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(Sanskrit: noninjury) Fundamental ethical virtue of Jainism, also respected in Buddhism and Hinduism. In Jainism ahimsa is the standard by which all actions are judged. It requires a householder observing the small vows (anuvrata) to refrain from killing any animal life. An ascetic observing the great vows (mahavrata) is expected to take the greatest care not to injure any living substance, even unknowingly. To do so interrupts that being's spiritual progress and increases one's own karma, delaying liberation from the cycle of rebirth. In the 20th century Mohandas K. Gandhi extended ahimsa into the political sphere as satyagraha.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on ahimsa, visit Britannica.com.