I think there are at least three ways of referring to the concept of non-violence:

  • ahimsa
  • avihimsa
  • non-violence
  • non-harming

We can create tag synonyms for these if everyone agrees they essentially point at the same concept. The question remains, though, which of these we want as main tag, and which as synonyms.

See also What language should our tags be in?

  • In Pali, I think off the top of my head that avihimsa is more common than ahimsa. Non-violence is the biggest Buddhist concept, I think. Non-harming, is that even used? Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 2:23
  • Added avihimsa to the list. Re: non-harming, the first page I find is Buddhism-related. Maybe non-harming is the translation used for the Hindu/Jain concept of ahimsa...?
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 9:47
  • Yeah, but can you find any primary texts using the term? It sounds like a modern English translation. I'm pretty sure non-violence is the more common one. Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 10:25
  • @Yuttadhammo Why don't you make this an answer, so we can vote it up?
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 11:36

2 Answers 2


So, googling "non-harming buddhism" gives 145,000 hits. The term is used by Gil Fronsdal, who says

The Buddhist word for non-harming is ahimsa, the same word Mahatma Gandhi translated as “non-violence.”


Which, honestly, seems to be his own opinion, rather than an accepted Buddhist translation. Googling "Buddhism non-violence" instead, gives ~2mil hits. It doesn't bring up the study guide (not on the first page anyway) by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, which is probably the best source in our tradition (even though I'm not partial towards his translations):


I get the need to use Pali and Sanskrit terms like dharma, nirvana, etc, but in this case, I can't help but think the English non-violence works best.

It's my opinion at this moment that, unless a Pali/Sanskrit term has gained wide acceptance in modern usage, the English is preferable as a main tag; e.g. dependent origination, a term far more familiar to people than the Pali/Sanskrit.

  • Unfortunately, Google counts aren't reliable (a discussion of this on Japanese.SE). I've searched for terms and received 180,000 hits, but clicking myself through the actual results, only found 16! Ever since I've been ignoring the number and I suggest we do the same here on Buddhism.SE.
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 13:17
  • In the case of non-violence/non-harming, COCA has results 137/0, so non-violence is definitely the more common word. Unfortunately, browsing through the results, I haven't quite found it in a strict Buddhism context. The context I recognize being mostly Gandhi, Jainism, ahimsa, and Martin Luther King. That in itself is probably enough to go for non-violence, though.
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 13:19

"Non-violence" is a generic term, used not only in Buddhism. The terms "non-harming" and "avihimsa" seem to be used only rarely: I see them here the first time. Therefore, "ahimsa" seems to be the best word.

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