Ahimsa Today

Kindness and Compassion as a Way of Life

Tag: suffering

Ahimsa and Human Values

What human values are important to you? Perhaps there are certain ones you hold most dear, values that may even be central to your self-identity. I suggest you make a list of your values. If you want to compare your list (or if you need help in making it), try the links to these lists. The values below were represented in at least five of the twelve values inventories studied in this meta-inventory.

(1) freedom, (2) helpfulness, (3) accomplishment, (4) honesty, (5) self- respect, (6) intelligence, (7) broad-mindedness, (8) creativity, (9) equality, (10) responsibility, (11) social order, (12) wealth, (13) competence, (14) justice, (15) security, and (16) spirituality.

Our values reflect who we are and, perhaps more importantly, who we want to be. The extent of our shortcomings, which is to say, how far short we fall of self-actualization (or self-realization, if you prefer) may be reflected in how we impact others. I’ve noticed that some people’s flaws find mostly internal expression, while others’ flaws manifest externally, affecting those around them in major ways. Put another way, some people cause themselves to be the harmed through self-doubt, anxiety, self-destructive behaviors, etc., while maintaining sort of a firewall to contain the problems, so as not to burden friends, family, coworkers, etc., while other sufferers are inclined to freely share their miseries, which manifest as bad behaviors. Just as children develop the ability to care about the needs of others, when we as adults become more self-actualized, that capacity can continue to develop, and I would argue that it should, as a natural progression for those who continue to grow emotionally, or psycho-spiritually, if you will.

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Introduction to Ahimsa

There can be no life without death. While death is unequivocal, suffering varies in kind, amount, and degree, but likewise seems to be inescapable. People like to think of themselves as being kind and compassionate, or least as not being cruel and hardhearted. But how do we respond the all the suffering and death in the world and in our lives, especially considering that suffering and death are intrinsic to the natural world? Life springs from death, but unless our suffering is extreme and death offers the only way out, we want to live, and it’s reasonable to assume that others, man or beast, also want to live. As far as nonhuman animals are concerned, the question of suffering is particularly relevant today, because the vast, vast majority of us in America are far removed from live animals in agriculture, our first contact with them coming in the form of animal products. (As I’ll discuss in future posts, the response of some people to the horrors of factory farming is to buy locally produced animal products, or to buy those labeled as humane (free range, cage free, etc.), but generally, the practices used by these sources fall short.) (This post and this blog will center on practices in the U.S., as that’s where I live, and where I’m best able to make a difference.)

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