Ahimsa: A Vedic Perspective

Dharma is not doing to others what you don't like being done by someone else to you. Dharma is that which sustains the order in self (mind), family, society, nation and the world at large. Dharma is sustained by doing things where the strong don’t thrive by suppressing the weak and the weak are not subjugated by the strong. Dharma provides a way for people to live and let live. When there’s an imposition of someone else’s will on you or your own excesses on others, that’s Himsa, causing Adharma.

Exclusive to Vedic Management Centre by U. Mahesh Prabhu

“May all be happy, may all enjoy health, may all enjoy security; let there be no pain, let there be peace, peace, and peace…” say the Vedas. When the Vedas refer to “all”, it means every being, not just humans. The objective of Vedic knowledge and wisdom was to prescribe a path of health, wealth and prosperity. All the research of Vedic scientists, or rishis, was focused on achieving this goal.

During their observation and research, rishis identified a major factor that explained everything that entails pain and gain across the universe – karma. Karma, or the law of cause and effect (causation), explains almost everything in this universe. For, every effect leads to a cause and every cause leads to an effect. Knowing the reason  behind cause and effect is key to understanding life and living it fruitfully.

Although modern science approves of this logic, it is not completely accepted. There is still scope for concepts like “accidents” and “God particle”. Vedic wisdom doesn’t accept such mundane concepts. We all get what we deserve. If you have an accident, it’s the result of our PrarabdhaKarma (actions of the past). And what we are to get in the future is a result of that we do today – Sanchita Karma.

Dharma is key to living with health, wealth and prosperity. Dharma presents two key concepts: Himsa or violence and Ahimsa or nonviolence. In an era where Dharma and Karma are often confused and convoluted, Himsa and Ahimsa are among the least understood.

Consider these situations. You are living a peaceful life and suddenly a bandit threatens your life and/or property. You have all your documents right, but when you approach a government official he asks for a bribe. Is it to be called Ahimsa to remain defenceless or pay a bribe or refuse to save your rightful property? That, according to Dharma, would be downright stupidity. Ahimsa is not accepting someone’s persecution, violence and unjustness. That’s verily called Adharma or against Dharma.

Dharma is not doing to others what you don’t like being done by someone else to you. Dharma is that which sustains the order in self (mind), family, society, nation and the world at large. Dharma is sustained by doing things where the strong don’t thrive by suppressing the weak and the weak are not subjugated by the strong. Dharma provides a way for people to live and let live. When there’s an imposition of someone else’s will on you or your own excesses on others, that’s Himsa, causing Adharma.

The Law of Karma provides for the right of every living being to pursue happiness, provided they don’t misuse it. Arishadvargas – lust, anger, greed, infatuation, ego, and envy – are the natural detriments that infest Manas or mind. When these detrimental qualities of the mind go unchecked, they give rise to Himsa or violence. Take your time and check every perceived crime in history and you will find that all those criminals had at least one of these detrimental qualities that overwhelmed them. Dharma teaches us the way to control these urges since uprooting them isn’t easy.

If you are being attacked by someone for unjust reasons and you remain defenseless, it’s not just Ahimsa, but also Adharma! If you are subjecting an animal to torture for sport (hunting), killing its habitat for the sake of your greed (mining), depriving its child for savoring its taste (recreational food), killing trees for your recreation, these constitute Himsa.

Non-vegetarianism is verily Adharma as well as Himsa because countless animals are subjected to seamless pain and torture for days for the sake of easy money and pleasing taste buds of handful for a few seconds. You may argue “I didn’t kill the animal, I just ate its meat or egg”, but it was because you were paying for that, or making someone pay for it, which led to the animal’s torture. You are the big clog in the wheel.

Violence is when your actions inflict direct or indirect pain on others. If you do nothing to stop a crime knowing that it’s bound to happen, it is a crime in itself. Ahimsa doesn’t mean you won’t hurt others; it’s a no-first-strike policy. I will not hurt you if you don’t intend to hurt me. To ask people to be suppressed in the name of Ahimsa is greater Himsa.

A soldier and terrorist both carry weapons; both are trained and paid to kill. But a soldier kills to protect; a terrorist kills to spread his intolerant ideology. For his code and conduct of killing to protect his people, a soldier is following Ahimsa and Dharma. For his code and conduct of killing people to further his own personal belief and faith, a terrorist manifests Himsa and Adharma.

