Thursday December 12, 2019

Ahimsa: The highest obligation of human life

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By Nithin Sridhar

ahimsa1

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 3

Ahimsa” is one of the most important tenets of Hindu religion. Himsa means violence or injury. Therefore, Ahimsa means “Non-injury”. Here, the injury may refer to injuries caused through actions, words, or thoughts. Therefore, a practice of Ahimsa involves non-injury for selfish ends, through actions, words, or thoughts.

In Mahabharata Anushasana parva (117.37-41), Bheeshma explains the glory of ahimsa thus:
ahiMsA paramo dharmastathA.ahiMsA paro damaH |
ahiMsA paramaM dAnamahiMsA paramaM tapaH ||
Translation: Non-injury is the highest duty, non-injury is the highest self-restraint, non-injury is the highest gift, and it is the highest austerity.

Bheeshma is calling non-injury as the highest duty because freedom to life is the fundamental right of every person. Every person takes a birth to fulfill his life’s purposes. But by injuring others for the sake of fulfilling selfish desires, one is denying them their right to live.

No person likes to get tortured. Nobody wants to be beaten or insulted or mentally harassed because it causes them pain and sorrow and prevents them from living their life peacefully.

Therefore, the very basic duty of human life is non-injury. It is the very basic definition of righteousness. Dharma means the essence that upholds life and depending on circumstances, it may mean duty, righteousness, law, etc. Therefore, ahimsa is the very essence of human life.

Injury destabilizes society and causes disharmony, whereas non-injury creates peaceful and harmonious life system, wherein each individual, each animal, or organism can co-exist peacefully.

Next Bheeshma calls ahimsa as highest self-control and austerity. It is so because practicing non-injury is not easy. It’s one of the most difficult things to achieve. It involves complete control over one’s mind and senses. A person should be always vigilant to his thoughts, words, and actions to practice ahimsa.

Hindu scriptures prescribe total non-injury only to the sannyasins (renunciates), because they alone can live such a difficult lifestyle where there is minimal harm. In fact, the very lifestyle of renunciates has been designed accordingly. For example, they beg food because cooking involves himsa. For all others, non-injury is prescribed to be followed to the best of their abilities. Injury must be adopted only in extreme unavoidable conditions like self-defense, punishing criminals, in a war, for food where other alternatives are not available, etc. and never for fulfilling selfish desires and fantasies.

Bheeshma next calls ahimsa as the greatest gift, because by practicing ahimsa, a person is assuring others that there is no harm from him, that they will face no harassment, no obstruction to their life from him. Hence, it is a gift that says, “Do not fear me. I will not harm you”.

Bheeshma, in the same chapter, further says that neither the gifts given in all yajnas (sacrifices) nor the merits accrued from other gifts come anywhere near to the merit attained by the practice of non-injury.

Thus, ahimsa is the highest obligation of human life.

More in this segment:

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 1

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 2

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Fireworks Might Extinguish the Flame of Laxmi Puja

We can have various kind of festival enjoyments on Festivals but without ever causing problem to others and the environment

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Fireworks
There is no mention in any corners of the voluminous scriptures of Fireworks blasting during a PUJAS that “upset” the harmony of peace and tranquility of others. Pixabay

BY SALIL GEWALI

If one wants to connect Hindu culture with the senseless bursting of crackers and boisterous fun then he is absolutely wrong. There is no mention in any corners of the voluminous scriptures of Fireworks blasting during a PUJAS that “upset” the harmony of peace and tranquility of others. To disturb others’ tranquility falls under the heading of vices. Preserving the sanctity of the environment, and more importantly, inner purity of mind and heart is the “prime doctrine” of SANATAN DHARMA which is popularly known as Hinduism. This Hindu culture now seemingly run the risk of having been defined by other communities with what is not very pleasant to hear.

Fireworks
It should not be misunderstood ever that Hinduism disapproves of all kinds of fun and frolic. No, it is never so.  We can have various kind of festival enjoyments but without ever causing problem to others and the environment without Using Fireworks.

I’ve overheard many toxic comments against this blatant desecration of auspicious “puja celebrations”. During Holi festival, many people fear to move out of their homes, particularly in certain the plane areas in India. You might be blasted with a bucketful of dirty water by pranksters from the 5th floor of the building. Is this sadism the part of the puja and holi celebration? One is afraid, with each passing year, this festival of color of joy, though having strong spiritual significance, has only painted the very face of Hindu culture with vulgarity and depravity.

Fireworks
If one wants to connect Hindu culture with the senseless bursting of crackers, Fireworks and boisterous fun then he is absolutely wrong.

Matter of fact, peace in one’s life and his efforts to help bring peace in others’ lives is essentially the fundamental basis of Hindu culture and festivals. Practically speaking, there is no devotion to God without “peace”.  Therefore, “Shanti” (peace) is one of the most paramount peace mantras in Sanskrit, not “Ashanti” which, of late, is the hallmark of such Hindu puja celebrations. The profound objective behind this peace mantra, as propounded in Upanishads, inspired even one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century – TS Eliot who underlined it with the purpose of life which he brought out in his epic poem – The Waste Land. That poem finally ends with the same peace mantra — Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Fireworks
TS Eliot who underlined it with the purpose of life which he brought out in his epic poem – The Waste Land.

It should not be misunderstood ever that Hinduism disapproves of all kinds of fun and frolic. No, it is never so.  We can have various kind of festival enjoyments but without ever causing problem to others and the environment. There are sufficient mentions of fun and frolic, merrymaking even in the spiritual activities — like Krishna LilaRam Lila…; and there exist endless nritya shashtras for healthy recreation. But they all are within the “purview of Dharma”. Ancient sages in their meditation conceived and authored a number of treatises in which we find the elaborate approaches and procedures to evolve oneself spiritually through fun-filled dances and music. There are “ragas and layas” (musical modes and rhythm), which are meant to “recharge” the mind for the meditative concentrationThe objective behind being to climb up the ladders of realization of oneness and universal uniformity.

Fireworks
There are sufficient mentions of fun and frolic, merrymaking even in the spiritual activities — like Krishna Lila, Ram Lila…; and there exist endless nritya shashtras for healthy recreation and not Fireworks. But they all are within the “purview of Dharma”.

However, there is absolutely no scope or prescription for deriving pleasure or fun by causing pain and anxieties to others? How come bursting high decibel fireworks at 2 AM or 3 AM or 4 AM is puja? In fact, it is called “adharma” or irreligion leading to self-degeneration.

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Therefore, it is DIYA, as per Vedas, which symbolizes the LIGHT to dispel the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of vices, and bring forth the light of knowledge to awake the “inherent” divinity. Goddess Laxmi is the “flame” of feminine ENERGY in the infinite cosmic creation. So, indulging in earsplitting fireworks and causing continuous problem to HER creatures, and HER environment, is totally against the fundamental principle of the devotion in Hinduism. Very sadly, with the blasting of the fireworks in the name of Goddess Laxmi we have invariably set off the tank of vices alone.

Salil Gewali is a well-Known Writer and Author of ‘Great Minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali