BANGALORE : I saw a young boy apply sudden breaks to his bicycle as it was about to run over the remains of a crow. A question suddenly popped in my head– Why did the young boy consciously prevent his bicycle from running over the lifeless crow? After all the bird was dead; it would not have suffered pain. Perhaps the boy was aware, like most, that the body of the crow was inhabited by life a while ago and by his act of not running over the bird, he paid a tribute to it.
Those who are no longer alive must be accorded respect and dignity even in death because life is worth reverence but are we aware of it most of the time?
Perhaps not. In Buddhism, ‘respect for life’ (not killing) is the first of the five precepts (Don’ts) laid down by Buddha himself. Buddha said, “Life is dear to all beings. They have the right to live the same as we do.”
When one learns to respect life, one naturally becomes non-violent and compassionate.
The underlying truth beneath the principle of non-violence or ahimsa is understanding and sensing the presence of life in every other creature and therefore, respecting them. Killing someone physically or even hurting psychologically shows lack of respect for one’s own life too. Since, the bitterness that one shows towards the other is cultivated in one’s own heart. The disrespect that one shows towards the other begins with self-disrespect.
Often ahimsa is practiced as a vow but its real value lies not in observing it as an obligatory exercise but rather in becoming more and more responsive to life around. We humans have a tendency to convert truths into an ideal and to follow it until it becomes a dogma. Ahimsa therefore should be practiced along with a continuous self introspection and should be cultivated in the soil of love.
In the Yoga-Sutra, Patanjali (the founder of yoga system) too mentions ahimsa as one of the five vows of abstemiousness. The Yoga philosophy explains the practical implications and advantages of observing ahimsa.
Patanjali says, “On being firmly established in non-violence, there is abandonment of hostility.” It means that when one is deeply non-violent, all conflicts cease. Such a person is not only himself free of hostility but also permeates such vibes that make others around him too, non-hostile. Ahimsa, thus, makes life smoother and friendlier. Ahimsa by no means is a kind of a negative righteousness but rather a positive, dynamic quality of universal love.
While I walked my way to the office, I kept contemplating, how easily we offend others’ dignity by either making snide remarks or showing superiority and how ignorantly, we forget that the essence of all creatures is this life force.
How conveniently we forget this when we gang up to injure or kill others for so-called ‘significant causes.’ After all, what could be more significant than life itself?
We honour the dead and conduct elaborate funeral rites for the deceased. That is good but would it not be so much better if we could revere the living too?