(34)The Principle of Ahimsa ( Non violence) : What Is The Limit and at what/whose cost? Is the Limit of Ahimsa being stretched Too Far and Making its Followers Handicapped and Helpless ?


MATTER for DEBATE : Long ago, the Buddha propounded and established the policy of ‘Ahimsa’ or Non – Violence for establishment of Peace and Harmony in this world, and to call an end to unnecessary bloodshed.
The same principle is advocated by Jain Tirthankars, who oppose even the killing of harmful creatures such as insects, rodents and rabid animals, though it is known that they are the vectors of deadly diseases like
Rabies and Plague!
There is unwillingness of many Governments to award the Death Sentence even to hardened criminals guilty of the most gruesome crimes for the same reason.
Of course, by Ahimsa, they don’ t say that terrorists should be allowed to roam Free Without check, or that they should not be arrested/imprisoned, but they support Life Imprisonment to Death Penalty, on the principle that Awarding the Death Penalty to any convict, no matter how grave or heinous his offence, is morally wrong, amounting to ‘Taking An Eye For An Eye’, and against the Basic Tenets of Humanity!

The teachings of Jesus Christ too, endorse this ideal, judging from his words,” If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek to him”!
In Ireland, a Catholic country, there was a big dispute some years back over the propriety of doing Medical Termination of Pregnancy, for saving the life of a mother, Sarita, who died because of the rigid reservation over MTP.
So TWO lives were lost ultimately in place of one feeble life -of the baby. ‘Penny wise, Pound foolish’, was the attitude of the attending doctors and the hospital! Even after this tragedy, it is not known whether they have become any wiser, or realise that they have committed a bigger Sin by letting the mother die to save a moribund foetus, and disrupted the married life of a young couple. This case is a glaring example of how dogmatic laws result in more loss of lives than any saved.

‘Ahimsa’ in itself is no doubt a very lofty and noble principle, deserving to be followed by all, for smooth interpersonal relationships and social progress.
However, it is felt by many people now that the application of this policy
is stretched to unrealistic, debilitating and nearly suicidal limits by its proponents in the present aggressive times. For to apply the principle to the last letter, the enemy should also be magnanimous, like Chhatrapati Shivaji was supposed to have been, and spare/leave his foe unhurt if he shows disinclination to fight, and is willing to make peace, but unfortunately, every enemy is not so large hearted !

These are days when some of the old ‘Kshatriya spirit’ of valiance – for which some of the ancient Indian Kings, like Maharana Pratap, Chhatrapati Shivaji etc. are remembered to this day – needs to be revived for strengthening Society, but with the injunction to ‘avoid initiating unnecessary bloodshed or killing’ of course!

(The great Emperor Ashoka, who had expanded his empire far and wide, from part of Bengal in the East, upto Afghanistan and part of East Persia, and down to the border of Dravida Pradesh, is said to have renounced warfare and embraced the Policy of Non-Violence of Buddhism ,after the Battle with Kalinga, in which many people of Kalinga died trying to save their country, which pierced the heart of Ashoka with pangs of guilt, when he saw the toll of lives that his drive to become a Supreme Emperor had taken in the conquered country.
It may be noted however, that King Ashoka had not felt any repentance after his earlier conquests, because the Kings of those regions probably surrendered without fierce fight. The chieftain and people of KALINGA in contrast, did not give in, and fought until their last breath, which resulted in the massacre of a large number of their army. This touched him deeply and changed his philosophy about life and victory totally, converting him into a devout follower of the ‘Ahimsa’ doctrine of Buddha, and as a renowned and Great sponsor of Buddhism, spreading it far and wide, down to Ceylon(as Sri Lanka was called earlier), as he was filled with intense remorse for being responsible for such a big genocide that occurred due to his ambition to be hailed as ‘Ashoka The Great and Mighty,Invincible Emperor’of India!

The MORAL is that everyone should observe moderation in his love for conquest, or power, and should not be totally unconcerned about the lives of other countrymen. Likewise, he should not start a battle,or inflict violence on anyone except for Self Defence; otherwise, a time may come when he falls in his own eyes and earns the curses of others.

HOWEVER, that does not mean that a ruler or Government of a country has to abandon the Kshatriyadharma of warfare totally. Otherwise, who would protect the subjects of the nation from attacks by other countries?
King Ashoka’s own empire did not last long after he gave up his Kshatriya dharma! The Buddhist fraternity and philosophy got an ideal and strong patron, but his kingdom lost       an Excellent King, and crumbled soon after he gave up war for Ahimsa or nonviolence!

(Perhaps, he should have arrived at a ‘Sandhi’, that is, Treaty of Compromise and right balance between his Kshatriya Dharma and his awakened conscience against War and Violence by restricting warfare thereafter, strictly to the defense of his kingdom as expanded till then, and Refrain from going out to make ANY MORE conquests by massive bloodshed, rather than giving up warfare totally.
Also, he could have let Kalinga keep its freedom, and developed friendly ties for mutual cooperation against common enemies’ as well as give its surviving leaders and subjects heavy compensation for their loss, and help for rehabilitation. The last step might have been taken by him anyway, as part of his repentance. )

Hence Warfare, or at least the preparation for it, is an unavoidable Duty and part of every Government, so a ruler cannot afford to be so naive or impractical as to renounce it for religious sentiment or wrong ideas of respect for Life. For in a war, if Our soldiers don’t kill the enemy who is encroaching upon our land and refuses to budge, He will kill our Armymen, grab our territory and tyrannise our countrymen. That’s the fact of Life !

