Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Turn the other cheek

With all that is going on in the world I’m posting something on nonviolence that we all can understand. This is from Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia.

Turn the other cheek is a famous phrase taken from the Sermon on the Mount in the Christian New Testament. In Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says:
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." (Matthew 5:38-42, NIV)
A parallel version is offered in the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel of Luke:
"But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,"
"Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." (Luke 6:28-31. King James Version)

Some interpret this as promoting nonresistance, pacifism or nonviolence.

Historical origins

Some hold that Jesus, while rejecting "eye for an eye," built upon previous Jewish ethical teachings in the Hebrew Bible, "You will not exact vengeance on, or bear any sort of grudge against, the members of your race, but will love your neighbor as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18).
It is also thought to be possible that Jesus was influenced by the teachings of the Pharisee Hillel the Elder who is famously quoted as describing the Golden Rule to be an effective summation of the Torah, and also "If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?" (Pirkei Avot 1:14) In this way, personal dignity is both to be given to your brother and demanded for yourself. (see non literal interpretations below for turn the other cheek as a act of defiance )

An analogous sentiment is spoken by Socrates in his conversation with Crito in 399 BC before his execution in Athens. “One should never do wrong in return, nor mistreat any man, no matter how one has been mistreated by him.” This moral guides Socrates in his argument to a conclusion that he should not attempt to escape from punishment despite being wrongfully imprisoned. From the Grube translation of Crito found in Plato's Five Dialogues revised by Cooper

I have always though of my self a follower of Christ, but I am also a follower of Gandhi, The Buddha, and the Dalai Lama. Their core massage has always been one of peace and nonviolence. I thing we some times forget that message or miss it all together.
To read more go to

Thursday, July 27, 2006


"Holding to Truth, Moving In"
by Bill Leicht

After Meeting recently an ex-inmate friend, T. Haywood, stated flatly that he is anti-violent, not non-violent. I believe he meant that transforming violence requires an activism not suggested by the word "non-violence." From my work in the ghettos of New York City, with street youth and in Aikido (a "non-violent" Japanese martial art) I believe that he is on to something

Already in the 1920's M. K. Ghandi's methods were being called "passive resistance." Later "non-violence" became a more common term (still connoting passivity). Gandhi tried to counter this notion by insisting on "satyagraha" or "holding to the truth" as the better name for his methods; its real meaning lay also in "ahimsa," doing no harm. Certainly the image of wave after wave of "satyagrahi" walking up to a police line, then, without striking back, allowing ghurka police to truncheon them to the ground may have startled the West by its disciplined gentleness, but just as certainly Gandhi was actively resisting the British Raj.

Friends Peace Teams, Peace Brigades International and other groups carry on this tradition of civil rights activism. Their non-violent activism still may be misunderstood in part, because of the role of the body.

Anti-violence and the Body

Holding to the truth, we may discern that conflict and violence are physical and perceptible, always, as they are also mental (symbolic and emotional) and spiritual (affecting being itself). Treating them as essentially symbolic, emotional or moral can seem like "whistling in the wind" to those undergoing or emerging from the trauma of war or terror. Nevertheless, most conflict literature and training explore symbolic, social and emotional factors; very few consider the somatic level beyond "body language." However, even verbal violence has a direct and observable effect: e.g., in the first moments of a tongue-lashing an "aggressor" leans forward, then the intended "victim" leans away (further hormonal, postural and behavioral changes may follow and signal changing dominance relationships).

These bodily responses to conflict are "soft-wired" in our nervous system, not "hard-wired" as sometimes maintained; they are malleable with proper training! Surely the Indian Salt March Satyagrahi received intensive physical, mental and spiritual preparation for their suffering. Ghandi said so (I have tried unsuccessfully to discover exactly what that training was). One presumes that yoga was a part of their discipline and that it included breathing, relaxation and concentration. In fact "fight, approach, flight" responses use the same breath, muscle tone and attention that yoga affects (including the central nervous and endocrine systems that control, and are controlled by, them).

We could define "anti-violence" as satyagraha and ahimsa: actively holding to the truth and doing no harm. Anti-violence training then would prepare the body, mind and spirit to take charge of the "fight, approach, flight" responses, rather than be subject to them. What would such training be like physically?

