Ahimsa, or ‘non-injury’, has been the inspiration behind the non-violent movements that sprung up in India and was much in vogue during the Indian Independence struggle. Today it is in forefront of the anti-corruption call in India. K Haridas Nair from Malaysia relates Ahisma to the idea of Absolute Love in the fourth (and last) of our series looking at core moral values from an Eastern perspective.
Ahimsa, or 'non-injury', has been the inspiration behind the non-violent movements that sprung up in India and was much in vogue during the Indian Independence struggle. Today it is in forefront of the anti-corruption call in India. One may feel happy about one's capacity for integrity – 'satyam'; develop a selfless capacity through 'karma yoga'; strengthen a commitment to 'brahmacharya', the spirit of balance in the practice of various forms of abstinence, and yet remain challenged by a lack of charity and at times an incapacity to overlook or forgive the shortcomings of others.
When I accepted as a twenty year-old to consider 'Absolute Love' as a moral standard for my life, I immediately realised the anger and resentment that lay bottled up within me for a relative of mine. We had a disagreement but the language of chastisement that was used so angered me that I developed a deep hatred and resentment for him. I did all I could at every opportunity to show disrespect for him and spoke badly about him behind his back.
'Absolute Love' was far from my reality. I had enough reasons to justify my dislike and hatred for him and remained trapped in this cesspool. In retrospect I even enjoyed this cesspool as it obsessed my mind and gave me an irrational sense of power. I then met with a spiritual counsellor and reflected on this crisis. How should I respond because this is contrary to the standard I wanted to adopt as a guideline for my life. Accepting an absolute moral standard revealed my lack. He asked me how wrong I felt this relative was in what he did to me. I replied 99%. I was then requested to seriously reflect on my 1% and to act there from.
This gave me much to struggle with and the rationality of the suggestion challenged me deeply. A focus on my wrongs revealed my shortcomings and showed how this cesspool of hatred was also affecting my relationship with others. So, after much reflection and a decision focussed on taking responsibility, I wrote and apologised for my hatred and short-comings with no justifications whatsoever. The resulting meeting with him some months later has remained a personal experience of the dynamics of love, forgiveness and reconciliation.
How do we tap into this resource of love and develop the capacity to forgive? Herein lies an important experience for anyone. I have since had to face other challenges less stark than my relationship with my relative. A commitment to ahimsa – this notion of non violence – has further provided me with a clearer sense of boundary, especially with regards relationships, be it in the home or at work or in the various undertakings that one is involved with on a daily basis.
It is critical to develop this spirit of forgiveness as well as to forget the follies of others whether dishonesty, jealously or impropriety. How does ahimsa assist in such instances? Being a mental construct, a commitment to the creed of ahimsa clarifies boundaries. One is then able to deal with issues at hand by being silent, through reflection drawing on the lessons the incident has for me and then responding in a positive manner. A commitment to ahimsa narrows one's options and leads into the possibilities that enable anyone to tap on the powers of love inherent in all of us.
The emotion of Love represents a latent capacity within us and an understanding and application of 'Absolute Love' on the basis of ahimsa has, time and time again, inspired me to dig deep into this immense reservoir. Our capacity to draw on this requires of us to move away from the field of reaction and anger however justifiable this may seem. A commitment to ahimsa provides the searchlight through the narrow straight road along which lie opportunities to respond with love in seemingly difficult situations.
Eastern traditions – be they Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism – highlight this value yet very often the challenge of practicing this principle calls for a deeper level of commitment. It does not only mean non-killing or non-injury externally. This is also very much about the intention and attitude underlying one's actions. If a commitment to ahimsa becomes the basis of all relationships then there is the opportunity to appreciate the lessons that life offers us at all times, learn while maintaining a mental spirit of non-injury in all one's undertakings.
Ahimsa is a concept that nourishes both forgiveness and the need to be forgiven because it brings to light in the life of any introspective person emotions that could implode and trip any spiritual aspirant. A commitment to ahimsa is a prerequisite to a deeper understanding of non-violence, a virtue that those involved in reconciliation should cultivate and develop.
One of the most frequent failures in this area is the tendency to exhibit anger at improper moments. It is this realisation that highlights the constant work in developing awareness that is necessary to achieve this 'pearl' as an ingredient in one's character. A commitment to 'Absolute Love' guides the instrument of Intellect which then reflects on the instrument of the Mind the seat of emotions and the instrument of the Body which relates to objects and actions to ensure that the highest prevails in the external world.
These instruments, when acting under the guidance of an intellect committed to ahimsa, provide the capacity for drawing on the enormous potential for love lying latent within us. Present moment awareness provides freedom both from the past and the future and allows one to act correctly in the instance. It is a movement from the 'ego' to the 'Self' or 'Being' sensitised during moments of silence.
'The world is in me' and without me my world has no meaning. This provides a paradigm that communicates the need for me to express love and gratitude and add meaning to my circle of concern and involvement. First principles like ahimsa are critical enablers for anyone who wants to stand up for what is right yet have the spirit to accept any outcome and sustain the spirit of love in all of one's endeavours.
Read the other four articles by K Haridas on this topic: