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Avihiṃsā (T. rnam par mi ‘tshe ba རྣམ་པར་མི་འཚེ་བ་; C. bu hai 不害) is translated as "nonviolence," "non-harming," "refraining from harm," etc. It is an attitude of not wishing to harm other beings.

Avihiṃsā is identified as:


Pali tradition

Bhikkhu Bodhi describes the intention of harmlessness [avihiṃsā] in the context of the right intention as follow:

...the intentions of good will and harmlessness offer the antidote to aversion. Aversion comes to manifestation either in thoughts of ill will—as angry, hostile, or resentful thoughts; or in thoughts of harming—as the impulses to cruelty, aggression, and destruction. Thoughts of good will counter the former outflow of aversion, thoughts of harmlessness the latter outflow, in this way excising the unwholesome root of aversion itself.[1]
The intention of harmlessness is thought guided by compassion (karuna), aroused in opposition to cruel, aggressive, and violent thoughts. Compassion supplies the complement to loving-kindness. Whereas loving-kindness has the characteristic of wishing for the happiness and welfare of others, compassion has the characteristic of wishing that others be free from suffering, a wish to be extended without limits to all living beings. Like metta, compassion arises by entering into the subjectivity of others, by sharing their interiority in a deep and total way. It springs up by considering that all beings, like ourselves, wish to be free from suffering, yet despite their wishes continue to be harassed by pain, fear, sorrow, and other forms of dukkha.[1]

Sanskrit tradition

The Abhidharma-samuccaya states:

What is non-violence? It is an attitude of loving kindness belonging to non-hatred. Its function is not to be malicious.[2]

The Necklace of Clear Understanding states:

Non-violence is patient acceptance which expresses itself in the sentiment of how wonderful it would be if suffering sentient beings could be released from all their frustrations. Patient acceptance is an attitude not marred by the slightest idea of inflicting suffering.
This non-violence and the rejection of harming others is the central idea of the Buddha's teaching.[2]

The Khenjuk states:

Non-violence is a compassionate attitude belonging to non-aggression. Its function is to avoid causing harm to others.[3]

The Buddhist Psychology of Awakening states:

Avihimsa...is translated as “nonviolence” and is related to loving-kindness. It’s related to a form of not hating, and its function is not to become malicious. It is also related to patience and acceptance because maliciousness has the energy of impatience within it. It’s said that nonviolence is patient in a particular way. It is patient acceptance that tends toward and expresses itself with the thought or sentiment: “How wonderful it would be if those who suffer could be released from their suffering.” This is the technical definition of nonviolence. It has as a defining characteristic an attitude in which one cannot find even the slightest hint of wishing to inflict or repay suffering with suffering.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Access to insight icon 50px.png Bhikkhu Bodhi (1999), The Noble Eightfold Path: The Way to the End of Suffering, Access to Insight
  2. 2.0 2.1 Yeshe Gyeltsen 1975, s.v. Non-violence.
  3. Mipham Rinpoche 2004, s.v. Formations.
  4. Goodman 2020, s.v. Nonviolence.


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