Ahimsa is a philosophical concept that translates literally into ‘not to strike’. It is also generally interpreted as meaning ‘non-violence’ and ‘compassion’. It is mostly associated with Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Of these three, Jainism has the most strict interpretation and adherence. For many Jains, this means not even perpetrating violence for self-defense, and certainly not in war. Of course, one does not need to be a follower of these religions to practice Ahimsa.
Ahimsa means practicing compassion and non-violence toward all living things. In even the loosest interpretation, very few, if any, exceptions can be made. Humans are not held at a higher regard than non-human animals, thus the killing of animals and consumption of meat is strictly forbidden. Violence toward those who themselves perpetrate violence is also prohibited. For example, a follower of Ahimsa shall not endorse the death penalty or any other violent punishment for any person convicted of committing a violent act. The only time an exception may be made is in the case of self-defense or the defense of another innocent person.
The theory behind Ahimsa is the belief that all life is sacred and connected. No one individual is more or less important than another, and therefore you shall cause no harm to a fellow living being. All life is also connected, so when violence is perpetrated against one, it is committed against all. Violence harms everyone, which is why we must refrain from it.
Wicca teaches a deep respect and reverence for nature and life. The most prominent line of the Wiccan Rede, ‘An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will’, only furthers this point. In this way, the philosophy of Ahimsa is compatible with the religion of Wicca. In order to have a respect for nature and life, we must refrain from harming it by practicing compassion and non-violence. The practice of Ahimsa promotes the greatest good, as violence has no positive outcome, as its only purpose is to cause harm to what we hold sacred.