Ahimsa in Scriptures

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Krishna Maheshwari


Ahimsa is mentioned many times in different scriptures ranging from the Sruti such as the Rig Veda to Smriti such as the Patanjali Yoga Sutra to itihaas such as the Mahabharata. Despite the fact that it is considered to be a fundamental concept, however, there is no single place where it is exhaustively dealt with. Rather, it is mentioned across the breadth of scriptures, each time, in relationship with other topics that are under discussion. For example, Lord Krishna states in the Bhagawad Gita, ahimsa is among the various qualities of living beings are created by Me alone[1].

Patanjali Yoga Sutra

  • When one is established in non-injury, beings give up their mutual animosity in his presence.[2]

Manu Smriti

  • Manusmruti considers ahimsa foremost amongst the 5 restraints (yama) necessary in personal behavior. The other 4 being truthfulness (satyam), nonstealing or not coveting (asteyam), purity of mind and body (shoucham) and control of senses (indriyanigraha)[3]
  • "If the diet is pure the mind will be pure, and if the mind is pure the intellect also will be pure."[4]
  • ahimsa is a duty for all of the four varna-s. The texts declare that ahimsa should be extended to all forms of life. They also give attention to the protection of plants. [5]
  • The Manu Smriti prohibits wanton destruction of both wild and cultivated plants[6]
  • Violence against domestic animals is considered to be himsa[7]

Tiru Kural

  • "It is the principle of the pure in heart never to injure others, even when they themselves have been hatefully injured." [8]
  • "If a man inflicts sorrow on another in the morning, sorrow will come to him unbidden in the afternoon."[9]
  • "What is virtuous conduct? It is never destroying life, for killing leads to every other sin."[10]

Mahabharata

  • "One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one's own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Yielding to desire and acting differently, one becomes guilty of adharma." [11]
  • "Those high-souled persons who desire beauty, faultlessness of limbs, long life, understanding, mental and physical strength and memory should abstain from acts of injury."[12]
  • "Ahimsa is the highest dharma. Ahimsa is the best tapas. Ahimsa is the greatest gift. Ahimsa is the highest self-control. Ahimsa is the highest sacrifice. Ahimsa is the highest power. Ahimsa is the highest friend. Ahimsa is the highest truth. Ahimsa is the highest teaching."[13]
  • Those high-souled persons who desire beauty, faultlessness of limbs, long life, understanding, mental and physical strength and memory should abstain from acts of injury.[14]
  • Ahimsa is the highest dharma. Ahimsa is the best tapas. Ahimsa is the greatest gift. Ahimsa is the highest self-control. Ahimsa is the highest sacrifice. Ahimsa is the highest power. Ahimsa is the highest friend. Ahimsa is the highest truth. Ahimsa is the highest teaching.[15]
  • One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one's own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Yielding to desire and acting differently, one becomes guilty of adharma.[16]

Dharma Shastra

  • "The twice-born should endure high-handed criticism; he should insult none. While yet in his body, he should not pick enmity with anyone; he should not return anger with anger; decried, he should say a good word."[17]
  • "Without doing injury to living things, flesh cannot be had anywhere; and the killing of living beings is not conducive to heaven; hence eating of flesh should be avoided."[18]
  • "Nonviolence, truthfulness, nonstealing, purity, sense control--this, in brief, says Manu, is the dharma of all the four castes."[19]

Rigveda

  • "Without congestion, amidst men, She who has many heights, stretches, and level grounds, who bears herbs of manifold potency, may that Earth spread out and be rich for us. Let all the people milk Her with amity."[20]
  • "The peace in the sky, the peace in the mid-air, the peace on earth, the peace in waters, the peace in plants, the peace in forest trees, the peace in all Gods, the peace in Brahman, the peace in all things, the peace in peace, may that peace come to me."[21]
  • "Let your aims be common, and your hearts be of one accord, and all of you be of one mind, so you may live well together."[22]

Atharvaveda

  • "Peace be the earth, peaceful the ether, peaceful heaven, peaceful the waters, peaceful the herbs, peaceful the trees. May all Gods bring me peace. May there be peace through these invocations of peace. With these invocations of peace which appease everything, I render peaceful whatever here is terrible, whatever here is cruel, whatever here is sinful. Let it become auspicious, let everything be beneficial to us."[23]
  • "Let us have concord with our own people, and concord with people who are strangers to us; Asvins, create between us and the strangers a unity of hearts. May we unite in our midst, unite in our purposes, and not fight against the divine spirit within us. Let not the battle-cry rise amidst many slain, nor the arrows of the War-God fall with the break of day."[24]
  • "Whatever I dig from Earth, may that have quick growth again. O Purifier, may we not injure your vitals or your heart."[25]
  • "Ahimsa is not causing pain to any living being at any time through the actions of one's mind, speech or body."[26]

