Yesterday we briefly mentioned the Buddhist tendency to be peaceful and nonviolent. This idea has come up many times in the past, but we’ve never really looked into it too deeply. The Sanskrit term for this idea is ahimsa, which literally translates to “the avoidance of violence,” but generally is stated in English as “Do no harm.” The idea and the word pre-date Buddhism going way back in Hinduism.
Ahimsa is primarily a term from Hinduism, and is better known to Buddhists as the First Precept: “I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life.”
Some groups do go to great lengths to avoid killing anything, even insects. Followers of Jainism (not a sect of Buddhism, but a whole other religion if you haven’t heard of it), go out of their way so as not to hurt even small insects and other minuscule animals and make considerable efforts not to injure plants in everyday life as far as possible. For Buddhists, the ideas of ahimsa preclude going to war or murder, and although hotly debated, are the center of the argument for vegetarianism. Are there limits? Practically yes. In our modern lives, it’s hard to avoid killing insects. Vegetarianism is not required for most Buddhists. Sometimes war is forced upon us.
Do you apply the first precept consciously in your life? I suspect few of us have ever killed a person, but do you actually use this precept consciously in your day-to-day life? How? I’d like yo hear your experiences!