The Power of Ahimsa
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy


Laura Shultz, Gentle World
February 2012

Ahimsa: this word means so much to some people, and so little to others. To me, Ahimsa is the most powerful word in the universe.

Although Ahimsa, a word derived from Sanskrit, means “nonviolence” when directly translated, it has been interpreted to mean many things, including “love”, “forgiveness”, “sacrifice”, “truth”, “the absence of enmity”, and “strength.”

Prescribed by wise sages throughout history as the most effective way to temper the bestial nature in man, taking the vow of Ahimsa means resolving to refrain from causing any harm – either by thought, word or action – to any living creature. Although one can never truly achieve Ahimsa due to the limitations of the physical existence and our own human nature, ancient teachings state that the pursuit of this divine ideal will be accompanied by the gain of countless virtues.

I have, as I assume most others have, often contemplated the reason for existence. Especially baffling to me is the reason for humans to exist. This one species has managed to destroy and degrade the four billion year old Earth in just a few thousand years. I do not mean to say that humans are bad by nature, simply that we have an unfortunately large tendency for cruelty. And some of us are less skilled at suppressing that tendency than others. The intense vastness of this cruelty is so great, that when I try to think of something meaningful to do with my life, I become lost trying to figure out how to bring to others the peace I believe we all desperately need.

Through my internal quest, young as it is, I have come to the conclusion that no matter what I may end up doing in my life, I must strive to grow as close to Ahimsa as I can, so that I may attempt to spread to others love in its truest form. I do not intend to imply that I have succeeded; I am so far from this goal it often psychosomatically hurts my heart. I have done very few things correctly in my life. However, I find comfort in believing that there is one thing that I can do right; strive for Ahimsa, “nonviolence”, in all ways.

My lack of confidence in social situations impedes my success in spreading love to my fellow humans. However, I have recently embraced Ahimsa through veganism, and it has given me a hint of faith in myself. Although it may be hard for some people to recognize the difference that is made by one person becoming vegan, I feel like it is a step on my path to finding my place in the world. I am blessed with the gift of life, and I have no right to deprive any other living being on this planet of that same gift. I may not be able to do something wonderful with my life, but at least I can try to cause as little harm as possible.

As I proceed in my search to understand Ahimsa, being vegan helps me know that at least I am doing one thing that I have no doubt is right. My personal view of Ahimsa involves a future in which I cause as little harm as possible to all those around me. Not giving my money to companies and industries that disrespect creatures and nature is a big step in the right direction.

Giving up specific tastes and textures is a small price to pay for upholding these values I hold so dear. Being vegan has helped me to find a sound soul, which I know will help me to find Ahimsa. No one knows for sure why any of us exist, but while we are given the gift of life, we should stop using our lives to destroy the lives of others.

The purpose of my words is not to convince you of the conclusions I have thus far come to in my life, for everyone must reach their own conclusions in order to benefit from them. Instead, I hope to reach out to anyone who can, in any abstract way, relate to my words and to try and share with them how being vegan has brought me peace of mind and soul.

Over the years I have come to believe that there is no one reason for life. In my opinion, those who think they have found the answer are the farthest from it. I will never pretend to know the answer to this ancient question, but I will always search for it, as unattainable as it may be. The final goal in searching for the reason one exists is not a finite thing or well stated string of words, it is the knowledge that you searched for it and that in searching you brought meaning to your life.

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