Even Sri Rama and Sri Krishna had to perform the unpleasant duty of killing the Demon Kings Ravana and Kansa respectively, after giving them ample chance to amend their wicked ways of harassing good people, for the latter were smug and unrepentant.

Still, some communities cling on to the ideal of Ahimsa rigidly, like Buddhists and Jains who expect to preserve their land and security by passive resistance and appealing to other nations for peace all the time, thereby landing up to become the victims of massacre or slaves of their assailants; or else live as fugitives /refugees of any country which cares to give them shelter!

The National Policy of India too favours the principle of Non-violence because of the adoption of it by Gandhiji, the Father of The Nation, who indeed, succeeded in winning for India it’s freedom by peaceful means! But that was because it was a fight against the Rule of the British who had some cultural values, not Islamic Jihad! (In fact, some say that the arrival of the British was a mixed blessing in disguise, for otherwise India would still be oppressed by the Mughals, as the last Mughal was still around when the British East India Company arrived!)

Nevertheless, according to recent reports and the statements of some British officials conversant with the factors that forced  the British to ‘Quit India’ and grant it Freedom, the credit for India’s Independence goes more to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s Active Fight by Counterattack, than to Gandhiji’s ‘Satyagraha’ policy of Peaceful and Passive Non- cooperation!

However, looking to the general upheaval of the tendency towards violence in countries around us, and all over the World in the present times, it has become imperative to set a pragmatic limit to it – that it should be relaxable, if and when it becomes an impediment for SelfDefense andSurvival – for it has become too much of a good thing now, of which unscrupulous persons in our Society and neighbourhood are taking unfair advantage, and posing danger to our people!

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was also said to be against the rigid imposition of the policy of Non-Violence on Freedom fighters, as he had seen the extreme torture suffered by some revolutionaries because of their inhibitions regarding countering attacks on the enemies.

Hence, a Moderate and unstifling Policy of Ahimsa, which does not hinder the steps for self-defense of our nation, needs to be laid down.
Because ‘Fighting for survival’ is the right of all individuals and countries, besides ‘Flight’, and ‘Fright’ into accepting subjugation or slavery of others, and no person or ideal has the right to deprive anyone of the use of that defense mechanism when needed, otherwise it would be tantamount to ‘ sparing the Rod of Violence for wicked persons at the expense of innocent and harmless common citizens!
The Main Principle is that the defense of FIGHT, should be reserved, as far as possible, as the LAST RESORT, ONLY FOR the purpose of DEFENSE,and Not for revenge or the selfish ambition of conquest and subjugation of others. However, Not utilizing the natural defense even for survival, either leads to ruthless bloodshed at the hands of the enemy, or to rueful loss of status, as happened to the Dravidians, who were the real pioneers of the Indus Valley Civilisation, who became Marginalized to the far South, while the Adivasis or aboriginal tribes, called Pre-Dravidas became ‘Dasas’ or menial servants in their own country because of their compliant nature and disinclination for battle.

Every living being is provided by Nature with its own defense/s, which have to be used and strengthened for survival, and no community should be prevented from ‘judicious’ utilization of any of them in the name of impractically lofty ideals, if and when the need to employ them arises.

[But YES, JUSTIFICATION is THE PRIMARY requisite in every case, and counterattack is warranted ONLY when one is left with no other option for one’s selfdefense and survival, not simply for the pleasure of ruthless conquest over a peaceful neighbour, as the Emperor Ashoka did, to his Utmost regret subsequently, due to the horror of seeing the people of
the opposite nation not just defeated, but destroyed totally!]

Because of their excessive peacefulness, the position of the pre -Dravidian aborigines or ‘Dasyus’ (slaves) in the ancient times, became very pathetic, and they were left with no option but to live in small pockets of the country as Forest tribes, or submit to being used as chattel for menial work of the conquering race, the Aryans, and be reduced to the despicable rank of ‘untouchables’ ! And all because they were peace loving people, and had not made any preparations for war in self defense. Yeh bhi koi Zindagi hai ?

To expect any person or nation to abide uncompromisingly to the ideal of Ahimsa is therefore like binding one’s hands and expect one to survive in the onslaught of a raging bull, when one could easily do so, if allowed to use all his faculties! It is like goading one to commit suicide, as if the life or security of oneself and one’s near and dear ones, or one’s Nation, is so insignificant and dispensable as to sacrifice it to the alter of an impractical ideal!

Going by the rigid Principle of absolute Non Violence, a Nation might as well remove its Army, Police, Air Force and Naval Force, and replace them with religious leaders (like the Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopananda) to try for a change of heart of the enemies of India and of humanity in general like the Talibans, ISI, LeT and their likes.  If the strategy works, there will be nothing like it, but will it? It requires the will and cooperation of both sides to succeed!

Nevertheless, opinions of readers on the subject are welcome !


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