Each action, especially those that cause harm and injury, have a karmic effect that can psychologically damage both the instigator and the recipient.
Ahiṃsā means that we refrain from inflicting harm on all living beings, be it through negligence, ignorance, or even wilful intention. We stay vigilant of our dominant urges, taking full responsibility for our actions and their outcomes.
Inflicting harm, or engaging in violent acts are never adequate solutions for any difficult or challenging situation. The practice of ahiṃsā means gaining mastery over our base impulses, and controlling the use of force through humble and gentle means. As Gandhi explains:
“Nonviolence is the law of our species as violence is the law of the brute. The spirit lies dormant in the brute and he knows no law but that of physical might. The dignity of humans requires obedience to a higher law-to the strength of the spirit.”
Moreover, to advance on the yogic path individuals should take a vow of non-violence and non-harming and apply it to personal and interpersonal relationships.
Yet, ahiṃsā is not just limited to non-injury. Swami Sivananda also said that “Ahimsa is positive, cosmic love. It is the development of a mental attitude in which hatred is replaced by love. Ahimsa is true sacrifice. Ahimsa is forgiveness. Ahimsa is Sakti (power). Ahimsa is true strength.”
When we succeed in practice of ahiṃsā we develop strong willpower, more intimate and loving friendships, and a heightened responsibility of engaging in kind speech and caring, compassionate actions.
“Ahimsa is a comprehensive principle. We are helpless mortals caught in the conflagration of himsa [harm or violence]. The saying that life lives on life has a deep meaning in it. Man cannot for a moment live without consciously or unconsciously committing outward himsa. The very fact of his living – eating, drinking and moving about – necessarily involves some himsa, destruction of life, be it ever so minute. A votary of ahimsa therefore remains true to his faith if the spring of all his actions is compassion, if he shuns to the best of his ability the destruction of the tiniest creature, tries to save it, and thus incessantly strives to be free from the deadly coil of himsa. He will be constantly growing in self-restraint and compassion, but he can never become entirely free from outward himsa.” — Mahatma Ghandi