Yajurveda

  • "May all beings look at me with a friendly eye. May I do likewise, and may we all look on each other with the eyes of a friend."[27]
  • "The injury that we have caused to heaven and earth, mother or father, from that sin may the domestic fire ceremony pull us out."
  • "Do not injure the beings living on the earth, in the air and in the water."
  • "Everyone should make offerings to all creatures; thereby one achieves the propitiation of all creatures. Every day one should make gifts, even if it be only with a cup of water: thus one achieves the propitiation of human beings."[28]
  • In the Taittiriya Samhita, [29], where it refers to non-injury to the sacrificer himself. It occurs several times in the Shatapatha Brahmana in the sense of "non-injury" without a moral connotation.
  • In the Kapisthala Katha Samhita [30], there is a reference to non-violence to animals in a moral sense.

Samaveda

The Chandogya Upanishad [31] uses the word ahimsa. Later, it bars violence against "all creatures" (sarva-bhuta) and the practitioner of ahimsa is said to escape from the cycle of reincarnation [32]. It also names ahimsa as one of five essential virtues [33].

  • he who, after leaving the teacher’s house, has settled down into a householder’s life and continued the study of the Vedas in a sacred spot and made others (i.e. his sons and disciples) virtuous; he who has withdrawn all the sense— organs into the Self; he who has not given pain to any creature except as approved by the scriptures—he who conducts himself thus, all through his life, reaches the World of Brahman after death and does not return, yea, does not return. violence against domestic animals[34]
  • Chandogya Upanishad: It bars violence against "all creatures" (sarva-bhuta) and the practitioner of ahimsa is said to escape from the cycle of reincarnation [35]
  • It also names ahimsa as one of five essential virtues, ahimsa as a "dakshinA" for the priests [36]

Kautilya Arthashastra

  • ahimsa is a duty for all the four classes (Varnas) of society. The texts declare that ahimsa should be extended to all forms of life. They also give attention to the protection of plants. [37]

Vasishtha Dharmasutra

  • ahimsa is a duty for all the four classes (Varnas) of society. The texts declare that ahimsa should be extended to all forms of life. They also give attention to the protection of plants. [38]

Bhagavad Gita

  • ahimsa is among the various qualities of living beings are created by Me alone[39]
  • ahimsa is in a list of things that Lord Krishna declares to be knowledge, and besides this whatever there may be is ignorance[40]
  • ahimsa is in a list of transcendental qualities, the Lord declares that belong to godly men endowed with divine nature[41]
  • ahimsa is one of the qualities of austerity of the body [42]
  • Gita again includes Ahimsa in the effects of attaining Dnyana, the the knowledge of Self (aatman) and thus becoming - Kshetradnya.[43]

Srimad Bhagavatam

  • Prohibit violence against innocent animals[44]
  • Self-controlled persons who are attached to the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa can all of a sudden give up the world of material attachment, including the gross body and subtle mind, and go away to attain the highest perfection of the renounced order of life, by which nonviolence and renunciation are consequential[45]
  • One should practice nonviolence and truthfulness, should avoid thieving and be satisfied with possessing as much as he needs for his maintenance. He should abstain from sex life, perform austerity, be clean, study the Vedas and worship the supreme form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead[46]
  • These are the general principles to be followed by all human beings: truthfulness, mercy, austerity (observing fasts on certain days of the month), bathing twice a day, tolerance, discrimination between right and wrong, control of the mind, control of the senses, nonviolence, celibacy, charity, reading of scripture, simplicity, satisfaction, rendering service to saintly persons, gradually taking leave of unnecessary engagements, observing the futility of the unnecessary activities of human society, remaining silent and grave and avoiding unnecessary talk, considering whether one is the body or the soul, distributing food equally to all living entities (both men and animals), seeing every soul (especially in the human form) as a part of the Supreme Lord, hearing about the activities and instructions given by the Supreme Personality of Godhead (who is the shelter of the saintly persons), chanting about these activities and instructions, always remembering these activities and instructions, trying to render service, performing worship, offering obeisances, becoming a servant, becoming a friend, and surrendering one's whole self. O King Yudhiṣṭhira, these thirty qualifications must be acquired in the human form of life. Simply by acquiring these qualifications, one can satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead[47]
  • Nonviolence, truthfulness, honesty, desire for the happiness and welfare of all others and freedom from lust, anger and greed constitute duties for all members of society [48]
  • The main religious duties of a sannyāsī are equanimity and nonviolence, whereas for the vānaprastha austerity and philosophical understanding of the difference between the body and soul are prominent. The main duties of a householder are to give shelter to all living entities and perform sacrifices, and the brahmacārī is mainly engaged in serving the spiritual master. [49]
  • The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Nonviolence, truthfulness, not coveting or stealing the property of others, detachment, humility, freedom from possessiveness, trust in the principles of religion, celibacy, silence, steadiness, forgiveness and fearlessness are the twelve primary disciplinary principles. Internal cleanliness, external cleanliness, chanting the holy names of the Lord, austerity, sacrifice, faith, hospitality, worship of Me, visiting holy places, acting and desiring only for the supreme interest, satisfaction, and service to the spiritual master are the twelve elements of regular prescribed duties. These twenty-four elements bestow all desired benedictions upon those persons who devotedly cultivate them[50]

