We come to the first fleshing out of our relationships with others. As in medicine, the first rule is to do no harm.
The global state of harmlessness consists of acknowledging the humanity of others, an absence of malevolent feelings and refraining from harmful acts. Its value is fairness, its conviction is that there is common ground among us and its attitude is tolerance. Harmlessness is a perfect follow-up to mindfulness, coming before we proceed to the more assertive stages of interpersonal relationships.
Mere harmlessness represents the most rudimentary level of ethical development. The focus is on mere the avoidance of harm. As we progress through the model and the calendar year, we will track the development of positive and assertive virtues like responsibility, generosity and courage, which lead progressively to spirituality. Harmlessness, at level one, is the spirit’s baby step. We could call this the commandment stage of ethics, as in “thou shalt not kill.”
In counterpoint to ahimsa:
- Anita Anand, The Patient Assassin: A True Tale of Massacre, Revenge, and India’s Quest for Independence (Scribner, 2019): “Anand’s account of the movement for Indian independence draws a contrast between the extremist path chosen by Singh and the nonviolent struggle led by Gandhi, posing a question that hangs over the pages of the book without being asked explicitly: When is violence morally legitimate in a people’s fight against a tyrannical regime?”
- John Sokol, Ahimsa
Music: songs and other short pieces
- Johann Sebastian Bach, "Sheep May Safely Graze," from Cantata No. 208, "Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre jagd!"
- Nawang Khechog, Leading the Path of Non-Violence
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
- Bach, Cantata No. 208, Was mir behaft, ist nur die muntre Jagd! (“Hunting Cantata”), BWV 208 (performances conducted by Harnoncourt, Foster and Timm)
- Boccherini, String Sextets: 23
- Bizet, Les Pêcheurs de Perles (The Pearl Fishers): two lovers forswear each other’s company but then are challenged to avert trouble when circumstances bring them back together (performances conducted by Cluytens, Schmeisser and Brno).
- The Renaissance composer Anthony Holborne’s music is remarkably calm and gentle, owing in part to his simple themes and avoidance of percussion instruments: The teares of the muses (1599).
- Mauro Giuliani, Grand Duo Concertante in A Major, Op. 85; Serenade in G major, Op. 127; Grande Serenade in D Major, Op. 82; Gran Duetto Concertante in A Major, Op. 52
- Han Kang, Human Acts: A Novel (Hogarth, 2017): “Though it might not have been Han’s intention, her novel reads not only as a lyrical post-mortem on violence but also a call to counter that violence. So, how do we keep humanity ‘as one thing and not another’? If humanity is under assault, and violence, oppression and authoritarianism rise to the surface, then is it not our human responsibility to act and resist, however forcefully, with everything in our power?”
- Dorothy Parker, “A Very Short Song”