Ahimsa, (non harm-doing) is the first of the yamas, or the ethical rules of yogic practice. Ahimsa is the foundation upon which the rest of the yamas and niyamas are positioned, as well as being the underlying “goal” of practice in general. To do no harm is practically impossible as every action creates affect or karma. So living with purity of intention, compassion and acting in way that benefits and uplifts other beings and our world is considered a good antidote to doing harm by default of living.
Compassion literally means to suffer with. However, there is a line between suffering with, suffering for, and being a doormat. When does empathy become enabling? Where do suffering and self-absorption meet? How do we tend to our needs, the needs of others and the needs of the world at large without being consumed by the tragedy of so much need and so much suffering? All questions that I am pondering and perhaps you are too. I don’t claim to have any answers at all, except that I think the answer lies in the question. If we can we all consistently practice asking ourselves, “What is compassion?” and how we can act with absolute compassion towards ourselves and all beings, then I think we’ll find our way into some working answers in the quite near future.
Do No Harm website is a nice offering to helping us all out with reminders to Do No Harm. I’m rocking one their wristbands and it’s bringing that essential second of contemplation into most moments of my day.
The Do No Harm Message:
We seem to be living in a world that is getting less hospitable every day. Look closely at any endeavor our species has engaged in and it appears we are unaware of the harm we do, we ignore the harm we do, we intentionally do harm for our own gain, or sadly in some cases we do harm for our own pleasure and enjoyment.
Has no one taught us to do no harm?
If we haven’t been taught to do no harm, we see no harm in doing harm. We cause harm and shrug it off. We cause harm and laugh about it. We cause harm and brag about it.
Sadder still, our children bear witness to our actions and never learn to do no harm themselves. Above all else we must teach our children, by example and instruction, this basic moral principle of life.
We must begin to make better choices and treat each other, the other creatures who share this planet with us, and this planet we call home with greater respect and compassion.
We believe that the first and most basic moral law is, “Do no harm.” Because we can feel pain and suffering, we can imagine the pain and suffering of others, and we can act accordingly to minimize the harm we cause.
What does “do no harm” mean? Ultimately it means to give thoughtful consideration to our actions. “Do no harm” simply means to consider how our actions may affect the world we all share, to be compassionate in our dealings with all creatures, and not to thoughtlessly despoil our planet.
Doctors are asked to “first do no harm,” why not lawyers, businessmen, religious leaders and politicians? Why not us? Why not now?
It sounds like a simple idea because it is a simple idea, but it may be effective over the long run. Will “do no harm” solve all the problems in our world? Perhaps not, but this is an effort to decrease the suffering in the world and to increase the kindness.
We hope that “do no harm” becomes that little voice that guides our actions.
And we hope you will join us and spread the message “Do no harm.”
Show everyone you care and use “Do no harm” to sign-off in your correspondence in place of “Best Wishes”, “Yours” or “Regards.”
If you have a web site, be proud of your support and add the words “Do No Harm” to the top of your home page where everyone will see it.
Be bold and creative in thinking of ways to expose as many as possible to the “Do No Harm” message, but please, do no harm in doing so.
It is not necessary to mention the source of the message. This is certainly a case where the message is far more important than the messengers. All we ask is that you practice do no harm and take every opportunity to share the words “do no harm” with others.
If you wish to include this essay or link to the “Do No Harm” web page, please do; or if you wish to change the wording or write your own, that’s equally OK with us. If we are to change our world for the better, we simply must share the “Do No Harm” message with family and friends, with neighbors and our community.