Ahimsa, Ahimsā, Ahiṃsā: 32 definitions


Ahimsa means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, Marathi, Hindi. 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.

Alternative spellings of this word include Ahinsa.

In Hinduism

Dharmashastra (religious law)

Source: Wisdom Library: Dharma-śāstra

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: Shodhganga: The saurapurana - a critical study (dharma)

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा) represents an aspect of Dharmaśāstra, according to the 10th century Saurapurāṇa: one of the various Upapurāṇas depicting Śaivism.—The Saurapurāṇa (44.47ff) praises the result of ahiṃsā and the appropriateness of hiṃsā in observing svadharma. Ahiṃsā is declared as the Dharma par excellence. It comprehends all the other Dharmas kṣamā, dayā, śauca and satya which result in the eschewing of injury to others are rooted in ahiṃsā.

Ahiṃsā is based on the fundamental conception that the lives in the world from the highest to the lowest are mutually linked up. Any part of it can suffer harm only at the risk of another part and ultimately of the whole, just as the defect in a nut or screw affects adversely the smooth working of the entire machine . So a person should give up hiṃsā. Those who are engaged in the welfare of all beings in mind, deed and speech attain Śivaloka. But the policy of hiṃsā is to be adhered to in case of plucking flowers for Śiva, killing animals for sacrifices and the king punishing the wicked. Women are not to be killed. Adhering to the virtue of ahiṃsā a self-controlled devotee of Śiva, relying on the devotion to Śiva gets liberation in this very life.

Dharmashastra book cover
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Dharmashastra (धर्मशास्त्र, dharmaśāstra) contains the instructions (shastra) regarding religious conduct of livelihood (dharma), ceremonies, jurisprudence (study of law) and more. It is categorized as smriti, an important and authoritative selection of books dealing with the Hindu lifestyle.

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Purana and Itihasa (epic history)

Source: archive.org: Puranic Encyclopedia

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा).—Non-injury. There are opinions both in favour of and against Ahiṃsā in the purāṇas. Śukrācārya extols the importance of Ahiṃsā to the asuras (demons) thus:

"bho! devaripavaḥ satyaṃ bravīmi bhavatāṃ hitam ahiṃsā paramo dharmo hantavyā hyātatāyinaḥ dvijairbhogaratairvede darśitaṃ hiṃsanam paśoḥ jihvāsvādaparaiḥ kāma—mahiṃsaiva parā matā."

"Oh, foes of the devas, I shall tell you the truth which is good for you. Non-injury to any living being is the most righteous thing. Do not molest even those who come to kill you. Even that act would be 'hiṃsā' (injury). It was those brahmins who were attached to worldly pleasures and addicted to overeating that enjoined in the Vedas that hiṃsā is permissible for yāgas." (Devī Bhāgavata, Skanda 4). Mārkaṇḍeya Muni (sage) says thus: "Why should I mind the innumerable killings going on unnoticed in this world full of life. People of old speak very sacredly about Ahiṃsā. But O best of brahmins, who can live in this world without injury to another life?" (Mahābhārata, Araṇya Parva, Ślokas 32 & 33, Chapter 208).

Source: archive.org: Shiva Purana - English Translation

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा) refers to “non-violence”, according to the Śivapurāṇa 2.5.5 (“The Tripuras are fascinated).—Accordingly, as Arihan said to the Lord of the Three Cities: “O ruler of the Asuras, listen to my statement, pregnant with wisdom. It is the essence of the Vedānta and bears high esoteric importance. [...] Non-violence (ahiṃsā) is the greatest virtue. Affliction of others is a great sin. Salvation is defined as non-dependence on others. Eating the food of our choice is heavenly bliss. This has been mentioned by the earlier sages with good justification to be sure. Hence no violence should be indulged in by men who are afraid of hell. [...]”.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index

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: Shodhganga: The saurapurana - a critical study

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा) refers to one of the various limbs of Yoga, according to the 10th century Saurapurāṇa: one of the various Upapurāṇas depicting Śaivism.—Accordingly, the eleventh chapter contains the dialogue of Śiva and Skanda; the glories of the devotees of Śiva and the devotion to Śiva. The systems of Yoga along with its limbs Yama, Niyama, Ahiṃsā, Brahmacarya, Aparigraha, Svādhāya, Saṃtoṣa, Śauca, Prāṇāyāma and Samādhi are described while various kinds of impediments to the practice of Yoga and the means of overcoming them are explained in the thirteenth chapter.

Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Yoga (school of philosophy)

Source: ORA: Amanaska (king of all yogas): A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation by Jason Birch

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा) refers to one of the ten Yamas (disciplines) prescribed for forest dwelling, as mentioned in the Vaikhānasasmārtasūtra.—The Mānasollāsa verse 9.21-24ab lists thirty Yamas and Niyamas. The Vaikhānasasmārtasūtra (8.4), whose date has been estimated between the fourth and eighth centuries, is the earliest source for a list of twenty Yamas and Niyamas [e.g., ahiṃsā]. These were prescribed to a sage at the forest dwelling (vanāśrama) stage of life.

Yoga book cover
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Yoga is originally considered a branch of Hindu philosophy (astika), but both ancient and modern Yoga combine the physical, mental and spiritual. Yoga teaches various physical techniques also known as āsanas (postures), used for various purposes (eg., meditation, contemplation, relaxation).

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Pancaratra (worship of Nārāyaṇa)

Source: archive.org: Catalogue of Pancaratra Agama Texts

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा) refers to one of the ten Yama-practices, as discussed in chapter 1 (Yogapāda) of the Padmasaṃhitā: the most widely followed of Saṃhitā covering the entire range of concerns of Pāñcarātra doctrine and practice (i.e., the four-fold formulation of subject matter—jñāna, yoga, kriyā and caryā) consisting of roughly 9000 verses.—Description of the chapter [āsanabheda-lakṣaṇa]:—Brahmā asks to know about Yogas. Bhagavān replies that there are two kinds of Yoga—karmayoga and jñānayoga. [...]  A devotee may achieve liberation by either method [...] however, in the case of karmayoga it is to be noted that the eight steps are especially defined— Yama involves ten practices: [e.g., ahiṃsā].

Pancaratra book cover
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Pancaratra (पाञ्चरात्र, pāñcarātra) represents a tradition of Hinduism where Narayana is revered and worshipped. Closeley related to Vaishnavism, the Pancaratra literature includes various Agamas and tantras incorporating many Vaishnava philosophies.

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General definition (in Hinduism)

Source: WikiPedia: 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.

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

Source: Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines

s. avihimsā.

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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).

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Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

Source: academia.edu: A Study and Translation of the Gaganagañjaparipṛcchā

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा) refers to “harmlessness”, according to the Gaganagañjaparipṛcchā: the eighth chapter of the Mahāsaṃnipāta (a collection of Mahāyāna Buddhist Sūtras).—Accordingly, “[...] Ratnapāṇi said: ‘Son of good family, what are those sixteen dharmas included in?’ Gaganagañja said: ‘Son of good family, the sixteen dharmas are included in thirty-two dharmas. What are those thirty-two? [...] (5) the great friendliness is included in the unhindered thought and the equal attitude to all living beings; (6) the great compassion is included in indefatigability and works to be done for all beings; (7) the purity of body is included in harmlessness (ahiṃsā) and contentment with one’s own possessions; (8) the purity of thought is included in self-control and calmness; [...]’”.

Mahayana book cover
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Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

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General definition (in Buddhism)

Source: Wisdom Library: Dharma-samgraha

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 (e.g., ahiṃsā). The work is attributed to Nagarjuna who lived around the 2nd century A.D.

Source: Buddhism Tourism: Glossary of Buddhist Terms

Non violence

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Source: archive.org: Trisastisalakapurusacaritra

Ahiṃsa (अहिंस, “non-injury”) refers to one of the five types of Saṃyakcaritra (“right-conduct”), as mentioned in chapter 1.3 [ādīśvara-caritra] of Hemacandra’s 11th century Triṣaṣṭiśalākāpuruṣacaritra: an ancient Sanskrit epic poem narrating the history and legends of sixty-three illustrious persons in Jainism.

