Non-Violence as a Spiritual Practice

What is ahimsa? It is often translated as nonviolence, but it actually encompasses far more than simply avoiding harming others. Ahimsa is nonviolence in thought, word, and action. But what is the significance of this disposition in spiritual life? Why have a variety of spiritual traditions promoted ahimsa as a central virtue? And why have some of these same traditions also been used as justifications for violence at various points in human history? This seminar will explore the concept of ahimsa from the perspectives of a variety of traditions, as well as the fraught question of the relationship between violence, nonviolence, and the world’s spiritual traditions.

Upcoming 4-Module Course with Dr. Jeffery D. Long:

Ahimsa: Violence and Nonviolence in the World’s Spiritual Traditions

The twenty-first century began with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. There has been much writing and debate on the relationship between faith and violence, with acts of terror at the forefront. However, the twentieth century also gave rise to many successful nonviolent protest movements rooted in spiritual visions of reality. This course will introduce students to the complex relationship between religion and nonviolence. Contemporary and historical expressions of the world’s major spiritual traditions in relation to nonviolence will be explored. Our aim will be to answer the question of why traditions which affirm nonviolence as a central value so often become used as justifications for violence.



Dr. Jeffery D. Long