Ahimsa is a Sanskrit term that means “non-killing.”
This concept seems to have emerged in the late Vedas, circa 800 BC. We primarily associate it with the Jainistic and and Buddhist traditions at that time.
Ahimsa has gradually been transferred into the Brahminical tradition, where it remains central up to the present time.
The notion of Ahimsa is primarily related to not harming animal life. However, in Jainism, there are cases of applying this principle toward the plant life too.
But his concept of non-violence or non-harming has a deeper meaning too. Many Sanskrit words carry withing deeper layers of meanings unable to be translated in English directly.
For example, Ahimsa could also mean abstaining from violence in our words, thoughts, feelings, and deeds.
There is total absence of harmful manifestation, be it spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical.
In this sense, it won’t make you any good if you refrain from violent action toward animals by being a vegan or vegetarian, if on the other hand you allow negative thoughts or feelings toward your loved ones to cross your mind.
It is one thing to abstain from harmful actions and violence if you’re in a secure environment, however, it is another thing to master a total control over your thoughts and emotions and apply the Ahimsa principle on the higher planes of existence.