Accordingly, as mentioned in Ṛṣabha’s sermon:—

“[...] mokṣa is attained by those who practice unceasingly the brilliant triad of knowledge, faith, and conduct. The abandonment of all censurable activities will lead to right-conduct (cāritra), known by its five divisions, the vow of non-injury, etc. Non-injury, truthfulness, honesty, chastity, and poverty, with five supporting clauses each, lead to mokṣa. [...] The non-injury by negligence of living things movable and immovable, is considered the vow of non-injury (ahiṃsa)”.

Source: WikiPedia: 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: Knowledge Traditions & Practices of India: Indian Ethics: Individual and Social (jainism)

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा, “non-violence”) refers to a moral principles governing a Jain life according Jain ethical conduct (nītiśāstra).—Right conduct is necessary for the spiritual progress of man. The most important thing in Jainism is the practice of non-violence (ahiṃsā), or abstaining from inflicting injury on any being. It is required that the principle of ahiṃsā should be followed in thought, word and deed.

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.

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Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

Source: BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary

ahiṃsā : (f.) non-hurting.

Source: Sutta: The Pali Text Society's 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)

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.

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Marathi-English dictionary

Source: DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and 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 Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English

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

context information

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.

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Sanskrit dictionary

Source: DDSA: The practical 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) Bhagavadgītā (Bombay) 1.5; यत्तपो दानमार्जवमहिंसा (yattapo dānamārjavamahiṃsā) Ch. Up.3.17.4. Manusmṛti 1.63. या वेदविहिता हिंसा नियताऽ- स्मिंश्चराचरे । अहिंसामेव तां विद्याद्वेदाद्धर्मो हि निर्बभौ (yā vedavihitā hiṃsā niyatā'- smiṃścarācare | ahiṃsāmeva tāṃ vidyādvedāddharmo hi nirbabhau) || Manusmṛti 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: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Shabda-Sagara Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा).—f.

(-sā) Harmlessness, doing injury to nothing, one of the cardinal virtues of most Hindu sects, but particularly of the Baudd'has and Jainas. E. a neg. hiṃsā hurt.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Benfey Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा).—f. 1. not hurt, [Mānavadharmaśāstra] 5, 44. 2. not injuring, 6, 75. 3. not giving pain, [Mānavadharmaśāstra] 2, 159. 4. benevolence, [Hitopadeśa] 43, 1, M. M.

Ahiṃsā is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms a and hiṃsā (हिंसा).

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Cappeller Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा).—[feminine] the not injuring or being injured, harmlessness.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary

1) Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा):—[=a-hiṃsā] [from a-hiṃsaka] f. not injuring anything, harmlessness (one of the cardinal virtues of most Hindū sects, but particularly of the Buddhists and Jains; also personified as the wife of Dharma, [Vāmana-purāṇa]), [Chāndogya-upaniṣad; Nirukta, by Yāska; Manu-smṛti] etc.

2) [v.s. ...] security, safeness, [Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa; Aitareya-brāhmaṇa]

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Yates Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा):—[a-hiṃsā] (sā) 1. f. Harmlessness.

Source: DDSA: Paia-sadda-mahannavo; a comprehensive Prakrit Hindi dictionary (S)

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा) in the Sanskrit language is related to the Prakrit word: Ahiṃsā.

[Sanskrit to German]

Ahimsa in German

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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 (even English!). 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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Hindi dictionary

Source: DDSA: A practical Hindi-English dictionary

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा) [Also spelled ahinsa]:—(nf) non-violence; ~[vāda] the creed of non-violence; ~[vādī] a follower of the principle of non-violence; non-violent.

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Prakrit-English dictionary

Source: DDSA: Paia-sadda-mahannavo; a comprehensive Prakrit Hindi dictionary

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा) in the Prakrit language is related to the Sanskrit word: Ahiṃsā.

context information

Prakrit is an ancient language closely associated with both Pali and Sanskrit. Jain literature is often composed in this language or sub-dialects, such as the Agamas and their commentaries which are written in Ardhamagadhi and Maharashtri Prakrit. The earliest extant texts can be dated to as early as the 4th century BCE although core portions might be older.

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Nepali dictionary

Source: unoes: Nepali-English Dictionary

Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा):—n. non-violence;

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Nepali is the primary language of the Nepalese people counting almost 20 million native speakers. The country of Nepal is situated in the Himalaya mountain range to the north of India.

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