Mahatma Gandhi instilled the word ‘AHIMSA’ in our vocabulary. But we live in different times and there are many more definitions to be added to this word, if we have to truly follow a life of non-violence, at all levels …
Innovator and educator Sonam Wangchuk shares his personal yet thought-provoking definition on the subject.
“We have a tradition of religions in India. What I personally feel is that religions came about as an innovation to solve the problems of those times. Most of our religions have the message of ‘Ahimsa’, i.e non-violence.
Our religions are 2,000 to 5,000 years old, right? Now, they gave solutions which were relevant to challenges of those times. But when you hear “Ahimsa! Ahimsa!”, it means that in those times ‘himsa’ (violence) was a huge issue. In those times, if they differed on something, they would probably break each others’ heads, or stab or shoot. Today, it is not like that. Physical violence today ranks at number 26 as the cause of death. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 are lifestyles.
So our crimes of ‘himsa’ are not guns and daggers, but the way we live, We kill ourselves by living in a passive way – getting heart diseases or diabetes. We kill other people by living in a polluting way. We drive cars for anything.
A recent survey said that the average lifespan of Indians has reduced by 3 years, thanks to us polluting our environment.
That means, that your grandmother could have lived up to 80, but only lived to be 77! In a way, we are all murderers running around, with our cars, our staying up late and our lifestyles. We hoard ten sets of clothes while we need just 3 or 4. Isn’t this ‘himsa’?
When we drive our cars, we shouldn’t forget that every 3 to 4 kilometres, we release a kilogram of CO2 emissions. So, your fancy car is not a statement of you having arrived. It’s a weapon of mass-destruction! You are driving tanks of ‘himsa’ rather than announcing your stylish arrival.
Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism … All of these religions have so many do’s and don’ts. I feel it’s high time that we had an upgraded version 2 of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and others.
I hear many people saying “I’m vegetarian. I don’t eat meat.” Some say “I don’t even eat potatoes”. But I’m asking you, when will the time come, when people say “I’m a Hindu. I believe in ‘Ahimsa’, so I will take the stairs instead of the elevator. They feel it is ‘Himsa’ to consume micro-organisms, but I say it is ‘Himsa’ when you take a lift, because it is using electricity from the thermal power plant, which is taking away 3 years from your grandmother’s life.
So, now your definitions of do’s and don’ts should change. It’s good to be compassionate, but the definition of COMPASSION has to change. In Ladakh, our people are very gentle. Even a fly in a teacup is rescued. But then, I was reading a WWF report on how, between 1947 and now, 52% of our wildlife has disappeared. Imagine! You’re not worried that more than half the Earth’s wildlife is gone, but you’re worried about that fly in your cup.
When will we have a bigger picture of the scale of ‘Himsa’ we are committing while human lifestyle is wiping away half the population of wildlife on Earth?
People need to say “I won’t drink mineral water from a plastic bottle or I dare not touch an elevator. I will stay fit. I won’t kill my grandparents before their time, or myself with diabetes and heart issues, by using power plants for using the elevator. I won’t use the car alone … I will share it, or use public transport.”
It would be wonderful to hear some people “I’m a devout nature lover. I won’t stay up beyond 10 p.m at nights or sleep beyond sunrise. I won’t leave electricity on, once I leave the room.”
These are the things that actually harm. You may be a nature lover, writing poems but if your staying up late, against the rhythm of Nature, building high-rise buildings that have to depend on elevators, using a 5,000 kilo left to transport a human being of 53 kgs, what’s the point? A man or woman, using the lift and travelling by car to go the gym to lose weight, can combine all three by simply using the stairs!”