What does ahimsa actually mean?


Mahatma Gandhi

The western image of India — a peace-loving culture with a predominantly vegetarian population — was strongly influenced by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (also known as, Mahatma ‘Gandhi) and its popularity in the early 20th century.

[Good to know: The inspiration for his peaceful lifestyle and political activism drew M.K. Gandhi from many different sources: the complex interpretation of Ahimsa in the Jainism, christian scriptures, the Teachings of the Buddha, but also the philosophy of the Russian writer Lev Tolstoy led to Gandhi not only following the concept of ahimsa in a religious sense, but also extending it to all areas of life.]

Gandhi expanded the meaning of Ahimsa to include the concepts of Good nature, love, and mercy. For him, non-violence represented the only means to the realization of the truth (and thus of God). It means complete innocence and a perfect state, which is unconsciously striven for by all people.

[,, Non-violence is therefore, in its active form, goodwill towards all life. It is pure love. ’’ (M.K.Gandhi)]

In the struggle for Indian independence, Gandhi used the nonviolent resistanceto achieve the political goals. Even the acts of violence by the British government should be peaceful and by Gandhi's supporters without internal hostility get answered. For him, the end did not justify the means, which is why uncompromising violence was never an option to achieve the goal.

Gandhi and his followers firmly believed that over time, the British colonial power would become convinced of the political ahimsa and eventually improve. Gandhi himself repeatedly emphasized that Ahimsa is not a means of weak or discouraged people, but on the contraryonly feasible through courage and inner steadfastness would.