Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2014 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming


  • Trish O’Sullivan
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6086-2_16

Ahimsa is a Sanskrit term meaning nonharming. It is the supreme virtue in the three great religions of India – Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It is the first Yama or discipline in Yoga, the first precept in Buddhism, and the first great vow in the Jain moral code. If this discipline or vow is kept than the others will automatically be attained. For example, the Buddhist precepts of truthfulness, non-stealing, control of sexual activity, and avoidance of intoxicating substances are forms of nonharm of both self and other. This nonharming ethic is said to benefit others not only through their ensured personal safety but also by the creation of a peaceful atmosphere wherein others are moved to give up their own hostility. Ashoka (268–233 BCE) was an Indian emperor that used rapacious violence to conquer and enforce his rule killing thousands. He converted to Buddhism and adopted the practice of Ahimsa. The peaceful change that followed forever linked his name with Ahimsa.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Trish O’Sullivan
    • 1
  1. 1.Kwan Um School of Zen, Private Practice PsychotherapyNew YorkUSA