Sri Chaitanya Caritamrta

  • The path of speculative knowledge and renunciation is not essential for devotional service. Indeed, good qualities such as nonviolence and control of the mind and senses automatically accompany a devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa[51]
  • 'O hunter, good qualities like nonviolence, which you have developed, are not very astonishing, for those who are engaged in the Lord's devotional service are never inclined to give pain to others because of envy.'[52]
  • 'O hunter, good qualities like nonviolence, which you have developed, are not very astonishing, for those engaged in the Lord's devotional service are never inclined to give pain to others because of envy.' [53]

Narada Bhakti Sutra

  • One should cultivate such good qualities as nonviolence, truthfulness, cleanliness, compassion, and faith[54]

References

  1. Bhagavad Gita 10.4-5
  2. Patanjali Yoga Sutra 2.35
  3. Gita Rahasya, by Lokmanya B.G.Tilak, 10 th Ed, Kesari Prakashan, Pune, pp. 28-29, 1973
  4. Ahimsa satyam-asteyam shoucham-indriyanigraha, Mausmruti - 10:63
  5. Manu Smriti 10.63
  6. Manu Smriti 11.145
  7. Manu Smriti 5.27-44
  8. Tiru Kural, Verse 312
  9. Tiru Kural, Verse 319
  10. Tirukural, Verse 321
  11. Mahabharata XVIII:113.8.
  12. Mahabharata XVIII:115.8.
  13. Mahabharata XVIII:116.37-41.
  14. Mahabharata 18:115.8
  15. Mahabharata 18:116.37-41
  16. Mahabharata 18:113.8
  17. Dharma Shastras: 6
  18. Dharma Shastras
  19. Dharma Shastras: 10
  20. Rig Veda XII.1.
  21. Rig Veda X.
  22. Rig Veda X . 191
  23. Atharva Veda: X. 191. 4
  24. Atharva Veda
  25. Atharva Veda XII.
  26. Atharva Veda, Sandilya Upanishad
  27. Yajur Veda: 36.18.
  28. Krishna Yajur Veda, Taittiriya Aranyaka
  29. Yajurveda, Taittriya Samhita 5.2.8.7
  30. Yajurveda, Kapisthala Katha Samhita 31.11
  31. Chandogya Upanishad 3.17.4
  32. Chandogya Upanishad 8.15.1
  33. Chandogya Upanishad 3.17.4
  34. Chandogya Upanishad 8.15.1
  35. Chandogya Upanishad 8.15.1
  36. Chandogya Upanishad 3.17.4
  37. Kautilya’s Arthashastra 1.3.13
  38. Vasishtha Dharmasutra 4.4
  39. Bhagavad Gita 10.4-5
  40. Bhagavad Gita 13.8-12
  41. Bhagavad Gita 16.1-3
  42. Bhagavad Gita 17.14
  43. Bhagavad Gita 13:7
  44. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5.14
  45. Srimad Bhagavatam 1.18.22
  46. Srimad Bhagavatam 3.28.4
  47. Srimad Bhagavatam 7.11.8-12
  48. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.17.21
  49. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.18.42
  50. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.19.33-35
  51. Sri Chaitanya Caritamrta, Madhya Lila, 22.145
  52. Sri Chaitanya Caritamrta, Madhya Lila, 22.147
  53. Sri Chaitanya Caritamrta, Madhya Lila, 24.273
  54. Narada Bhakti Sutra 78