How might the Hindu notion of ahimsa become an inner conflict or external struggle with current daily interactions or experiences?

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mrkirschner | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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Practicing ahimsa in one’s daily life presents a number of internal and external challenges.  Ahimsa means to ‘do no harm.’  The greatest challenge internally is that ahimsa encompasses not only deeds and words, but also thoughts.  This means that even when you are alone, a concerted effort needs to be made to avoid negative thoughts of others.  Even making a frown could be harmful to others.  The inner struggle that comes in ahimsa is probably more difficult than the external struggle because humans tend to avoid external conflict with others whenever possible.  We tend to bottle up feelings and emotions of anger.  As an example, your boss at work unfairly criticizes you for work you performed.  The expected reaction would be feelings of disdain towards your employer that you mull over in your head.  As one that applies ahimsa, you would be expected to have positive thoughts towards your boss.  This seems to go against our human natures.

There are a number of internal ethical struggles that the adherent must deal with daily.  Ahimsa is obviously against warfare.  What if your government declares an unjust war on another country?  Are you obligated to pay your taxes to that government?  Should you be compelled to serve in the armed forces in this unjust war?  Another internal struggle is in treatment of animals.  Where do you personally draw the line with the harming of animals?  If you practice ahimsa are you expected to be a vegetarian?  Should you kill rodents or insects that make their way into your home?  These are difficult internal struggles.  

It would seem that the practice of ahimsa would be easier to follow with our everyday interactions with one another.  After all, there are laws in every country about doing physical harm to others.  But how can we harm others without laying a hand on them?  Gossiping about other people is a common practice in most cultures, but this is a strict violation of the principle of ahimsa.  How do we deal with others in our interactions at work?  Are we generous and cooperative or does our competitive spirit and ambitious pride get in the way?  In our own homes, how do we interact with members of our own family and our significant other?  Do we take them for granted and treat them in a way that hurts them emotionally?  These are all questions that need to be addressed in the practice of ahimsa.

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