It’s also Himsa when you spread false propaganda against someone who is just. It’s Himsa when you teach Himsa in the name of Ahimsa. Ahimsa is not the absence of violence; it’s also utilizing violence to curb the violence.

8 responses on "Ahimsa: A Vedic Perspective"

  1. Himsa when following one’s own dharma is to be avoided to the maximum extent possible.Like in the case of soldier resorting to killing enemies to protect his own country is not ahimsa, it is himsa only.But it is his dharma to protect to one’s country.A living being is to live according to dharma, which again depends on the situations in which he is placed.A soldier is not supposed to fire at enemies or terrorists without first getting attacked.A response to a situation or doing one’s own duty in a righteous way is dharma.To understand dharma one needs to know his duties and responses for a particular situation.A matured mind helps one to distinguish between good and bad responses.These are my personal views.Comments are welcome.

  2. What about perspectives/personal truths? What if the terrorist feels he is upholding a good cause/defending his people in some way.

  3. Every terrorist feels that he’s on the right path and that those opposing them are the “real terrorists”. No terror outfit calls itself terrorist. But, then, they do to others what they don’t like being done to them. They will rape and kill people of other faiths –
    Not their own. When their own people are violated they incite human rights violations. Their love and admiration are only for those people who accept their beliefs – others are damned to hell. Any exclusive idea like “only I am right and others are wrong” lead to more wrong and evil. Such ideas are Adharma incarnate. Therefore a terrorist is he who has no tolerance for others ideas and ideals. He’s verily a terrorist who violates people just because they disagree with his way of life. He’s definitely a terrorist who imposes his way upon others without even listening to what other person has to say. All the aforementioned action of terrorist is Himsa and therefore Adharma. Adharma results in catastrophe. It leads to perilous results. History can testify to this fact.

  4. This sets me into a dilemma every time I kill a mosquito. It’s in its karma that it came to me or that my karma called it to me to eliminate it? I don’t know what I should do but before I kill it I experience sorry for its fate. I am both हिंसक and following अधर्म। However when ever I see any other insect that is out of its natural place of existence I try and send it back there. Spiders roaches – I do not try to eliminate but just to remove them from their place. Am I thus balancing my कर्मा between the mosquitoes and spiders? I am very empathetic towards the trees and animals. I feel their pain when they are harmed but am I अधार्मिक by not helping them being cut, killed?
    I came across this site and instantly found that maybe this is the quest I am on. Searching for my purpose but I am full of self doubt… Is it my karma to be so? It affects my life being so, hence it might be अधर्म।should I so rationalise as this? How do I know?

  5. Every being has right to self preservation. It’s also our natural instinct. It is a NEED.
    But when we hurt others in the name of self preservation for our unjust desires it’s a GREED.
    The Mosquito bites you or intrude your space you’ve right to defend.
    But a mute animal is treated unjust for food – that’s a crime.
    Karma is action and results of action. To understand it better read Dharma Shastras.
    All actions are accounted sooner or later. Hope this helps.

    • There is some consolation with the reply. however self preservation also brings other questions. This comes with some connotation and conditioning otherwise e.g. a child’s instinct to cry for food is one inbuilt animal mechanism of self preservation. so is an animal’s mechanism to threaten and move away in face of danger than attack unless cornered. But human behavior is beyond physical action self preservation has gone into provocation (source Greed?) into psychological war. These are not actions but intentions. Intentions are projected onto others to act. Do intentions also get caught up in time thus?

      • Intentions themselves mean nothing. Although intentions can influence actions. But you must understand that when we act – owing to the Law of Causation (Karma) – the results may not always yield that which we desire (or expect?). This is why Krishna says to Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita to “Do you work without fruits of work.” If you read Mahabharata, Krishna wasn’t always successful. He tried his level best to avert the war. War was not of his choosing. It was Kaurava’s desire for war, because they thought with superior army they can crush the Pandavas. But Krishna was always indifferent (not happy as portrayed in television serial). Yoga Vasistha suggests that “Wisdom comes to those who are detached.” And “Detachment is accepting that we are neither the mind or the body.” I’d suggest you contemplate on the aforementioned quotes of the Vedic seers – you are competent to realize the truth. Supreme Truth, or Paramartha, which you are consciously or consciously seeking cannot be explained, defined or presented – it can only be experienced. Hope this helps.

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