Well, it would look rather like one exercise of the Alternatives to Violence Project ("AVP") "Basic Workshop," the "Hand Pushing Demonstration." In some ways it would resemble hatha yoga. Or, for those familiar with the martial arts, it would look very much like Aikido or Tai Chi.
How can we apply this view of active non-violence (i.e., anti-violence) to those who suffer from war and terror? Strangely, it was a post-Marxist revolutionary, Franz Fanon whose Wretched of the Earth gave me a clue. (3) He discusses at length exactly how "internalization of oppression" (his term) takes place in the oppressor! as well as the oppressed and in the body as well as the mind. For most people, anti-violence responses experienced and learned physically are effective and very memorable.

Assertion: To Center, Join, Approach (Irimi), and Turn

Assertion as well as avoidance and aggression has a physical expression. It is "approach behavior" (or irimi a term we'll clarify below). Avoidance, appears physically, as "flight" or "freeze" behavior. Aggression appears as "fight" behavior. Assertion is more complex than the other two, which may explain why approach requires skillful means while avoidance and aggression seem to come naturally.

That difference arises from the distinction between subject and object. Both aggression and avoidance treat another organism as an object. That is, the purpose of each behavior for the organism is to use the other for its benefit (or safety): eat or be eaten. The purpose of approach is to benefit both parties, challenger and challenged. Reproduction as the most basic of all joining behaviors is its primitive model. At the symbolic and physical levels, subject and object join in one dynamic field, communication. Since assertion considers both parties as subjects or beings, it lies at a more complex and "spiritual" level than aggression or avoidance, not "better," not right for all circumstances, but definitely more complex.

The skillful means in physical assertion involves moving in, but recognizing the being of the other party makes it more complex. This assertion is not simply movement toward an object as English implies, but movement on the physical, mental and spiritual levels simultaneously. The Japanese term irimi better describes physical assertion than "moving in," because it includes the idea of joining, of being-to-being recognition. Irimi also works better than "approach behavior" because it does not imply scientific objectivity and does include spiritual interaction as integral to execution. One skillful means of anti-violence, then, is irimi.

A second means in assertion is "centering." Fortunately in English centering does include physical, mental and spiritual dimensions. For a physical model of centering we have the image of clay spinning before a potter (eloquently developed by M. C. Richards in Centering). Her imagery aptly reflects the sensation of a person moving "on center" in response to a challenge. On the mental level we have the ideas of intellectual and emotional balance. Finally, we find "centering" used to describe the process of deep concentration in worship (Quaker, Zen, Christian, Muslim--all use it).

The skillful means in centering, like irimi, is not obvious. The experience itself is that of letting concentration settle out of the head, leaving behind thought and emotion, and attending to a non-verbal awareness deep in the lower abdomen that does not make distinctions like "physical," mental" or "spiritual."

Developing the skills of irimi and centering is a major focus of the discipline of Aikido. The process of learning and internalizing them is also the process of reversing "internalized oppression." Neuro-muscular traces, including those in the brain and central neuro-hormonal system, may be the reason for most behavior that leads to violence, aggression and subordination or victimization. That implies that the body and its habits are a major source of "moral and immoral behavior," although our language and culture treat morality as primarily mental or spiritual.

Significantly, most moral training emphasizes posture. Prayer and meditation have specific positions. Worship and sacrament have them, too. And we make a verbal-moral distinction between the "upright" and the "crooked" person. How then do we encourage uprightness?
Love is the answer, but getting there is more than repeating, "Love, Love, Love…". When we have "joined" another (especially by recognizing the being of an aggressor), and have approached on "center," we have created most of the conditions for love to flow. The problem is, we may get "hit." Sometimes our joining and approach are such that suffering is a necessary step toward love. Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi both stressed the redemptive value of suffering (which has deep roots in most religions). However, such suffering isn't always necessary, sometimes it is even counterproductive-- as in most individual violence. In such case love is best served when the aggressor cannot injure the object of aggression.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Poem: The Meaning of God

There is an indefinable mysterious Power that pervades everything.

I feel It, though I do not see It.

It is this unseen Power which makes Itself felt and yet defies all proof,because It is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses.

It transcends the senses....

That informing Power or Spirit is God....

For I can see that in the midst of death life persists, in the midst of untruth, truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists.

Hence I gather that God is Life, Truth, Light. He is love.

