We know Ahimsa is the core concept of Hinduism. It is not just non-violence or not resorting to arms, but it is also the feeling that tries to reduce harm to all living creatures.

Sometimes, force or violence may in fact be necessary to prevent harm.

How is it possible inline with the concept of Ahimsa?

  • Running away in self defence does not harm anyone, do that :P Jul 2 '14 at 12:47
  • 1
    FYI, self defence doesn't comes under violence.
    – Mr_Green
    Jul 2 '14 at 12:49
  • @Mr_Green - What if a person attacking you and what should be your response(pls consider my question while answering).
    – Kiran RS
    Jul 2 '14 at 12:55
  • 1
    My response would be to make him pulp but considering Hinduism, I am not sure. :). Lets see what will be the answer.
    – Mr_Green
    Jul 2 '14 at 12:57

Ahimsa as we know it today was a notion popularized by M.K.Gandhi. While the core of what he said was as per Hindu philosophy, he missed an essential part that ahimsa also meant prevention/minimization of himsa and not just non-himsa.

Dharma is contextual. One needs to understand the situation and do the action which minimizes himsa. This was the doubt Arjuna had in the Kurukshetra war - that if waging a war which would result in so many deaths was correct. The essence of Krishna's reply is that by causing harm to the Adharmic people, he'd prevent larger harm which would happen if the Adharmic Kauvravas won. This is in fact what is called Kshatriya Dharma. For example, killing Bin Laden was himsa but it prevented much more himsa which would have happened if he was alive.

Himsa in self-defence would fall under the category of himsa to prevent a larger himsa. Dr.David Frawley uses the terms Absolute and relative non-violence to describe this in the book "The Importance Of Kshatriya Dharma":

Absolute and Relative Non-violence

We must discriminate between absolute non-violence and relative non-violence. Absolute non-violence means not even raising a hand even to defend oneself from unjust attack. Relative non-violence means only using violence to defend oneself and one's community. Relative non-violence is appropriate for communities and for those who have not renounced the world, and above all for the Kshatriya or noble class of people who cannot idly stand by in the face of oppression. (Emphasis mine)

Absolute non-violence - that is, not resorting to force even to defend one's life and property - is a Dharma in Hinduism for Sannyasins or those who have renounced the world, and therefore have nothing to defend. Yet even Swamis can use force to protect their country should they choose when their country is attacked. We note that in the course of Indian history that monks and Brahmins at times found it necessary to resort to violence to defend their religion and their country against invaders.[1]


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