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Ahimsa Beyond Nonviolence and Gandhi

The title of the talk is purposely ambiguous; it is meant to evoke Gandhi’s legacy of Ahimsa and its transcendence of nonviolence, as well as ahimsa’s transcendence of Gandhi. There have been several critiques of nonviolence in recent years, although the name of Gandhi and the idea still carry a certain gravitas.

Scholars have pointed out that the progression from ahimsa, the first among the first of the eight limbs of Yoga, to samādhi, is not necessarily a linear one; that ‘In the perfection of ahimså, one sees other beings as fundamentally no different than oneself. Such a vision implies the state of samådhi’

This comprehensive understanding of ahimsa which doesn’t constrict itself to nonviolence as a strategy, lays the foundations for a political argument. It involves accessing a different kind of apparatus. It is very difficult to have this notion taken seriously, due to the pervasiveness of the paradigm of a Eurocentric, western modernity. We are aware of the different kinds of violence that has been inflicted as a result of this paradigm. The violence of humans against humans and the immense violence inflicted upon nature. So long as we think of nonviolence as a policy instrument which can be used to prevent war, we are still working within the same paradigm. When we understand ahimsa as a component; not of an easy ‘way of life’ paradigm; but of an intense, real process of self-transformation, brought about by spiritual discipline; we can truly conceive of a world where we discover what Dr. Usharbudh Arya termed the ‘human impulse for peace’; and a world where, as Sri Aurobindo puts it, ‘war becomes psychologically impossible’.

Speaker: Tarinee Awasthi is currently pursuing a Masters in Modern Indian History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, and the focus of her work is the persistence and immediacy of spiritual traditions. She is working on the traditions associated with the Yoga-Sutra, and her proposed research deals with questions of transmission and the possibility of alternate subjectivities mediated through the intersubjectivity of the spiritual experience. She is also  interested in the Ramakatha traditions.

Date: 18th March

Time - 3 to 5 pm

Venue: 301, DLF Cross Point Mall, DLF Phase IV, Gurgaon