The reason? Her colleague and friend had recently been through a series of personal tragedies and was desperately looking for something that would bring meaning to her life. The woman felt that the promotion would help her friend find some stability and fulfillment at a time when so much in her life was being taken away. At the tsunami camp, I learnt that ahimsa love had to be self sacrificial to be real and truly meaningful. The elderly lady who willingly gave up the headship did the same –she had to put away the “I” of the ego, and look beyond at someone else. These are ahimsa qualities which need to be nurtured and encouraged by those of us who believe in and live the ahimsa way.