Nonviolence as a Life Process

Chandan Sukumar Sengupta

       AHIMSA is often referred as Nonviolence in English. But, the term Nonviolence is not reflecting the absolute nature of the term AHIMSA as the absolute form duly projected through theories of Yoga in Vedic Philosophy. Special emphasis of elaborating the term AHIMSA is implied by Saint Patanjali, Lord Buddha, Mahaveera and in more practical way by Mahatma Gandhi. Still then we accept the term and replace AHIMSA by the negative aspect of violence that often stretch out the meaning of the term Nonviolence for accommodating some of the absolute aspects of the philosophy of AHIMSA. The term AHIMSA took its first appearance in the Vedantic[i] Philosophical theories and doctrines. Saint Patanjali considered AHIMSA as one of the prominent part of the Eight Part Yoga Philosophy (Astanga Yoga Darshan)[ii]. AHIMSA was accommodated under the YAMA[iii] part of the Yoga Theory. Without truth and Nonviolence, one cannot make oneself fit for moving across the Yoga practices duly reflected by Saint Patanjali.

AHIMSA alone can make a situation suitable for all the organisms staying within certain confinement and facilitating in casting off all sorts of minute differences such as caste, colour, creed, customs etc.



AHIMSA or Nonviolence

            Saint Patanjali described the philosophy of AHIMSA by coining a simple theory of the concept that reflects the entire beauty of the inherent dogma. According to his theory, “Where Nonviolence is established in its absolute sense, organisms living within that surrounding will cast off their individual differences and start leading a life like that of a single family.”[iv] People living under such confinement of philosophical convergence even forget their all sorts of individual differences of caste, creed and colour.

            Philosophy of Nonviolence even secured its prominent position in Buddhism, Jainism and other schools of religion duly developed and practiced in the Indian context. Lord Mahaveer delivered his doctrines of practicing Nonviolence at its absolute level to be followed by Jain Saints. Lord Buddha perpetuated his teachings by placing Peace and Nonviolence in the central position and instructed fellow followers not to move on toward the impulse of violence for putting oneself and the community in trouble. Not to think about creating harm to any individual or to any system even in dream was the absolute doctrine delivered by saints like Buddha and Mahaveer.  Most remarkable feature of such AHIMSA is the convergence of culture, tradition and rituals toward attaining a communal harmony through sacrificing individually apprehended wants for the community welfare. Balancing the need and want is another practical aspect of ahimsa or nonviolence that leads an individual toward attaining satisfaction.

            Attainment of such satisfaction, in turn, will make the individual stable by mind, intellect, deed and creed. A follower of peace and nonviolence with such attainment of satisfaction and stability can ascend toward a state of self-regulated individual having adequate faith upon the self. Here becomes the union of both external as well as internal power of the individual.

Collective Worship

            Worshipping god for individual satisfaction will be a matter of absurdity because of the involvement of a living being with the immediate surrounding with other fellow aspirants. Remaining off the habitat and moving apart from the community is rarely possible for any socially awakened beings in actual sense. It is collective worship duly ascribed for the collective progress that brings more fruitful result for all the individuals remained involved in the process of worshipping god. Mahatma implied adequate stress on the essence of regular community prayer for imbibing the essence of collective worship in all ashram inmates. It can even remove individual differences, diffuse caste feelings, neglect religious imbalances and promotes harmony through acknowledging the regional variations of worshipping the common almighty.

            Collective worship avails adequate facility to all the individuals for exploring their possible accommodation in all kinds of social as well as economic activities. The Community of Ark duly established by Lanza Del Vasto[1] (1901-1981) in France worked out their aspects of collective worship aiming toward establishing peace and harmony within the community.[2] Each person at the Ark works according to their capabilities and receive as per their needs.[3] In that way none of the community members remain off the stream of social as well as economic activities duly planned by the community. It will even enhance the self-esteem of the contributor and performer that often pave a path of continuous ascent toward individual refinement in acts and performances. Such dogma of collective progress describes the real beauty of the life order having a base of peace and nonviolence. The Arc can also be considered as a community movement aimed toward accomplishing the common good.[4]


Wants and Needs

What we want is obviously a state of our willingness of allowing ourselves to expose the greed up to the extreme and make our wants a voluminous one. But, our needs are the specifications of our life process that we surpass on a daily basis. We can limit our wants by regulating our greed and by establishing a subtle control upon our wish factors. Here our will power can help us a lot. Ultimately will power is the master regulator of our deed and greed.[5]

            We can even minimize our need by making our life process a simple one. Regarding this aspect also Dr. J. C. Kumarappa[6] adequately pointed out the prevailing confusion that often strikes the mind of people regarding standard of living. Standardisation of any life process depends upon the type of the habitat and not on the type of self-ascribed choice. We even take food as per the immediate need of our body and not in accord to our wants of fulfilling the ever increasing greed. He has claimed that the lifestyle of Mahatma Gandhi is of a simple type and that of any city dwellers is of a complicated type. Attainment of simplicity in the lifestyle should be an ideal progress in the life of any individual.

            Community of Ark also displayed the essence of manual labour, fulfillment of basic needs, simple living aspects, embracing voluntary simplicity of daily life, adequate participation of people in decision making and collective worship through community prayers.[7]  It is not the only aspect of the collective progress, they even impart their aspirations in bringing out certain common resolutions for paving the path of the community welfare.

