nonviolence, one of the cardinal virtues of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism

Ahimsa (Sanskrit: अहिंसा, IAST: ahiṃsā, lit. 'nonviolence'; Pali pronunciation: [avihiṃsā]), also spelled Ahinsa, is an ancient Indian principle of nonviolence (harmlessness) which applies to all living beings. It is a key virtue in the Dhārmic religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

God is truth. The way to truth lies through ahimsa (nonviolence). ~ Mahatma Gandhi


By anarchy I mean first an absolute rejection of violence. ~ Jacques Ellul
Ahimsa is the farthest limit of humility. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
All breathing, existing, living, sentient creatures should not be slain, nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away. ~ Mahavira
Souls render service to one another. ~ Umaswati
The intellectual and moral satisfaction that I failed to gain from the utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill, the revolutionary methods of Marx and Lenin, the social contract theory of Hobbes, the "back to nature" optimism of Rousseau, and the superman philosophy of Nietzsche, I found in the nonviolent resistance philosophy of Gandhi... ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • And finally remember that nothing harms him who is really a citizen, which does not harm the state; nor yet does anything harm the state which does not harm law [order]; and of these things which are called misfortunes not one harms law. What then does not harm law does not harm either state or citizen.
  • Man cannot pretend to be higher in ethics, spirituality, advancement, or civilization than other creatures and at the same time live by lower standards than the vulture or hyena … The Pillars of Ahimsa indisputably represent the clearest, surest path out of the jungle, and toward the attainment of that highly desirable goal.
    • H. Jay Dinshah, Out of the Jungle (1967); as quoted in Compassion, the Ultimate Ethic: An Exploration of Veganism (1985) by Victoria Moran, p. 32
  • There are different forms of anarchy and different currents in it. I must, first say very simply what anarchy I have in view. By anarchy I mean first an absolute rejection of violence.
    • Jacques Ellul, in Anarchy and Christianity [Anarchie et Christianisme] (1988) as translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (1991), p. 11
  • Ahimsa is the highest ideal. It is meant for the brave, never for the cowardly. The highest religion has been defined by a negative word: Ahimsa.
    • Mahatma Gandhi, in "Fundamentals of Gandhism" (1995) by Anil Dutta Mishra, p. 130
  • Dharma is one and only one. Ahimsa means moksha, and moksha is the realization of Truth.
    • Mahatma Gandhi, in "Fundamentals of Gandhism" (1995) by Anil Dutta Mishra, p. 130
  • The most distinctive and largest contribution by Hinduism to India’s culture is the doctrine of Ahimsa.
    • Mahatma Gandhi, in "Fundamentals of Gandhism" (1995) by Anil Dutta Mishra, p. 130
  • To attain to perfect purity one has to become absolutely passion-free in thought, speech and action; to rise above the opposing currents of love and hatred, attachment and repulsion. I know that I have not in me as yet that triple purity, in spite of constant ceaseless striving for it. That is why the world's praise fails to move me, indeed it very often stings me. To conquer the subtle passions seems to me to be harder far than the physical conquest of the world by the force of arms. Ever since my return to India I have had experiences of the dormant passions lying hidden within me. The knowledge of them has made me feel humiliated though not defeated. The experiences and experiments have sustained me and given me great joy. But I know that I have still before me a difficult path to traverse. I must reduce myself to zero. So long as a man does not of his own free will put himself last among his fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him. Ahimsa is the farthest limit of humility.
  • The Hindu Mahasabha appreciates the need for Ahimsa. But it firmly believes Ahimsa born of fear or cowardice is not consistent with India's great heritage.
    • S.P. Mookerjee, presidential address at Mahakoshal Hindu Conference at Bilaspur, 7-12-1940, in Sobhag Mathur, Hindu Revivalism and the Indian National Movement, p. 129, and in Elst, K. (2010). The saffron swastika: The notion of "Hindu fascism". I.493
  • All great saints and spiritual leaders who have appeared in the world have come to establish world peace and unity for humanity as a whole. Jealousy and hatred are the two causes by which humanity is ruined. In your lives these two vices should have no place.