He is supreme good.

But he is no God who merely satisfies the intellectIf He ever does.

God to be God must rule the heart and transform it.

~M. K. Gandhi
(Young India, October 11, 1928)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Force More Powerful

Here is a little about a movie that is a must see. A Force More Powerful, a three-hour documentary series, explores one of the 20th century's most important but least-understood stories - how nonviolent power overcame oppression and authoritarian rule all over the world. Narrated by Ben Kingsley, it premiered on PBS in September 2000.

The film is about three non-violent 'revolutions' that occurred this century - in India in the 30s, Black America in the late 50s and South Africa in the 80s. The makers of this film have done a good job of choosing to reduce the temporal scope of the documentaries, resulting in a detailed study of the actual logistics of civil disobedience. They have managed to obtain some amazing footage, in each of the three cases, that i had not seen before - such as the reactions of white store-owners in tennessee, and the riots in the townships of south africa.

Also Check out the Book.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Gandhi's last words

In the early evening hours of 30 January 1948, Gandhi met with India's Deputy Prime Minister and his close associate in the freedom struggle, Vallabhai Patel, and then proceeded to his prayers. That evening, as Gandhi's time-piece, which hung from one of the folds of his dhoti [loin-cloth], was to reveal to him, he was uncharacteristically late to his prayers, and he fretted about his inability to be punctual. At 10 minutes past 5 o'clock, with one hand each on the shoulders of Abha and Manu, who were known as his 'walking sticks', Gandhi commenced his walk towards the garden where the prayer meeting was held. As he was about to mount the steps of the podium, Gandhi folded his hands and greeted his audience with a namaskar; at that moment, a young man came up to him and roughly pushed aside Manu. Nathuram Godse bent down in the gesture of an obeisance, took a revolver out of his pocket, and shot Gandhi three times in his chest. Bloodstains appeared over Gandhi's white woolen shawl; his hands still folded in a greeting, Gandhi blessed his assassin: He Ram! He Ram! ("O God!")
As Gandhi fell, his faithful time-piece struck the ground, and the hands of the watch came to a standstill. They showed, as they had done before, the precise time: 5:12 P.M.

Monday, May 22, 2006

January 20, 1948

On January 20, 1948--10 days, in fact, before he was assassinated--a handmade bomb was hurled at Gandhi as he attended a gathering. This act of terrorism was carried out by a Hindu youth. Fortunately, the bomb missed the mark and Gandhi survived. The youth was arrested. The next day, several adherents of the Sikh faith called on Gandhi and assured him that the culprit was not a Sikh.

Gandhi rebuked them, saying that it mattered nothing at all to him whether the assailant was a Sikh, a Hindu or a Muslim. Whoever the perpetrator might be, he said, he wished him well. Gandhi explained that the youth had been taught to think of him as an enemy of the Hindu cause, that hatred had been implanted in his heart. The youth believed what he was taught and was so desperate, so devoid of all hope, that violence seemed the only alternative.

Gandhi felt only pity for the young man. He even told the outraged chief of police to not harass his assailant but make an effort to convert him to right thoughts and actions. This was always his approach. No one abhorred violence more than Gandhi. At the same time no one knew more deeply that violence can only be countered by nonviolence. Just as fire is extinguished by water, hatred can only be defeated by love and compassion. Some criticized Gandhi for coddling the terrorist.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Martin Luther King Jr. Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech (Dec 1964)

I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land.

Most of these people will never make the headlines and their names will not appear in Who's Who. Yet when years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvelous age in which we live -- men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization -- because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness' sake.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Dalai Lama's Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

Your Majesty, Member of the Nobel Committee, Brothers and Sisters:

I am very happy to be here with you today to receive the Nobel Prize for peace. I feel honored, humbled, and deeply moved that you should give this important prize to a simple monk from Tibet. I am no one special. But I believe the prize is a recognition of the true value of altruism, love, compassion, and nonviolence which I try to practice, in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha and the sages of India and Tibet. I accept the prize with profound gratitude on behalf of all of the oppressed everywhere and for all those who struggle for freedom and work for world peace. I accept it as a tribute to the man who founded the modern tradition of nonviolent action for change- Mahatama Gandhi-whose life taught and inspired me. And, of course, I accept it on behalf of the six million Tibetan people, my brave countrymen and women inside Tibet, who have suffered and continue to suffer so much. They confront a calculated and systematic strategy aimed at the destruction of their national and cultural identities. The prize reaffirms our conviction that with truth, courage, and determination as our weapons, Tibet will be liberated.

