Ahimsa

Somethings I’ve been thinking about lately are the nature and the real karmic manifestation of the multiple flutters of subconscious violence present in most people’s mind on a daily basis.  Sparked by conversations I’ve had with some people to whom the eastern concept of ahimsa, or non-violence, is important to, I’ve realized how much subconscious violence works against mindfulness.

Religions such as buddhism, hinduism, and jainism have specific daily restrictions and obligations to eliminate physical manifestations of violence.  This includes restrictions on using violence to resolve interpersonal conflicts as well as eating meat and other actions which incur violence against animals.  Jainism even searches for ways to minimize violence against plants during harvesting.  Though I feel minimal empathy for a carrot, this mode of thinking clicks with the way I’ve approached vegetarianism myself- one of active consideration.  I’ve okay’ed the eating of clams for myself, for example, because they lack a brain.

It’s notable, though, that none of these religions expressly bans war or takes a pacifist stance towards self defense.  This not only flies in the face of western perceptions of non-violence, but draws on a greater issue:  minimizing violence is not even a unidirectional, straightforward calculation.  Sometimes violence is necessary to minimize further suffering.  Injunctions are made, however, against active hatred of the enemy and excessive or malicious use of force.

So how does this all draw up to a spiritually centralized concept?  Ahimsa particularly states that violence in

  1. thought
  2. word
  3. and action

are equally bad.  Meaning, that their is a karmic loss as soon as we think of something non violent.  Karma, as I understand it, is not spiritually acquired luck or unluck, but rather just a simple statement that the roots of mindfulness or insanity are laid in simple actions.

And then, of course, once insanity has evolved actual outward manifestations of violence are likely to follow.  But today I’m focused on the roots alone.

So I took a decision.  I would go through a day and note all subtle forms of violence which arose in my mind.  Some simple triggers became pretty obvious:

  • reading the news, especially sensationalist news, begged me for a reaction, and it got it plenty.  Granted, I want to be educated about terrorist attacks, as one should not be ambivalent about violence.  However, reading about senseless violence like this seems to draw first a sense of more benign anger and an impulse to act, and then either a sense of despair and defeat or a sense of seething hatred for the perpetrators coupled with graphic desires to inflict pain in them.  In the case of terrorists, I tended towards hatred.  From a greater view on human nature, I tended towards defeat.
  • If I am walking through a dangerous neighborhood or see a loud and raucous character on the street it incurs thoughts about self defense if somehow something bad did happen.  And, though these are not particularly violent on their own, they can persist after the trigger is gone and turn to irritability.
  • More subtle triggers incurred a quietly destabilizing kind of violence.  A feeling of being stuck or helpless in life incurs no lack of empathy for anyone, but makes me want to lash out at a wall at extreme moments and in more subtle ones makes my thoughts somewhat more erratic, my breathe less tempered, and my movement choppier and less refined.
  • Certain daily activities can have implications of violence as well. Video games, even those without blood can have the ability to desensitize people to subtle forms of violence.  The same goes with movies.  A saying goes, “the wise soldier enters the battlefield as he enters a funeral”.  Yelling and smiling as “bad guys” die, even in simulations, can definitely lay the routes towards reduced empathy.

My observation is that for 1,2 and 3 the most important response is one of active acceptance coupled with affordable action.  Be economical with your response, stop paying out energy when it gets you nothing.  With #4 I think the answer is moderation and right outlook if you do decide to watch a war movie or play starcraft or whatever.

So, I am wondering, what subtle manifestations of himsa (violence) occur in your life, and what can you do to reduce it?

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