Nonviolence

Mohandas Gandhi, often considered a founder of the nonviolence movement, spread the concept of ahimsa through his movements and writings, which then inspired other nonviolent activists.

Nonviolence is the personal practice of being harmless to self and others under every condition. It comes from the belief that hurting people, animals or the environment is unnecessary to achieve an outcome and refers to a general philosophy of abstention from violence. This may be based on moral, religious or spiritual principles, or it may be for purely strategic or pragmatic reasons.[1]

Nonviolence also has "active" or "activist" elements, in that believers generally accept the need for nonviolence as a means to achieve political and social change. Thus, for example, the Tolstoy and Gandhian non violence is a philosophy and strategy for social change that rejects the use of violence, but at the same time sees nonviolent action (also called civil resistance) as an alternative to passive acceptance of oppression or armed struggle against it. In general, advocates of an activist philosophy of nonviolence use diverse methods in their campaigns for social change, including critical forms of education and persuasion, mass noncooperation, civil disobedience, nonviolent direct action, and social, political, cultural and economic forms of intervention.

Petra Kelly founded the German Green Party on nonviolence

In modern times, nonviolent methods of action have been a powerful tool for social protest and revolutionary social and political change.[2][3][4] There are many examples of their use. Fuller surveys may be found in the entries on civil resistance, nonviolent resistance and nonviolent revolution. Here certain movements particularly influenced by a philosophy of nonviolence should be mentioned, including Mahatma Gandhi leading a successful decades-long nonviolent struggle against British rule in India, Martin Luther King's and James Bevel's adoption of Gandhi's nonviolent methods in their campaigns to win civil rights for African Americans,[5][6] and César Chávez's campaigns of nonviolence in the 1960s to protest the treatment of farm workers in California.[7] The 1989 "Velvet Revolution" in Czechoslovakia that saw the overthrow of the Communist government[8] is considered one of the most important of the largely nonviolent Revolutions of 1989.[9] Most recently the nonviolent campaigns of Leymah Gbowee and the women of Liberia were able to achieve peace after a 14-year civil war.[10] This story is captured in a 2008 documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell.

The term "nonviolence" is often linked with or used as a synonym for peace, and despite being frequently equated with passivity and pacifism, this is rejected by nonviolent advocates and activists.[11] Nonviolence refers specifically to the absence of violence and is always the choice to do no harm or the least harm, and passivity is the choice to do nothing. Sometimes nonviolence is passive, and other times it isn't. For example, if a house is burning down with mice or insects in it, the most harmless appropriate action is to put the fire out, not to sit by and passively let the fire burn. There is at times confusion and contradiction written about nonviolence, harmlessness and passivity. A confused person may advocate nonviolence in a specific context while advocating violence in other contexts. For example, someone who passionately opposes abortion or meat eating may concurrently advocate violence to kill an abortionist or attack a slaughterhouse, which makes that person a violent person.[12]

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.

Mahatma Gandhi was of the view:

No religion in the World has explained the principle of Ahimsa so deeply and systematically as is discussed with its applicability in every human life in Jainism. As and when the benevolent principle of Ahimsa or non-violence will be ascribed for practice by the people of the world to achieve their end of life in this world and beyond. Jainism is sure to have the uppermost status and Lord Mahavira is sure to be respected as the greatest authority on Ahimsa.[13]

Bal Gangadhar Tilak has credited Jainism with the cessation of slaughter of animals in the brahamanical religion.[citation needed] Some scholars[who?] have traced the origin of Ahimsa to Jains and their precursor, the sramanas.[citation needed] According to Thomas McEvilley, a noted Indologist, certain seals of Indus Valley civilisation depict a meditative figure surrounded by a multitude of wild animals, providing evidence of proto yoga tradition in India akin to Jainism. This particular image might suggest that all the animals depicted are sacred to this particular practitioner. Consequently, these animals would be protected from harm.[citation needed]

Origins

Nonviolence or Ahimsa is one of the cardinal virtues[14] and an important tenet of Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism. It is a multidimensional concept,[15] inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself. It has also been related to the notion that any violence has karmic consequences. While ancient scholars of Hinduism pioneered and over time perfected the principles of Ahimsa, the concept reached an extraordinary status in the ethical philosophy of Jainism.[14][16]

According to Jain mythology, the first tirthankara, Rushabhdev, originated the idea of nonviolence over a million years ago.[17] Historically, Parsvanatha, the twenty-third tirthankara of Jainism, advocated for and preached the concept of nonviolence in around the 8th century BC.[18] Mahavira, the twenty-fourth and last tirthankara, then further strengthened the idea in the 6th century BC.[19]