No matter what part of the world we come from, we are all basically the same human beings. We all seek happiness and try to avoid suffering. We have basically the same human needs and concerns. All of us human beings want freedom and the right to determine our own destiny as individuals and as peoples. That is human nature. The great changes that are taking place in the world, from Eastern Europe to Africa, are a clear indication of this. ...

... As a Buddhist monk, my concern extends to all members of the human family and, indeed, to all the sentient beings who suffer. I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction.

Yet true happiness comes from a sense of peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion, and elimination of ignorance, selfishness, and greed.

The problems we face today, violent conflicts, destruction of nature, poverty, hunger, and so on, are human created problems which can be resolved through human effort, understanding, and a development of a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. We need to cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and the planet we share. Although I have found my own Buddhist religion helpful in generating love and compassion, even for those we consider our enemies, I am convinced that everyone can develop a good heart and a sense of universal responsibility with or without religion.

With the ever-growing impact of science in our lives, religion and spirituality have a greater role to play reminding us of our humanity. There is no contradiction between the two. Each gives us valuable insights into each other. Both science and the teaching of the Buddha tell us of the fundamental unity of all things. This understanding is crucial if we are to take positive and decisive action on the pressing global concern with the environment.

I believe all religions pursue the same goals, that of cultivating human goodness and bringing happiness to all human beings. Though the means may appear different, the ends are the same.

As we enter the final decade of this century, I am optimistic that the ancient values that have sustained mankind are today reaffirming themselves to prepare us for a kinder, happier twenty-first century.

I pray for all of us, oppressor and friend, that together we succeed in building a better world through human understanding and love, and that in doing so we may reduce the pain and suffering of all sentient beings.

Tenzin Gyatso
14th Dalai Lama of Tibet December 10, 1989, Oslo, Norway, Earth

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Pebble in the Pond by Arun Gandhi

I was a teenager when Muriel Lester visited our Home in South Africa. We lived at the Phoenix Settlement, the original institute for nonviolence that my grandfather, Mohandas K. Gandhi, had started when he first devoted his life to the philosophy of nonviolence. In the Fifties, Phoenix was still an island in a sea of sugarcane fields where the calm, the peace, and the serenity were shattered occasionally by deadly snakes straying in search of water.

This visit was the first time I heard of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and its manifold activities. My parents, Manilal and Sushila, included my sisters and me in most of their discussions, so Muriel's stay with us was, for me, a week of joyous communion - except that she dispossessed me of my bedroom! I quickly forgave her this trespass because she was such a gentle and charming soul.

The bond that she forged between the Gandhi Institute in South Africa and the Fellowship of Reconciliation became unbreakable, but my only other meeting with Muriel Lester was in January 1968, when she lived in a cottage on the outskirts of Epping Forest in England. She treated us to some delicious homemade scones and tea and reminisced about the days at Kingsley Hall in London's East End.

The Phoenix Settlement became a victim of political turmoil in South Africa. It was reduced to ashes. Alas, unlike the legendary bird, the Settlement could not rise again. At least in that place. It did rise in Memphis, Tennessee, in the form of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence. For one who grew up in the Phoenix Settlement in South Africa, the Institute in Memphis seems a direct extension. And the bond with FOR remains strong. We wish the IFOR many more diamond jubilees.

October 2, 1994, is the 125th anniversary of Gandhi's birth, we at the Gandhi Institute are using this anniversary to focus the attention of people on how to reduce violence in our personal and public lives. To start with, the Gandhi Institute together with Welsley College, The Boston University School of Theology, and the Life Experience School in Sherborn, Massachusetts will hold a conference: "Nonviolence or Nonexistence - Life in the 21st Century" - in which we will explore the seven sins that are the source of violence (October 1-2).

Seven Social Sins according to Gandhi
  • Politics without Principles
  • Wealth without Work
  • Commerce without Morality
  • Education without Character
  • Pleasure without Conscience
  • Science without Humanity
  • Worship without Sacrifice

I was once told by my mother, who along with Father spent all her life working for nonviolent change, that there is a big difference between throwing a pebble in a pond and throwing a big rock. The pebble causes gentle ripples that go a long way. The rock makes a big splash that quickly disappears.

