Performance for the Camera by Christina Georgiou & Phedon Odysseos | Nicosia, Cyprus 2015
The word ahimsa consists of “a” which means “without” and “himsa” which means “injury”. In other words, ahimsa means “non-violence” that may be applied through speech, thought and action. Ahimsa does not mean to passively accept the violence of another person. With compassion and detachment one should resist to the violence or even the person through whom violence is manifesting. The love towards the person who generates violence alongside the resistance to violent actions must co-exist. On the one hand, resistance to the bad without love can lead to violence and generate more violence. On the other hand, loving a person who makes bad, without resistance to the bad, indicates passivity and low self-esteem. The battle wins the one who fights with love.
by Christina Georgiou
“At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
The word ahimsa consists of “a” which means “without” and “himsa” which means “injury”. In other words ahimsa means “non-violence”. Ahimsa is the inner quality that prevents us from making any harm against other living beings through speech, thought and action. Therefore ahimsa implies that one expresses kindness towards other beings and instead of torturing them, feels deep respect and admiration for every form of life: plants, insects, animals and human beings.
Ahimsa is even more than a self-discipline that requests the non-violence; it has the positive conception of the deep and without-attachment love for every living being. Every living being has the right to live peacefully and this should be respected from other living beings.
There are several levels and kinds of violence and non-violence. For example, one might behave violently and therefore produce violence or one might behave nicely but with an evil motivation, thus the result is also violence. Furthermore an action that is considered “violent” might have been taken place because of a motivation of good will. A knife can be used to cut a fruit, to prepare food or to kill a person. The defect is not in the tool (knife) but on the person that is using it.
Ahimsa does not mean to accept passively any form of violence, but without any attachment and with compassion for the person who acts violence against us. In César Chávez’s words:
"Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or weak... Non-violence is hard work." The actions of resisting towards violence and loving the person who behaves violently should co-exist. On the one hand, resistnance to the bad without love may lead to violence and generate even more violence. On the other hand, loving a person who makes bad, without resistance to the bad, indicates passivity and low self-esteem.
Ahimsa implies also the lack of unnecessary judgment towards others. Ahimsa suggests the reverence towards opinions, ideals and beliefs of others, by listening and approaching ideas and values that differ from our own with an open mind and an open heart. Martin Luther King Jr. states: "The non-violent resistor not only avoids external, physical violence, but he avoids internal violence of spirit. He not only refuses to shoot his opponent, but he refuses to hate him. And he stands with understanding, goodwill at all times." Apart from our actions, non-violenceshould be applied also in our thoughts, feelings, emotions and words. By attaining this level of consciousness through the practice of ahimsa, we will not be gossiping or having bad-will towards others, neither we will create misconceptions for the motivations of others, or having the desire to harm others.
Furthermore, ahimsa implies also the non-judgement towards ourselves, through an understanding for our weaknesses, mistakes and behavior, and through being aware of our needs even for rest, sleep and hunger. Speaking from my personal experience, feeling guilty is one of the mist harmful behaviors towards one's self and is a form of ciolence that can be applied through the action of thinking.
A person who applies the “rules” of ahimsa does not hurt or cause any kind of pain: physical, emotional or mental. At the end of the day we should consider: “Have I done anything that might have harmed someone or myself?” and also “Have I given love and support to myself and others?” We should first think of those who exist close to us: family, friends, colleagues, collaborators, etc. Then we should think of the people that we meet frequently but we don’t know them personally very well: neighbors, people you meet in the street, friends of friends, etc. Then we should think the people that we never meet but we might have talked on the phone, respond to letters or emails, read about them in the newspaper, etc. And we should never forget to think of ourselves. This position towards ourselves and others should be considered and applied also towards animals. Consequently this position of non-violence should be universal. Day by day this position of kindness and love can become a daily routine without putting tremendous effort to it. And finally this position towards others can develop to ahimsa.
