An Inner Journey of Ahimsa — 19 Apr 2022
After a long discourse on moral law in the epic Mahabharata, Yudhisthira, the eldest Pandava, states “ahimsa paramo dharmah”. A simple literal translation would be that non-violence is the supreme religion, though the words ahimsa and dharma, both are loaded in Sanskrit and have layers of meaning embedded in them. However, he does caution, before making this statement, that all rules of morality are contextual to the society in which they are evolved and therefore, their interpretation cannot be universal.
Even ahimsa, when enforced in a fundamentalist manner, becomes a cause of violence, as we see in the vegetarian-non-vegetarian debate that flares up time and again in India. Food habits have developed around the world based on availability of food sources, weather patterns, geographical terrain, etc. So, a blanket ‘no killing’ diktat becomes a form of violence for those that have not much choice but to eat meat. Judging them on a moral scale of vegetarianism is quite irrelevant when their context is different.
Of course, as a world, we have a lot of reflection to do around our food production and processing mechanisms, a lot of which are cruel to the ecology as a whole. Even as consumers of food we have our work cut out around thinking about what practices are we sustaining by having the food we have. But it is important to hold ahimsa as an aspiration in this process, not as a rule that is blind to contexts.
· What aspects of morality do you attempt to impose on others, consciously or unconsciously?
· What does it mean, to practise ahimsa through our existing systems?
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