Do I uphold the yama (moral rule) of ahimsa (non-violence)? My automatic answer is, “Of course.”
When I think of non-violence, my mind leaps to egregious examples of violence. Murder. Arson. Chasing cats with vacuum cleaners. I’d never do any of that.
But then I read books that define ahimsa broadly. In addition to not harming other living beings, it also means not harming the environment or yourself. So, you’re violating ahimsa if you blithely eat takeout food using throwaway plastic containers and utensils, or if you’re still kicking yourself over wasting your 20s in a misguided relationship.
Which leads me to Halloween. We typically give trick-or-treaters the usual stuff, from fun-size M&M packs to Hershey miniatures. They’re cute and nostalgic; who can resist candies with names like Mr Goodbar or SweeTarts? But of course “milk chocolate” is barely chocolate, just a crazy amount of sugar and the bad type of fat. The appeal of cheap candy lasts for 15 seconds. It’s not worth it!
So why give that junk to innocent, impressionable little kids? Might that be a violation of ahimsa?
This year I got raisins for trick-or-treaters, plus a bag of milk chocolate squares (the raisins looked too earnest). Then, at the last minute, someone else in my household got a box of Ferraro Rocher chocolates for the kids. So, we ended up being kiddie sugar suppliers again.
Maybe it’s no big deal. Despite my eating a ton of mainstream candy as a kid, I was always twig-thin. My childhood penchant for sugar petered out in college, with no residual ill effects; I did not lose my teeth or become an adult junk-food junkie. In fact, I cherish my memories of trick-or-treating and gathering a ridiculous amount of loot. Would my memories be as colorful if I’d never chewed a Tootsie Roll or nibbled a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup or salivated at the mere sight of Jolly Rancher Watermelon Stix?
Still, if it were up to me, I’d banish mainstream candy. It’s too sugary, too artificial, and way too plentiful.