Ahimsa is the tenet of non-violence found in Indian religions. In Hinduism, it entails kindness and doing no harm to living things out of the belief that all beings are connected in Brahman, the fabric of absolute reality. Both verbal and physical violence create bad karma resulting in negative consequences for the soul that perpetrates them and should be avoided. However, Hindus hold that ahimsa does not always include justified warfare or the death penalty and allows for both under certain circumstances. Hinduism also honors the duties of warriors and soldiers and maintains the permissibility of self-defense. In general, the concept of ahimsa encourages vegetarianism, though many Hindus do eat meat, often refraining only from beef as cows because of their place of reverence in the tradition. Still, some Hindus argue that eating any meat is sinful.
Ahimsa has grown increasingly prominent in Hinduism through the Hindu revival of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in India. Mohandas Gandhi particularly stressed ahimsa and utilized it as the conceptual basis for non-violent civil disobedience. These campaigns soon characterized the Indian struggle for independence from British colonial rule and also influenced the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Ahimsa is also an important part of the Buddhist and Jain faiths. Jainism considers ahimsa the most important of all religious duties, refraining from the consumption of any meat or animal-based products and going to significant lengths to prevent causing harm to even the smallest forms of animal life.
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