What is the “Ahimsa” in Land of Ahimsa?
Hollywood, California – With the award-winning film Land of Ahimsa streaming for free on UnchainedTV, many people are asking… what exactly is ahimsa? It started as a word written in Sanskrit. Gandhi made it famous. Millions of Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains practice it, but what does ahimsa actually mean? The interpretations vary a little between religions, but “ahimsa,” which translates to “noninjury” or “nonviolence” is an ancient Indian ethical principle of causing no harm to living things.
Ahimsa Lies at the Core of Several Popular Religions
Of India’s major religions, Jainism adheres most closely to the tenet of ahimsa, applying it to all living things including insects, plants, and microbes. Jains are known for being strict vegetarians or vegans with the goal of living in a way that causes the least amount of harm to all creatures regardless of species or size.
Buddhists have their own spin on ahimsa. Nonviolence is a central theme in Buddhist teachings, and the first precept of Buddhism is to refrain from killing.
Many Hindus believe strongly in the principle of ahimsa, even extending it beyond refusing to cause physical harm to any creature, but also avoiding harming others via speech and thought. Hindus make up almost 80% of India’s population and their belief in ahimsa can be credited for making vegetarianism so widespread in the country.
However, the documentary Land of Ahimsa exposes how India’s massive dairy industry does involve routine violence to cows. Therefore, says the film, those who consume dairy are not actually practicing ahimsa. India is considered the world’s largest producer and consumer of dairy. The film suggests Indians snap out of their denial regarding dairy’s cruelties and remove it from their diets.
So, What Does Ahimsa Have to Do with the Modern World?
Gandhi was known for applying the philosophy of ahimsa to larger political and social issues, pioneering a worldwide call for nonviolence. And today, whether they realize it or not, many ethical vegans all over the world could be considered to be living their lives in accordance with the ancient tenet.
PETA India recently honored educator and activist Acharya Prashant with the title of 2022’s Most Influential Vegan. Prashant, who is the CEO and founder of the Prashant Advait Foundation, is known for using the philosophy of ahimsa to encourage people all over the world to adopt a vegan lifestyle by tapping into their spiritual selves. “Ahimsa is deep understanding. Without that understanding, whatever one does is violence. Veganism is nothing but the logical culmination of vegetarianism. Where does vegetarianism come from? The feeling that I will not kill the animal—I don’t want to harm the animal. That same feeling finds its final expression in veganism,” said Prashant.
Interested in Exploring your Spiritual Side?
Dive more deeply into how the philosophy of ahimsa could impact your life by watching Land of Ahimsa, a documentary that follows Dolly Vyas-Ahuja, a self-described ahimsa activist, as she travels to her homeland of India to encourage people to make the connection between ahimsa and veganism, and to ditch that dairy! Now streaming for free on UnchainedTV!
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Carrie Woods is a writer based in Indiana who comes from a family of journalists.