The constant practice of non-violence (ahimsa) is connected or involves the strong and unconditional love for all beings, which leads to the eradication of any feeling of hostility towards any form of existence. This state of non-violence is also veganism, as describes by Gary L. Francione: “Veganism is about nonviolence. It is about not engaging in harm to other sentient beings; to oneself; and to the environment upon which all beings depend for life. In my view, the animal rights movement is, at its core, a movement about ending violence to all sentient beings. It is a movement that seeks fundamental justice for all. It is an emerging peace movement that does not stop at the arbitrary line that separates humans from nonhumans.” Ending violence is something that we all have to work on, consciously! By considering oneness and breaking the illusion of separateness between humans and animals we can attain higher consciousness. Francione also states: “Being vegan is your statement that you reject violence to other sentient beings, to yourself, and to the environment, on which all sentient beings depend.” This statement is important – by rejecting violence through our way of life and our way of being, can be an example of non-violence, of ahimsa to others.
It is important to consider veganism not as a change that may harm our physical condition but as an opportunity to increase our consciousness and to gain inner peace. Francione adds: “Veganism is not about giving anything up or losing anything; it is about gaining the peace within yourself that comes from embracing nonviolence and refusing to participate in the exploitation of the vulnerable.”
Sri Dharma Mittra, in one of his discourses says that all living beings fear violence and that compassion is the key to prevent harmful behavior towards other living beings. He also describes that eating animals is a primitive behavior, where people in order to survive had to hunt and kill animals to eat. There is no reason to continue this action of hunting and killing animals to eat, as in recent times there is a great variety of foods available for us to eat and take all nutrients which are necessary for our body. In addition, he describes animals as our companions in life that need our love as we need love from others. In this words: "Animals are our inferior brothers and sistera. They are not meant to be eaten, but must be treated with love".
We need to practice non-violence by cultivating compassion within us. We need to have a conscious behavior and a constant awareness so that a higher consciousness can be achieved. Amit Ray, in Nonviolence: The Transforming Power, describes: "Compassion is the signature of Higher Consciousness. Non-violence is the tool to evolve into the Higher Consciousness."
Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras, says that when someone applies ahimsa (non-violence) with stability, then the abandonment of any hostility manifests. Moreover, when someone exercises ahimsa perfectly, every other being around this person stops from practicing any form of violence. This person spontaneously creates and reserves peace and love between other beings and even wild animals do not harm him.
Swami Satyananda gives another definition for ahimsa: He believes that a tyrant should be punished and a poor defenseless person should be given protection. In addition, when killing a poisonous snake or a poisonous mosquito a lot of lives will be saved, and this is ahimsa. Ahimsa does not mean “non-killing”. The word ahimsa means “non-violence” and not “non-killing”. If one kills without violence, this is not a violation of ahimsa. For example, if you see a poisonous snake coming towards you, you should be ready to resist even by killing the snake if this would save you from being poisoned and killed. Mahatma Gandhi in Bhagavad Gita According to Gandhi, beautifully describes: “I might be ready to embrace a snake, but, if one comes to bite you, I should kill it and protect you.”
The snake or any other living being existing in a lower level of consciousness/existence should never be killed without reason, but only if the life of a living being, which is in a higher level of consciousness/existence, is threatened by it. Ahimsa is strong only if it functions from the position of activity and not passivity as long as one has the control over one’s self. Therefore killing should never be accompanied with hatred or anger. This action should never be an action of revenge but of protecting all other living beings from being killed from a poisonous snake.
We must be aware of our actions and whether they are expressed with or without anger. This is an opportunity to consider our anger, the way is expressed and revealed and how we deal with it. Thich Nhat Hanh, in Being Peace says: “I would not look upon anger as something foreign to me that I have to fight... I have to deal with my anger with care, with love, with tenderness, with nonviolence.” This is an interesting point – our anger should not be considered as our enemy, we should not react upon our anger with violence but we should treat our anger with non-violent thoughts and considerations.
It is essential to practice non-violence in every level, to be aware of violence and apply resistance in its projection, to avoid harmful behavior towards other living beings and towards ourselves, and to make efforts to protect others, if needed, with a non-violent state of mind. At this point I conclude with Amit Ray's words: "The more we practice nonviolence in our words, thoughts and actions the more peaceful will be our inner state.".
13 June 2015
Video by Christina Georgiou
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