Religion Past and Present

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Ahiṃsā
(156 words)

[German Version]

The ethical requirement of ahiṃsā (fem.; lit. “noninjury [of living things]”) is common to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Based on an early Indian criticism of animal sacrifice and the idea of reincarnation, it began to emerge c. 500 bce, initially as an ideal of ascetic living, later as a general virtue of the upper castes. Above all, ahiṃsā forbids the killing of animals, especially cattle, for food (one result being widespread vegetarianism). M. Gandhi transformed ahiṃsā into a commandment of political non-violence and religious love for all living beings.

Cite this page
Michaels, Axel, “Ahiṃsā”, in: Religion Past and Present. Consulted online on 17 July 2019 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1877-5888_rpp_SIM_00292>
First published online: 2011
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004146662, 2006-2013



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