There is a quote in one of the episodes of BBC’s The Story of India that goes:
How often we make our history the story of great conquerors; the men of violence?
Alexander, Napoleon, Hitler… That’s what we teach children in their history books, isn’t it? But here there’s one man who sits under a tree thinking and changes the world… but this is an Indian story.
Despite humanity knowing of the atrocities and negativity associated with war and brutality, nowadays we still seem to try getting what we want by employing the use of force. But the war between groups of people is not necessarily needed to bring about violence; this is instead a behavior that most of us experience or witness every day. Whether it is towards ourselves or others and whether it comes in the form of a thought, word or action; violence has played an evident role in our lives from the moment we were in our mother’s womb. Consequently, the addressing of this behavior must be done under the light of patience, understanding and overall love.
Buddha, the Indian man who sat under the legendary Bodhi Tree and reached enlightenment, pointed out five precepts or basic promises that all Buddhists must take on in their daily lives; but Buddhists or not these vows make up for a good starting point for paving the way to inner and outer peace.
These five promises were as follows:
“I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.”
“I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.”
“I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.”
“I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.”
“I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.”
They allow us to extend our love and kindness to everyone, not only to human beings but also to sentient beings with which we come into contact.
One of the most demanding religions when it comes to non-violence is Jainism. This is one of the major religions in India and just like Buddhism, has its roots in yoga philosophy. Jain practitioners avoid injuring sentient beings in any possible way by:
Not injuring oneself mentally
Not injuring others mentally
Not approving injury done by others mentally
Not injuring oneself orally
Not injuring others orally
Not approving injury done by others orally
Not injuring oneself physically
Not injuring others physically
Not approving injury done by others physically
By “others” again, Jain practitioners refer to all living and sentient creatures. These individuals go long ways to apply this noble practice, from following a strict vegan diet to running animal sanctuaries; and from wearing clothes whose production harms no animals to rejecting jobs that cause harm to others.
Ahimsa also includes the practice and promotion of forgiveness, tolerance, compassion, giving, protecting the environment, caring for animals and carrying out one’s daily work honestly and justly.