Ahimsa is nonviolence rooted in courage and compassion, fearlessness and forgiveness. It connotes reverence for all life. It evokes civility and trust, and promotes lasting peace in society.
The Ahimsa Center was established in 2004 in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. The Center is focused on interdisciplinary teaching and learning about nonviolence and its practical applications at various levels: personal, interpersonal, societal, national and international. Educational and outreach initiatives of the Center facilitate an understanding of ahimsa as a positive force informing the ways of thinking as well as living.
The Center provides an institutional forum to innovatively serve many important stakeholders: College Students, K-12 Educators and the Community at large.
Educational initiatives of the Center help students in our colleges and schools acquire an appreciation of nonviolence at intellectual as well as practical level. Toward this goal the Center has facilitated the creation of an inter-disciplinary degree program, a minor in Nonviolence Studies. The Center’s upcoming initiatives in this area will facilitate to create interest among faculty members from universities and community colleges. The Center will offer a scholarship program for students participating in the minor.
To integrate in the K-12 curricula an interdisciplinary understanding of nonviolence and nonviolent social Change, the Center has launched a fellowship program for the K-12 Educators. In this area, the Center has hosted four summer institutes for educators in 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011. These institutes are aimed at professional development of educators in the area of nonviolence studies and help create instructional resources in this field for the benefit of other educators world-wide.
The Center will continue to design and offer a variety of programs for college faculty and school teachers to facilitate their teaching and learning about ahimsa and nonviolent social change in appropriate curricular contexts.
Finally, the Center is aimed at serving the community at large and to help create a community of ahimsakas – people dedicated to the culture of ahimsa. Toward this goal, the Center offers a variety of public programs such as: conferences, symposia, lectures, dialogues, workshops, and special events.
Through its educational and outreach activities as outlined above, the Center aims to foster synergistic interactions among students, scholars, educators and the community at large.
The Center initiatives are largely characterized by an approach that encompass both the domain of "thought"—drawing upon philosophical, religious and cultural traditions from around the world, and the domain of "action"—the political and social movements genuinely committed to nonviolence. Rich lessons in non-violence are offered in all religious traditions such as Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Sufism. There are also successful movements led by contemporary figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Badshah Khan (Frontier Gandhi) Martin Luther King, Jr., Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Caesar Chavez that demonstrate the power of nonviolence in bringing about social and political change.
The Center is rather unique due to its focus on nonviolence beginning at the individual level. As such it complements many university-based program programs in Peace Studies, Peace and Justice, Peace and Conflict, or Conflict Resolution. These programs usually focus on large scale violent actions associated with wars or other regional or international conflicts. And as solutions to such problems, these programs typically emphasize strategies like third-party mediation, disarmament, demilitarization, etc. However, enduring peace can become a reality only when human beings embrace nonviolence both as a philosophy and as a way of life.
The Center will play a pioneering role by fostering a vision in which each individual is an important player in building and sustaining a culture of nonviolence. It is a vision for cooperation and collaboration among fellow human beings on the basis of mutual respect, trust and self-restraint. It is a vision where one sees that any violence inflicted on others is a violence inflicted on oneself.