    I want to weed out the prevailing non-violence in the world. It is a cause of apathy and idleness. This non-violence has cooled the blood of men so that it has become like cold water. This attitude of non-violence produces a lack of discrimination between good and evil. Everyone should lead a life of bravery and courage. A man without courage is like a dead man. Life without courage is no life. At present, many atrocities are being committed in the world. Human beings are treated like animals. No one has had the courage to stand up against these atrocities but everyone should be brave and resist them.
    Lethargy must have no place in your lives. Lethargy is the weakest trait in man.
  • Mahavira, the Jain patriarch, surpassed the morality of the Bible with a single sentence: "Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being." Imagine how different our world might be if the Bible contained this as its central precept.
    • Sam Harris, in Letter to a Christian Nation (2006), p. 23
  • As to diseases, make a habit of two things—to help, or at least to do no harm.
    • Hippocrates, Epidemics, book 1, section 11; Hippocrates, trans. W. H. S. Jones, vol. 1, p. 165 (1923). "To do no harm" is echoed in two places in the Hippocratic Oath, as given in this translation: "I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing" and "In whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick, and I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm" (pp. 299, 301).
  • People try to excuse their brutality by saying that it is the custom; but a crime does not cease to be a crime because many commit it. Karma takes no account of custom; and the karma of cruelty is the most terrible of all. In India at least there can be no excuse for such customs, for the duty of harmlessness is well-known to all.
  • The purification of one who does ahimsa are inexhaustible. Such a one is regarded as always performing sacrifices, and is the father and mother of all beings.
    • Mahabharata XIII:115:41, as quoted in "Nonviolence to Animals, Earth, and Self in Asian Traditions" (1993)
  • Ahimsa is the dharma. It is the highest purification. It is also the highest truth from which all dharma proceeds.
    • Mahabharata XIII:125:25, as quoted in "Nonviolence to Animals, Earth, and Self in Asian Traditions" (1993)
  • According to Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence, the end is inherent in the means. If we’re hateful to each other now, we’re not going to be able to all come together in some kumbaya effort once the nominee is chosen. Anger weakens us.We can practice respectful disagreement now.
  • Einstein is also, and I think rightly, known as a man of very great goodwill and humanity. Indeed if I had to think of a single word for his attitude towards human problems, I would pick the Sanskrit word Ahimsa, not to hurt, harmlessness.
  • Māhavīra proclaimed a profound truth for all times to come when he said: "One who neglects or disregards the existence of earth, air, fire, water and vegetation disregards his own existence which is entwined with them." Jain cosmology recognizes the fundamental natural phenomenon of symbiosis or mutual dependence, which forms the basis of the modern day science of ecology. It is relevant to recall that the term "ecology" was coined in the latter half of the nineteenth century from the Greek word oikos, meaning "home", a place to which one returns. Ecology is the branch of biology which deals with the relations of organisms to their surroundings and to other organisms. The ancient Jain scriptural aphorism Parasparopagraho Jīvānām (All life is bound together by mutual support and interdependence) is refreshingly contemporary in its premise and perspective. It defines the scope of modern ecology while extending it further to a more spacious "home". It means that all aspects of nature belong together and are bound in a physical as well as a metaphysical relationship. Life is viewed as a gift of togetherness, accommodation and assistance in a universe teeming with interdependent constituents.
    • Laxmi Mall Singhvi, in "Jain Declaration of Nature" in Jainism and Ecology : Nonviolence in the Web of Life (2006) by Christopher Key Chapple, p. 217
  • All beings hate pains; therefore one should not kill them. This is the quintessence of wisdom; not to kill anything.
    • Sutrakritanga, in Jainism religious text, quoted in "Humanimal", p. 159
  • परस्परोपग्रहो जीवानाम्
    • Parasparopagraho Jīvānām.
    • Variant translations: All life is bound together by mutual support and interdependence.
    • This is also sometimes paraphrased or summarized as "Live and let live" or "Live and help Live."

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