Meaning of AHIMSA in English

Sanskrit Ahimsa (noninjury), the fundamental ethical virtue of the Jains of India, highly respected throughout the centuries by Hindus and Buddhists as well. In modern times, Mahatma Gandhi, the famous spiritual and political leader, developed his theory of passive resistance as a means of bringing about political change on the principle of ahimsa. In Jainism, ahimsa is the standard by which all actions are judged. For a householder observing the small vows (anuvrata), the practice of ahimsa requires that he not kill any animal life, but for an ascetic observing the great vows (mahavrata), ahimsa entails the greatest care to prevent him from knowingly or unknowingly being the cause of injury to any living substance. Living matter (jiva) includes not only human beings and animals but insects, plants, and atoms as well, and the same law governs the entire cosmos. The interruption of another jiva's spiritual progress increases one's own karma and delays one's liberation from the cycle of rebirths. Many common Jainist practices, such as not eating or drinking after dark or the wearing of cloth mouth covers (mukhavastrika) by monks, are based on the principle of ahimsa. Though the Hindus and Buddhists never required so strict an observance of ahimsa as the Jains, vegetarianism and tolerance toward all forms of life became widespread in India. The Buddhist emperor Asoka in his inscriptions of the 3rd century BC stressed the sanctity of animal life. Ahimsa is one of the first disciplines learned by the student of yoga and is required to be mastered in the preparatory stage (yama), the first of the eight stages that lead to perfect concentration. In the early 20th century Gandhi extended ahimsa into the political sphere as satyagraha, nonviolent resistance to a specific evil.

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