Ahimsa – is non-hurting. Do not deliberately, for your own sake, hurt another being. That is ahimsa. This is a value given by Bhagavan. Animals are programmed and do not seem to exhibit the power of choice. The cow is programmed as a gentle creature – just look at its eyes. The cat’s eyes are the eyes of a predator. Animals are programmed. Whereas he human being is created with the power of choice. How is this choice to be used?
Given the faculty of choice, the human being can destroy the world. You can see how centuries of hate for the Jews powered Hitlers choices creating the tragedy of the Holocaust. In Walter Scott’s novel he describes the centuries of hate that went on piling up, unchecked against the Jews in England. Hatred leads to great abuse of choice.
There is abuse of choice when there is violence and hurt caused to oneself or others. We can call it as abuse because as human beings we are programmed with a conscience – somewhere in our understanding, in our heart, we have a basic common sense that makes us feel sorry and guilty when we are instrumental in others feelings of pain. Our common sense is our inner guide, making us recognize that just as I do not want to be hurt, others also do not want to be hurt.
Ahimsa is a value and it helps us to be sensitive enough to understand others' pains. No human heart is incapable of empathy but we generally shut it out. Just observe someone who wins a tennis tournament. At the moment of victory he will throw his tennis racket in the air and cry out in jubilation. In this state of ecstasy he approaches the net to shake hands with his opponent. Just observe his expression as his eyes meet the face of the loser. The smile goes. The ecstasy goes. He looks as though he is very sorry that he has won. Why? Because the other person is sad and there is not a human heart, which is incapable of understanding another's pain. He knows what it is like to lose, so, it is impossible for him not to pick up that pain however momentarily. When we experience another's pain, however, often it is put aside through rationalising and slowly a justification for causing hurt (himsa) develops.
We become unmindful of the pain of another person purely because of a certain kind of thinking overlaying the original sympathy, which is an expression of ¡nanda. Fullness related to another person becomes sympathy and that is manageable only when you have mastered your own emotions. Otherwise, that pain becomes your pain.
Ahimsa is an appreciation of others' pain that gives you a profound respect for life and allows you to let other living beings live as they were meant to. It is not even that you allow them to live because that is not something over, which you have any say. Nor is it a policy but a value born of one's own understanding that every living being has an inherent right to live without pain. You live and enjoy others living. Then you find that ahimsa is very simple. It makes you a person with a very high degree of sensitivity in whom the original emotions of sympathy, etc., are not clogged by some wrong thinking contingent upon your own priorities.
Om Tat Sat