Arun Gandhi is founder/director of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, Christian Brothers' University, 650 East Parkway South, Memphis, TN 38104. (901) 452-2824,

The Meaning of God~a poem

There is an indefinable mysterious Power that pervades everything.

I feel It, though I do not see It.

It is this unseen Power which makes Itself felt and yet defies all proof,
because It is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses.

It transcends the senses....

That informing Power or Spirit is God....

For I can see that in the midst of death life persists, in the midst of untruth, truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists.

Hence I gather that God is Life, Truth, Light. He is love.

He is supreme good.

But he is no God who merely satisfies the intellectIf He ever does.

God to be God must rule the heart and transform it.

~M. K. Gandhi(Young India, October 11, 1928)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Satyagraha and the GLBT rights movement

I found this on the web and felt I need to sare it with all.

Soulforce: An Interfaith Movement For Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights

For thirty-five years, The Rev. Dr. Mel White struggled to "overcome" his homosexual orientation through prayer, fasting, various aversive therapies, exorcism, and even electric shock. A victim of misinformation and biblical misuse, Mel thought his same-sex orientation was a sickness and a sin. During those "closet years" Mel served the Christian church as a prize-winning television producer and filmmaker, a best-selling author, a pastor, seminary professor, and ghost writer to religious leaders including Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell.
After a time of terrible depression, Mel finally reconciled his Christian faith and his sexual orientation. In his autobiography, Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America, Mel announced, "I'm gay. I'm proud. And God loves me without reservation."

For the past decade, Mel and his partner, Gary Nixon, have been helping to build a movement that applies the "soul force" (Satyagraha) principles of Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the struggle for justice for sexual minorities. They have collaborated with others to create Soulforce, an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people. This movement uses nonviolent action inspired by Gandhi and King's principles to challenge and transform religious communities and their attitudes and policies that dehumanize, diminish and exclude LGBT people.

Soulforce has developed a step-by-step process for nonviolent transformation. Part of this process includes transforming one's attitudes about one's adversaries, as indicated by the following seven points developed by Mel White:

Seven Soulforce Beliefs About My Adversary

My adversary is also a child of the Creator; we are both members of the same human family; we are sisters and brothers in need of reconciliation.

My adversary is not my enemy, but a victim of misinformation as I have been.

My only task is to bring my adversary truth in love (nonviolence) relentlessly.

My adversary's motives are as pure as mine and of no relevance to our discussion.

My worst adversary has an amazing potential for positive change.

My adversary may have an insight into truth that I do not have.

My adversary and I will understand each other and come to a new position that will satisfy us both, if we conduct our search for truth guided by the principles of love.

For Gandhi and King, to love our adversary means that we respond to our adversary guided exclusively by the principles of ahimsa or nonviolence. Gandhi said it this way: "No physical, verbal, or psychological violence." In King's words, "No violence of the fist, the tongue, or the heart."

Of all those seven beliefs about our adversaries, I find it most difficult to believe that their motives are as "pure as mine." I want to believe that my adversaries are waging this war against me to raise money and mobilize volunteers.

Before I discovered Soulforce, I felt a growing rage at these religious leaders "who should know better." But I worked as a ghost writer for many of them. I know my adversaries intimately. They are sincere, though sincerely wrong. And though they do use the untruths to raise money and mobilize volunteers, they do believe the untruths and are themselves victims of those same untruths.

How easy it is to demean and demonize our adversaries. How many times have we been tempted to hate them, to call them names, to wish them dead? How quickly our rallies and marches can deteriorate into name calling contests. How often our banners and posters reflect insult and rage. Soulforce calls us to a better way. (You can contact Soulforce at

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Jesus, Gandhi and Nonviolence

"Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale." Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have never been considered much of a reader of the bible or one to quote from it, butI wonted to show that even Jesus was very much believed in nonviolence. Gandhi has knew that what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount works. Loving one's enemy can be applied to the town square and to the battlefield

"As you know, we were once told, 'An eye for an eye' and 'A tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you: Don't react violently against the one who is evil: when someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other as well. If someone is determined to sue you for your shirt, let that person have your coat along with it. Further, when anyone conscripts you for one mile, go along an extra mile. Give to the one who begs from you; and don't turn away the one who tries to borrow from you. Matt. 5:48-43

"As you know, we were once told, 'You are to love your neighbor' and 'You are to hate your enemy.' But to you who listen I say, love your enemies, do favors for those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for your abusers. You'll then become children of your Father in the heavens. causes the sun to rise on both the bad and the good, and sends rain on both the just and the unjust. Luke 6:27,28

"Treat people the way you want them to treat you.”