The Goal of Life

            The ultimate goal of a human being aptly defined by the type of the knowledge that is housed in the conscious mind. It may lead the person toward defining the role in society and also it may lead toward withdrawing from the society after a definite interval of time. What to do and how is obviously an individual affair. The gift of community living is the feeling of the omnipresence of the divine almighty with all its guidance and surveillances. Goal of a life should not be a fixed one. Saint Santidas[8] moved on from far off places in search of the ideal social and economic order that bring the entire stream of the social and economic practices of a community towards attainment of a permanence impregnated with peace, nonviolence and harmony. After meeting Gandhi, moving up to the heights of Himalaya, he has assimilated the message of the divine almighty and started feeling the spark of progress and ascent within himself. It ensured the birth of the Community of Ark in particular and an ideal way of leading a community for collective progress in general. It also ascribed the fact that sustainability lies only in the progress of the people through collective efforts.

            Not only that, Santidas moved on to lead movements for conveying the message of peace and nonviolence at different instances.[v]

More on Community of Ark

  1. Make Straight the Way of the Lord: An Anthology of the Philosophical Writings of Lanza del Vasto, Knopf, New York, 1974.
  2. Warriors of Peace: Writings on the Technique of Nonviolence, by Lanza del Vasto, Knopf, New York, 1974.
  3. Return to the Source, by Lanza del Vasto, Schocken, New York, 1972. Includes an account of Shantidas’s stay with Gandhi.
  4. The Community of the Ark: A Visit with Lanza del Vasto, His Fellow Disciples of Mahatma Gandhi, and Their Utopian Community in France (20th Anniversary Edition), by Mark Shepard, Simple Productions, Friday Harbor, Washington, 2011. A personal, detailed account of my visit.

End Notes:

[1] Lanza Del Vasto [born – Giuseppe Giovanni Luigi Maria Enrico Lanza di Trabia-Branciforte] (1901- 1981) was a philosopher, poet, artist, catholic and nonviolent activist. He worked for ecological activism, nonviolence, spiritual advancement and collective progress in Europe. During his stay at Sevagram Ashram with Mahatma Gandhi he has observed the essence of peace and nonviolence in daily life. Bearing such noble thought impregnated with the beauty of Home Rule, he has formed the Community of Arc in France. Return to the Source was his best compilation that reflected the Vision he imbibed in his intellect.


  1. Make Straight the Way of the Lord: An Anthology of the Philosophical Writings of Lanza del Vasto, Knopf, New York, 1974. (ISBN 0394493877)

[2] Reference: Return to the Source, Schocken, New York, 1972. Includes an account of Shantidas’s stay with Gandhi. (ISBN 0805234411)

[3] Reference: Peace Magazine, June July 1990, Page 16

[4] Community living of the Arc reflects the moral and ethical principles similar to that projected by Mahatma Gandhi in Hind Swaraj.

Ref: Principles and Precepts of the Return to the Obvious, Shocken, New York, 1974. (ISBN 9780805235364) (Originally published in French under the title “Principes et préceptes du retour à l’évidence”, Editions Denoël, Paris, 1945).

[5] Dr. J. C. Kumarappa, The Gandhian Economist.

Ref: Economy of Permanence; Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan, Rajghat, Varanasi 221001, 1984, pages: 208

[6] Dr. J. C. Kumarappa, a well known Gandhian Economist, (Joseph Chelladurai Kumarappa) was born on 4 January 1892 in Tanjore, present-day Tamil Nadu, into a Christian family.


  1. Solomon Victus, Jesus and mother economy (2007. ISPCK, New Delhi) ISBN 978-81-7214-977-2
  2. M. Govindhu and D. Malghan, ‘Building a creative freedom: J. C. Kumarappa and his economic philosophy’ (September 2005), to appear in the Economic and Political Weekly [and available at]

[7] Community of Ark is the place where people put forth their aspirations in decision making and executing the same in all instances of daily life.  References:

  1. Make Straight the Way of the Lord: An Anthology of the Philosophical Writings of Lanza del Vasto, Knopf, New York, 1974.
  2. Warriors of Peace: Writings on the Technique of Nonviolence, by Lanza del Vasto, Knopf, New York, 1974.

[8] Joseph Jean Lanza del Vasto (1901-1981) was an Italian aristocrat deeply concerned about this violence. … Gandhi gave Lanza a new name: Shantidas, “Servant of Peace.” Santidas implemented the concept of Home Rule proposed by Mahatma Gandhi for enriching the precepts and practices of people involved in the Community of Ark.

[i] The term Vedanta stands for the end of Veda, the holy scriptures of Vedic Period of Indian History that describes the Philosophy, beliefs, rituals and cultural practices of Vedic People.

An elaborated source that reflects the Philosophy in particular:

[ii] Refer the book titled Patanjal Yoga Pradeep written by Saint Pathanjali.

[iii] YAMA represents a series of ethical rules to be followed by a person aspiring for a yoga based life. Nonviolence, Truth, Non-Stealing, Chastity, worshipping the almighty and the virtue of non-possessiveness, non-grasping or non-greediness are the aspects of the Yama duly reflected in the Ashtanga Yoga Philosophy.

Reference: Devanand, G. K. Teaching of Yoga. APH Publishing. p. 45. ISBN     9788131301722. Yama is a “moral restraint” or rule for living virtuously. Ten                        yamas are codified in numerous scriptures, including the Hatha Yoga                Pradeepika compiled by Yogi Swatmarama, while Patanjali lists five yamas and              five niyamas (disciplines) in the Yoga Sutra.

[iv] The Sanskrit Theory of AHIMSA says, “AHIMSA PRATISHTHAYAM TATSANNIDHOW VAIRATYAGAH.” The theory obtained from the Patanjayogapradeep compiled by Saint Patanjali.

[v] Some of the nonviolent struggles led by Santidas were as follows:

  1. Protest against torture during Algerian War (1957).
  2. Fasted for 40 days in Rome during the Second Vatican Council asking people to say no to war (1963).
  3. Supported farmers of Larzac Plateau against the extension of a military base (1972).
  4. Demonstrated against constructing a Fast Breeder Reactor at Creys- Malville (France – 1976).