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Ahimsa (Sanskrit: Devanagari; अहिंसा; IAST ahiṃsā, Pāli: avihiṃsā) is a term meaning to do no harm (literally: the avoidance of violence - himsa). It is an important tenet of the Indian religions (Hinduism, Buddhism and especially Jainism). Ahimsa means kindness and non-violence towards all living things including animals; it respects living beings as a unity, the belief that all living things are connected. Indian leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi strongly believed in this principle.[1] Avoidance of verbal and physical violence is also a part of this principle, although ahimsa recognizes self-defense when necessary, as a sign of a strong spirit. It is closely connected with the notion that all kinds of violence entail negative karmic consequences.



The term ahinsa appears in the Taittiriya Samhita of the Yajurveda (TS, where it refers to non-injury to the sacrificer himself.[2] It occurs several times in the Shatapatha Brahmana in the sense of "non-injury" without a moral connotation.[3] The ahimsa doctrine is a late development in Brahmanical culture.[4] The earliest reference to the idea of non-violence to animals (pashu-ahimsa), apparently in a moral sense, is in the Kapisthala Katha Samhita of the Yajurveda (KapS 31.11), which may have been written in about the 8th century BCE.[5] The word scarcely appears in the principal Upanishads.[6] The Chandogya Upanishad, dated to the 8th or 7th century BCE, one of the oldest Upanishads, has the earliest evidence for the use of the word ahimsa in the sense familiar in Hinduism (a code of conduct). It bars violence against "all creatures" (sarva-bhuta) and the practitioner of ahimsa is said to escape from the cycle of reincarnation (CU 8.15.1).[7] It also names ahimsa as one of five essential virtues (CU 3.17.4). Some scholars are of the opinion that this passage was a concession to growing influence of shramanic culture on the Brahmanical religion.[8]

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