"If you love those who love you, what merit is there in that? After all, even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what merit is there in that? After all, even sinners do as much. If you lend to those from whom you hope to gain, what merit is there in that? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to get as much in return. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you'll be children of the Most High. As you know, the Most High is generous to the ungrateful and the wicked. Matt. 5:45

"Be as compassionate as your Father is. Don't pass judgment, and you won't be judged; don't condemn, and you won't be condemned; forgive, and you'll be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: they'll put in your lap a full measure, packed down, sifted and overflowing. For the standard you apply will be the standard applied to you." Luke 6:31-38

Monday, April 10, 2006

the sannyasi and the scorpion

One day a sannyasi was sitting on the bank of a river silently repeating his mantram. A scorpion fell from a nearby tree in to the river. The sannyasi seeing it struggling in the water, bent over and pulled him out and set him back in the tree, but as he did so the creature bit him on the hand. He paid no heed to the bite, and went back to repeating his mantram. This happen two more times and each time the scorpion bit him on the hand and he went back to his mantram.

As this happed a villager, ignorant of the ways of holy men, had come to the river for water and had seen the whole affair. Unable to contain himself any longer he asked the sannyasi. "Swamiji, I have seen you save that foolish scorpion several times now and each time he has bitten you. Why not let him go?"

"Brother," replied the sannyasi, "the scorpion cannot help himself. It is in his nature to bite."

"Agreed," answered the villager. "But knowing this, why don't you avoid him?"

"Ah, brother," replied the sannyasi, "you see, I cannot help myself either. I am a human being; it is my nature to save.

Gandhi's pencil

I know this is not a story of nonviolence but it is so good that I had to post it. It gives us a glimpse of what kind of person Gandhi was.

Soon after Gandhi's return from South Africa, a meeting of the Congress was held in Bombay. Kaka Saheb Kalelkar went there to help.

One day Kaka Saheb found Gandhi anxiously searching around his desk."What's the matter? What are you looking for?" Kaka Saheb asked."I've lost my pencil," Gandhi answered. "It was only so big."Kaka Saheb was upset to see Gandhi wasting time and worrying about a little pencil. He took out his pencil and offered it to him."No, no, I want my own little pencil," Gandhi insisted like a stubborn child."Well, use it for the time being," said Kaka Saheb. "I'll find your pencil later. Don't waste time looking for it now.""You don't understand. That little pencil is very precious to me," Gandhi insisted."Natesan's little son gave it to me in Madras. He gave it with so much love and affection. I cannot bear to lose it."Kaka Saheb didn't argue any more. He joined Gandhi in the search.

At last they found it - a tiny piece, barely two inches long. But Gandhi was delighted to get it back. To him it was no ordinary pencil. It was the token of a child's love and to Gandhi a child's love was very precious.

Gandhi's Salt March To Dandi

On March 12, 1930, Gandhi and approximately 78 male satyagrahis set out, on foot, for the coastal village of Dandi some 240 miles from their starting point in Sabarmati, a journey which was to last 23 days. Virtually every resident of each city along this journey watched the great procession, which was at least two miles in length. On April 6th he picked up a lump of mud and salt (some say just a pinch, some say just a grain) and boiled it in seawater to make the commodity which no Indian could legally produce--salt.

Upon arriving at the seashore Gandhi said “God be thanked for what may be termed the happy ending of the first stage in this, for me at least, the final struggle of freedom. I cannot withhold my compliments from the government for the policy of complete non interference adopted by them throughout the march ...”

