Thursday, 11 September 2014

Ahimsa in Action.

Loosely translated Ahimsa means non violence or the absence of the desire to harm other life forms. Ahimsa is such an essential philosophy that if you are not familiar with the concept, I really recommend you to learn more about it.

I will write some articles about Ahimsa, for now I start with an event which happened 4 years ago and involved Ahimsa in action, just there, on the streets of Bangkok.

I was strolling with my son one night on Silom Road, a big broad busy street in busy Bangkok, relaxing with a cold beer after my work at the vegan café had finished.

There it was. In front of a big office building, between the plants, was a big scruffy rat, he seemed lost and a bit confused where to go, and in no hurry. The rat was plain visible and had attracted the attention of the night guard, who was equally scruffy and confused about what to do. A few people had stopped on the sidewalk and curiously watched the rat, so this made the guard feel like he HAD to do something, and he started to make a not very convincing body move to kick the rat.

I felt very unpleasant about the foresight of having to see an animal be kicked and possible killed. To be honest I felt a little bit frozen; I would like to do something but didn't know what.

Suddenly from nowhere it seemed a guy came running and jumped between the night guard and rat. With his hands high up in the air, as a clear sign of him to the guard that his intentions are not aggressive or directed towards the night guard, he stood there between the guard and the rat, effectively protecting the rat from a kick, and loudly (but not aggressively) spoke to the guard  “don’t do it!” or something similar. Most impressively was that the attitude of the guy was not that of anger towards the night guard, no angry face or harsh aggressive words, but a more nice attitude.

The guard who never seemed to be fanatical about kicking the rat in the first place, actually seemed relieved and happy that somebody prevented him doing something that he might have regretted later, and walked away without harming the rat.

Now, IMO, the Ahimsa part of this story is not primarily the fact that somebody shielded the rat with his own body from violence, but more the way in how this was done, not in a personal aggressive way but in a protective way; the guy was not only protecting the rat’s safety, but the guy also was in a way protecting the guard in making such a grave mistake of kicking an innocent animal. The guy didn't act as if the night guard was a bad person, but more as a friend that prevented him from making a misstake. Both the rat, as well as the night guard were respected. In solving this conflict situation, no bad feelings for anyone were created. That means that that night guard most possibly will feel strong in not kicking rats in the future. If that night guard was treated in an angry way, he might have felt begrudged and next time taken it out of another animal.

In solving this conflict, also no compromises were made. The guy didn't talk with the night guard and made a compromise like “okay, you can kick the rat but only one time and not too hard.” That might sound silly, and actually it is silly, but that is exactly what happens all the time. People, vegans, ARA, making compromises (first of all, making compromises with themselves.) because they don’t believe in the strengt of their own ideals and arguments. They think about their own ideals as “noble but out of reach for the “real world”. “Being a vegan is difficult and we cannot expect everybody to eat vegan” is such a classic way of thinking that has almost? become the norm within the vegan community.

I occasionally remember what happened that night in Bangkok. What a guy! J He effectively did protect the animal in such a gentle and sympathetic way that most probably the night guard will not harm an innocent rat in the future anymore. Ahimsa, it seems, is not only very noble but also extremely practical and effective for the real world. I have to say that again?

More reading?

There are two articles on Wikipedia which deal with Ahimsa. One article is solemnly about “Ahimsa”, the other article is about “Ahimsa in Jainism”. Since it are the Jains who are most outspoken with the Ahimsa principle and who have made “Ahimsa” one of the cornerstones of their life style, this article is the most relevant, and if you ever meet an Indian person talking about Ahimsa it is most likely a Jain person, this article is the most relevant.

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