Tirukkural says it is our Dharma not to hurt other living beings. Through hurting some other living being, we attain Adharma. From very olden times, we have engaged in hurting animals and people for selfish reasons out of ignorance. This is a very Adharmic activity. Even the thought of hurting another human or life form through word, action or thought is wrong. One who desires to gain jnana and insights should ideally shun Himsa of all forms. We have great examples like Mahatma Gandhi who was so inspired by Ahimsa that it became such integral part of Indian Life.
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Ahimsa: Highest Form of Dharma
Scriptures claim the highest form of Dharma is Ahimsa. The next highest form of Dharma is Truthful Living. An outlook of Ahimsa always bring in Good results. Such a thought pattern elevates our life. Practically it is difficult to not hurt any other life form. We kill millions of beings when we walk or when we breathe. But, a conscious attempt to reduce the impact of our “Himsa Footprint” by choosing to be Vegetarian and refusing to wear Leather has Karmic Merit.
It is permitted to speak lies to sustain Dharma. Even Yudhistira spoke a lie in the Dharma War of Mahabharata. But, there are no excuses for Ahimsa, according to Tirukkural. We could debate around the Dharma of a Soldier here. Is killing at the warfront Himsa or Dharma? This question is addressed with a lot of depth in Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna had the same question in Kurukshetra. This question produced the highest work of philosophy in India.
Completing Life Purpose
One who practices Ahimsa gets the opportunity to live their complete lifetime. There are chances that death may interfere with our normal life span and not allow us to complete our allotted lifetime. Accidents and Diseases cut normal lifespans short. A personal policy of Ahimsa is a license to complete our lifespan. Thus, we get our opportunity to finish our Dharmic Duty on the planet. This directly points to Human Life Purpose.
It is great to protect another life at the expense of our own lives. There are many great souls who have thrown themselves to death in order to save another life. Such Risk Takers of the highest kind are well rewarded by Karma. No sacrifice is greater than protecting another life by risking our own lives. Healthcare practitioners who work in Epidemic hit areas to do Selfless Service are great examples. Contributions by several doctors and nurses that served at Ebola hit areas are fresh in our memory.
Sharing is Caring
Our ancestors always shared their meals with other living beings. There are many families who spare a part of their meals for birds, squirrels, dogs and other animals that visit their garden. Such practices bring great good will to the giver. All lives are similar. All living beings have their right to food and respect. This helps to address our selfishness as well. Scriptures advise to leave little food outside our plates for ants and bugs. But, today we want “pest free homes” with such intensity that we cannot bear to see spiders, lizards, ants and birds around us. What right do we have to completely take their space for our selfish needs? Sharing our space and resources with fellow life forms is part of our Dharma. Ahimsa works in great scope.
Killing as Livelihood
Some unfortunate people have to gain their livelihood through killing. Look at butchers and Pest Control workers for instance. Scriptures warn such professions have heavy Dharmic debt. Often such professions are ancestral in nature. Taking life of those beings that cannot defend themselves has its effects in the form of Karma. Such Karma may return in future births as well. Tirukkural claims people who engage in such professions may find it difficult to break the cycle of Karma.
It is not just the butcher who takes in the Negative Karma. The person who buys meat from the butcher is also equally responsible for the Karma. Without buyers, butchers will not continue their business. This is a matter of choice. On human rights grounds and freedom to pursue any form of livelihood, such jobs may be justified. But, the Karmic debts cannot be ignored.
Many religious practices encourage animal sacrifices. These sacrifices are done to gain heavenly pleasures. Such Bali may provide short term gains. But, there are Karmic effects for Animal sacrifices. Vedic Sacrifices do not focus on animal sacrifices.
Ahimsa is an integral part of Indian way of life. No wonder Ahimsa has a great hold on India even today.