He implored his thousands of followers to begin to make salt wherever, along the seashore, "was most convenient and comfortable" to them. A "war" on the salt tax was to be continued during the National Week, that is, up to the thirteenth of April. There was also simultaneous boycotts of cloth and khaddar. Salt was sold, illegally, all over the seacoast of India. A pinch of salt from Gandhi himself sold for 1,600 rupees, perhaps $750 dollars at the time. In reaction to this, the British government had incarcerated over sixty thousand people at the end of the month.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The First three stories

Here are the first three stories on nonviolence I found

Dick Gregory
African-American activist and comedian Dick Gregory tells of the time, shortly after desegregation, that he entered a formally all-white restaurant and ordered fried chicken.
Just before he began his meal, three big white men approached him and said, "Nigger, whatever you do to that chicken, we're gonna do to you." Gregory put down his utensils, picked up the chicken, and kissed it. The three men backed away immediately.(Some folks add that the particular part of the chicken he kissed also had something to do with the situation.)

Berlin, 1943
On Feb. 28, 1943, two dozen women gathered at what had been a Jewish Community Center on Rose Street in Berlin. The women were Gentiles who were married to Jewish men. Their husbands, along with hundreds of other Jews, were being held at the Rose Street Center to await transfer to Auschwitz concentration camp. The crowd, that February 28, slowly grew until about 1,000 people were in the street. "Give us back our men," the women shouted. The women refused orders to leave. On March 4, SS troops set up machine guns, aimed them at the women, and ordered the street cleared. The women stood their ground. Six days after the protest began, without explanation, Joseph Goebbels ordered the release of the 1,500 prisoners inside the center on Rose Street. Twenty-five prisoners already en route to Auschwitz were returned.

Alabama, 1965
In 1965, in Birmingham, Alabama, when hundreds of the leaders of the Civil Rights movement were in jail, their children came to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and said to him, "Our parents are in jail, but we can march in their place."
Dr. King initially was resistant to the idea, knowing what a risk there was involved. He was uneasy about having innocent children fighting such an adult battle, a battle that all too often resulted in violence. But the children insisted.
They began marching and were met by Bull Conner, the head of the white police force, and his entire guard -- armed with power hoses and dogs and billy clubs. The children were turned back a number of times, but they didn't give up.
One day they marched up to the wall of armed police, kneeled down in front of them and prayed out loud for the police officers. The police officers' hardened hearts were softened enough that they let the children through. Dr. King saw a police officer wipe a tear from his eye. Dr. King wrote that this was the first time he had witnessed the incredible power of revolutionary love and nonviolence.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Satyagraha and Ahimsa

Satyagraha is literally means “hold onto the truth.” Gandhi coined the word Satyagraha is the philosophy of nonviolent resistance most famously employed by Mohandas Gandhi in forcing an end to the British Raj and also against apartheid in South Africa. Satya is Sanskrit for Truth, and Agraha is used to describe an effort, endeavor. The term itself may be construed to mean any effort to discover, discern, obtain or apply Truth. But Satyagraha is more richly nuanced than “hold onto the truth” implies. It could be called “truth force,” and because Gandhi associated truth with love, Satyagraha could also be translated as “the force of love.”

The movement of non-violent non-cooperation has nothing in common with the historical struggles for freedom in the West. It is NOT based on brute force or hatred. It does not aim at destroying the tyrant. It is a movement of self-purification. It therefore seeks to convert the tyrant. It may fail because India was not ready for mass non-violence.

Ahimsa is the foundation of Satyagraha, the "irreducible minimum" to which Satyagraha adheres to. Ahimsa can be translated as "nonviolence," but the meaning goes beyond that. Ahimsa is derived from the Sanskrit verb root hims, witch means "desirous to kill," and the prefix a- is negation. So a-himsa means literally "lacking any desire to kill," this is central to Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist morality. In the Manu Smriti, the book of laws in Hinduism, in says that "Ahimsa is the highest law.

How ever the word "nonviolence" connotes a negative, almost a passive condition, whereas the term ahimsa suggests a dynamic state of mind in which power is released. "Strength," Gandhi said, "does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will." So Ahimsa is not just nonviolence, whereas you do nothing, but a strength of will. Violence checks this energy within, and is ultimately disruptive in its consequences, ahimsa, properly understood is invincible. "With satya combined with ahimsa," Gandhi writes, "you can bring the world to your feet"

In this blog I will be posting stories of nonviolence, Satyagraha and Ahimsa. Most of all I will be discussing Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. If you have stories for me please send them.