Hindus/Ahimsa

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Question
In school we have been studying the Hindu belief of Ahimsa and I understand that all Hindus should practice it however are there any exceptions?
For example is it acceptable to be violent in speech or thought?
And is war ever excusable/justified? Especially if war has the aim to defend a country/race?
I find this belief fascinating however sometimes it seems confusing as to the practicalities, I was wondering if you could help?
Thank you!

Answer
Dear Rossita,

Thank you for your question.

Ahimsa, "non-injury,"is an ethical ideal and also an ethical practice. Taken to its absolute conclusion, one would have to starve oneself to death to avoid harming other living beings, as some Jains do. But this is not the Hindu concept of the practice.

Hindu spiritual practice is above all pragmatic. Righteousness, dharma, varies from individual to individual according to their inner nature and station in life. It is required for soldiers, for example, to fight and even kill others in order to protect the innocent. Refusing to do so would be for a soldier a form of himsa, "harm." A righteous war is permissible, therefore.

It is enjoined on Hindus to strive ever to more perfect practice of ahimsa within the bounds of insuring survival and one's livelihood. As one matures in spiritual understanding, the subtler forms of harm we perpetrate on one another with careless speech or actions become more apparent, and the ethical Hindu will continue to strive to avoid harm whenever possible. For example, a soldier for whom killing another is permissible in one situation would still be expected to avoid striking or verbally abusing his wife or children in another situation.

Best wishes,

Brother William

Hindus

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William Schindler, a.k.a. Brother William

Expertise

I can answer questions about Vedanta philosophy, Patanjali Yoga philosophy and practice, Tantra, Bhagavad-Gita, Upanishads, Vivekachudamani (Shankara`s Crest-jewel of Spritual Discrimination), Advaita (non-dualism), the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda tradition, Goddess worship, meditation practice, Hindu monasticism (sannyasa), and Sanskrit.

Experience

I've been studying and practicing Vedanta and Tantra since 1969.

Organizations
I'm the founder and spiritual director of Ashram West, a gay spiritual community based on traditional Hindu Tantra. I have been a member of the Vedanta Society of Southern California since 1969.

Publications
I have three books in print: GAY TANTRA, ESSAYS ON GAY TANTRA, BLOOD OF THE GODDESS.

Education/Credentials
I hold a B.A. in Sanskrit (UC Berkeley 1975) and an M.A. in clinical psychology (Antioch University 1986).

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