Ahimsa, aka: Ahimsā, Ahiṃsā; 12 Definition(s)


Ahimsa means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism


Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा).—One aspect of sanātana dharma, largely observed in tretāyuga;1 non-injury in thought, speech and action towards all beings prescribed for ascetics.2

  • 1) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 29. 69; 30, 35; III. 23. 51, 68 and 72.
  • 2) Vāyu-purāṇa 18. 15-16; Matsya-purāṇa 61. 15; 106. 48; 143. 12-13 and 30.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purāṇa book cover
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The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

Dharmaśāstra (religious law)

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा) refers to “non violence”, but more specifically, it means not to be vindictive towards anybody. It forms an important part in the concept of value. It is the opposite of violence, hurting (hiṃsā). It is used throughout Dharmaśāstra literature such as the Manusmṛti and the Baudhāyana-dharmasūtra.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Dharma-śāstra
Dharmaśāstra book cover
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Dharmaśāstra (धर्मशास्त्र, dharma-shastra) is a category of Hindu literature containing important instructions regarding religious law, ethics, economics, jurisprudence and more. It is categorised as smṛti, an important and authorative selection of books dealing with the Hindu lifestyle.

General definition (in Hinduism)

Ahimsa is a Sanskrit term meaning to do no harm (literally: the avoidance of violence—himsa). It is an important tenet of the religions that originated in ancient India (Hinduism, Buddhism and especially Jainism). Ahimsa is a rule of conduct that bars the killing or injuring of living beings. It is closely connected with the notion that all kinds of violence entail negative karmic consequences. The extent to which the principle of non violence can or should be applied to different life forms is controversial between various authorities, movements and currents within the three religions and has been a matter of debate for thousands of years. Though the origins of the concept of ahimsa are unknown,

The earliest references to ahimsa are found in the texts of historical Vedic religion, dated to 8th century BCE. Here, ahimsa initially relates to “non injury” without a moral connotation, but later to non violence to animals and then, to all beings.

(Source): WikiPedia: Hinduism

In Buddhism


ahiṃsā : (f.) non-hurting.

(Source): BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary

Ahiṃsā, (f.) (a + hiṃsā) not hurting, humanity, kindness D.III, 147; A.I, 151; Dh.261, 270; J.IV, 71; Miln.402. (Page 92)

(Source): Sutta: The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary
Pali book cover
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Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

s. avihimsā.

(Source): Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines
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Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

General definition (in Buddhism)

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा, “non-violence”) refers to one of the fourty “conditions” (saṃskāra) that are “associated with mind” (citta-samprayukta) as defined in the Dharma-saṃgraha (section 30). The Dharma-samgraha (Dharmasangraha) is an extensive glossary of Buddhist technical terms in Sanskrit (eg., ahiṃsā). The work is attributed to Nagarjuna who lived around the 2nd century A.D.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Dharma-samgraha

Non violence

(Source): Buddhism Tourism: Glossary of Buddhist Terms

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Ahimsa in Jainism emphasizes vegetarianism and bans hunting and ritual sacrifice. Jains 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. In accordance to this policy, eating of some foods, whose cultivation harms small insects and worms as well as agriculture itself, is to be abstained from. Violence in self defense, criminal law, and war are accepted by Hindus and Jains. Though ahimsa is not used as a technical term in Buddhism unlike the other two religions, it condemns ritual sacrifice and violence, and moral codes emphasize the importance of not taking life.

(Source): WikiPedia: Jainism
General definition book cover
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Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

ahiṃsā (अहिंसा).—f (S) Non-destruction of life (for the sustenance of man; vegetarianism. 2 Harmlessness towards all living creatures; innocence of bloodshedding.

(Source): DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

ahiṃsā (अहिंसा).—f Non-destruction of life.

(Source): DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
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Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

Sanskrit-English dictionary

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा).—

1) Harmlessness, abstaining from killing or giving pain to others in thought, word or deed; as अहिंसा परमो धर्मः, अहिंसा समता तुष्टिः (ahiṃsā paramo dharmaḥ, ahiṃsā samatā tuṣṭiḥ) Bg.1.5; यत्तपो दानमार्जवमहिंसा (yattapo dānamārjavamahiṃsā) Ch. Up.3.17.4. Ms.1.63. या वेदविहिता हिंसा नियताऽ- स्मिंश्चराचरे । अहिंसामेव तां विद्याद्वेदाद्धर्मो हि निर्बभौ (yā vedavihitā hiṃsā niyatā'- smiṃścarācare | ahiṃsāmeva tāṃ vidyādvedāddharmo hi nirbabhau) || Ms.5.44. 6.75. One of the cardinal virtues of most Hindu sects, The Jainas deserve special credit for making it social virtue of good conduct among the Hindus.

2) Security.

(Source): DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary
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Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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