The Virtues of Ahimsa

by Renu Gulati January 15, 2021

Once there is self-respect, coupled with respect for all that exists, peace will follow and take root in the world, resulting in an end to violence, says Renu Gulati.

The word ahimsa translated as non-violence is bandied about a lot. But how many of us understand it, leave alone practise it? Ahimsa is fundamental for the very existence of the human race. But ahimsa should be followed not only in relation to human beings but with respect to all living entities.

 The Vedas state: mā hinsyāt sarvā bhūtāni “Do not kill any living being.” Violence in any form is a sin and non-violence a superior virtue. I often equate ahimsa with respect ― respect of oneself followed by respect of other humans and all that exists in the universe.

Where there is self-respect, you are more likely to be respected by others. Self- respect needs to be on a deep level, not a respect based on the money or status you hold. After all, money can be ripped away from you at any time and status is ephemeral.

Self-respect means self-preservation and that entails maintaining distances from all that which fails to enhance and empower your life. Being cruel to be kind is part of this. Some practical points for self-respect are as follows:

1. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you.

2. Maintain a distance from those who can harm you.

3. Don’t have eggshell relationships, wherein you are always treading on eggshells wondering if the other person is offended. Such relationships are demeaning and potentially explosive.

4. Avoid relationships that cause fear and dread. Keep such people at arms’ length.

5. Avoid relationships where people are constantly blaming you and finding fault in you.

6. Don’t let anyone disrespect your time. Time is your energy and life force. Being punctual is a part of respect.

7. Avoid people who are constantly breaking their word; committing to something and not carrying it out.

8. Avoid people who backbite.

9. Avoid those people who are draining you physically and emotionally.

Without respect as the fundamental core of our life, we cannot be happy, no matter how hard we try.

In a nutshell, self-respect relates not only to oneself, but to how we treat others, including animals and the environment. The ancients worshipped the environment through prayers to the five elements ― space, air, fire, water and earth ― that make up existence.

Rest assured that once there is self-respect, coupled with respect of all that exists, peace will follow and take root in the world, resulting in an end to violence.

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