Não violência

Non-violence [1] - The Heart of Dharma
Joep Ingen Housz

With this article I respond to the appeal of my heart to share one of my most profound beliefs with others. Like other beings I am not free from the suffering of Samsara, but I consider myself a privileged and happy person.

My privilege is that I found the Dharma, which is the path that leads to ultimate happiness and freedom from the suffering of Samsara. Also that I met with my precious Teachers who manifest the wisdom, love and compassion they teach me with patience. I am also very privileged to share my life and love with my wife Ivone, with my children and friends. With them I try to put in practice what my Teachers teach me. Thanks to their patience, love and compassion and my efforts to learn I progress on the path. As a result I am rewarded with a profound feeling of Joy and Happiness, but I feel also sadness for the immense suffering of living creatures in our world. It is my deepest wish that all living beings find ultimate happiness and liberation.

Through a series of articles on Non-violence I will share the little knowledge and experience I have on the subject with others in the intention to benefit them.

One of the secrets to realize ultimate happiness and liberation is to apply Non-violence as guiding principle for life. I consider it a secret since most people ignore the value of Non-violence and even fewer people think, speak and act according to the principle of Non-violence. This is one of the major reasons that so many people are unhappy and suffering, that countless animal have to suffer and die. That is why our planet Earth, our vital life support system is degrading in such high speed that it is doubtful if the biosphere will be able to support future generations. This is why we are confronted every day with cruelty and violence throughout the world.

We might be tended to think that we are peaceful persons and that we do not cause suffering of other living beings. When I look deeper than superficial to my own life I have to admit that other beings suffer because of me. If you are sincere with yourself it is hard to reach another conclusion. Much of the harm we cause is due to ignorance and selfishness. Sometimes it is a deliberate choice of people to harm others out of anger or hatred, because they see others as their enemy. We should also realize that it is inherent to our existence as a human being that we harm and kill other forms of life.

When we cause the suffering of living beings, ignorantly or consciously, we are responsible and we add to our negative Karma. Our Karma makes that we will suffer ourselves in the future because of the suffering we cause to others today. The suffering we meet today is the result of our past actions that caused suffering of other beings. Many see Karma as a sort of punishment for bad behavior in the past, but that is not the case. We are confronted with the results of our past actions to have the opportunity to purify our Karma and for our personal growth. The understanding of the relationship between Non-violence and Karma is very important and will be dealt with in a separate article.

All sentient beings[1] want to live and be happy. Like my dog Pema who survived for about 2 years in the streets of Portugal until she met me and asked to adopt her. She saw her kid’s killed, run over by cars. She was herself severely injured and survived her hunger by eating garbage. She often asks for affection, when she receives it she is happy, when not it is also good. She reminds me every day that animals too have the right to be happy.


When I look at the plants and trees in our farm I am often touched by the immense life force that plants have to come to life and to survive. Some trees grow in the strangest curves in order to receive the light of the sun.

Although every living being is longing to survive we humans harm and kill so much out of ignorance and to fulfill our selfish needs. As a result the evil we cause to others rebounds to us and cause our own suffering. It is because we are so concentrated on our selves and our own needs and fears that we ignore the needs and fears of other beings. It is this ignorance that causes so much suffering in our world.

When we fully understand the cause of suffering the solution is simple: open ourselves for the needs and fears of other sentient beings and rid ourselves from our narrow selfish approach of the world. This is easy to say but some more difficult to implement. We are too afraid that we will lose too much when we lose our selfishness. However it was Mohandas K. Gandhi who understood that with violence you only lose and by applying Non-violence you only win in the end. It is not some idealistic approach but an intelligent view of reality that inspired his philosophy and actions[2].

“There is no stronger weapon than the weapon of nonviolence”
Mohandas K. Gandhi

Gandhi started first in South Africa and later in India the Satyagraha, the non-violent resistance to the apartheid and the colonial oppression of the Indian people. As a result the Indian sub-continent was liberated. His approach has inspired many like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King in their struggle to free their people.

Although many around the world adopt non-violence as approach for their cause, the foundation is not always well understood, especially in the West where Ahimsa is unknown. The term Non-violence was introduced around 1920 in the English dictionaries intended as a translation of the Sanskrit word Ahimsa, the secret force of Gandhi non-violent resistance. However non-violence does not cover the profound meaning of Ahimsa. Non-violence often associated with the absence of physical violence.

Ahimsa means: not harming beings by thought, speech or physical action.

For Gandhi Ahimsa was the guiding principle in all he did in his life. For instance, he was strictly vegetarian because it was unacceptable to him to have other creatures killed to satisfy his need for food. He would prefer to die himself rather than harm others.

Gandhi did not see opponents as enemies with feelings of anger and hatred and a force to be defeated. He understood that his opponents had a different view of the truth, their relative truth, and that they acted out of their belief in the truth. His actions were inspired by respect for his opponents and understanding of their ignorance, he was a truly compassionate person and as such a great example for mankind.

If we want to progress on our path of self-realization we should adopt Ahimsa as a guiding principle, because as long as we continue to harm other beings the door to our ultimate liberation remains locked. The process to exchange our selfish approach of the world for Ahimsa as guiding principle in everything we think, say or do is extremely rewarding but not easy. We will meet obstacles of our emotions, our habitual patterns deeply embedded in our consciousness, and lack of understanding from others who do not share the same insights and principles.

Ahimsa is not limited to not harming others, it includes also not harming ourselves. Many people through their lifestyle, their food, their emotions, and their habits harm themselves much. In order to take care for our-selves we have to adopt a healthy lifestyle that means taking care of our physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual health and wellbeing.

If we want to be able to understand others we first have to learn to understand ourselves and to see how our thoughts, emotions, words and deeds can harm others and ourselves. We have to develop a clear vision of the path that is in front of us to liberate ourselves. We need to gain faith in our path, our teachers and the teachings that guide us. Our faith should not be blind but rather critical, not questioning by doubt but by reason, logic and experience.

Faith is the source of energy we need to progress on our path.

If we want to rid ourselves from our ignorance we just have to assimilate some of the the overwhelming information and evidence that is available on the harm we do to our fellow humans, animals and our nature in general. When we open our heart for the suffering of others caused by our behavior we cannot but develop the aspiration that other beings are liberated from their suffering and find ultimate happiness. When I see for instance the pictures of how humans treat animals in order to serve as their food, it is impossible for me to eat a tiny peace of animal for the rest of my life. Facing the reality of suffering and the cause of suffering opens our heart and helps to grow our love and compassion for others. This is the secret of happiness ignored by so many that I want to share with you.

The heart of wisdom is the wisdom of the heart

In subsequent articles I will go deeper into the nature of non-violence and will give practical suggestions to adopt Ahimsa as guiding principle for life. By doing so I wish to give a modest contribution to the wellbeing of beings in our universe.


[1] Sentient beings are beings that are conscious of their senses (who have a form of neural system how primitive it may be): humans, animal’s insect’s etc.

[2] An autobiography or The story of my experiments of the truth: M.K. Gandhi ISBN 81-7229-081-0 Jitendra T. Desai; Navajivan Mudranalaya, Ahmedabad-340 014 India

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