The Path of Non-Violence

Path of Non-ViolenceThe great spiritual teacher, Paramahansa Yogananda says–I’m rephrasing here–that we humans create our environments with our thoughts, literally. An aggravated mood might bring mosquitoes to us. Fear or anger overtaking a city can stir up tornadoes, or draw a hurricane. (Prayer and meditation have the opposite, calming, effect.) Large-scale acts of violence such as the events of 9/11 can lead to war. The acts themselves do not cause war—our reactions to the events, our thoughts and fervent emotions, lead to war. And, who among most of us doesn’t love payback? I find it difficult to resist the revenge-stories where a father goes after the perpetrators who killed his wife or child.

My children are familiar with the teachings of the Bible because they were raised in Catholic school. Jesus’ words, ‘If a man strikes you, turn the other cheek to him,’ were in a reading at mass one day, and that night my eldest (as a fourth-grader) asked, “Mom, do we really have to just take it if someone punches us?” At the time I said, “You have to protect yourself. You can’t stand there and let someone beat you.” I thought ‘turn the other cheek’ had no practical application in our world.

I didn’t understand then that Jesus’ words are about forgiveness, not cheek punches. I still believe we have to protect ourselves if someone attacks us, although I did once ask myself, “What would Jesus have done if punched?” I was reminded that He offered no resistance when arrested, beaten and forced to carry heavy wood on His back to His own death. “Ohhhh,” I thought. “I see.” To this day, I can’t comprehend the totality and impact of His sacrifice.

There have been others who gave their lives to the path of non-violence, such as Martin Luther King, whose great life we remember today, but it is certainly not natural to us. Think of the Protestants and the Catholics, Muslims and Christians, or the people of Israel and Palestine. You killed my daughter, my wife, my mother, my son. You will pay. Just when we believe a compromise/solution has been reached, a crazed retaliator starts everything up again, and the families of the latest victims commit to retribution until their dying breaths.

So, will our world ever be a peaceful world? Something would have to shift in our consciousness. We’d have to commit to non-violent solutions and to action. We’d have to expand our minds to realize every soul on Earth has the same hopes and dreams we do: to live in a loving family in a safe home, and to find fulfilling work within a cooperative, positive society. We’d have to plan to secure a future for our grandchildren and their grandchildren, and show great care now for Mother Earth in the choices we make. If our consciousness expanded, we’d choose the path of non-violence. We’d be the one who says, “I’m listening. Please tell me your side of the story. Let’s work this out together. I forgive you. Can you forgive me?”

Related Post: Man of Peace


6 thoughts on “The Path of Non-Violence

  1. We definitely live in a very materialist age where cause and effect get defined in basic materialist terms (even though Hume effectively demonstrated that noting sequence can never prove causality). The idea that thoughts create reality seems off the wall given the current conventional wisdom, but it makes sense philosophically and scientifically. The Dalai Lama wrote a book “The Universe in a Single Atom” where he explored the connections between Buddhist thought and quantum mechanics. The more I read on modern physics it seems that the world as it appears to us — material, governed by static laws in a steady march forward in time — is an illusion. In fact, it’s become common among physicists not to let themselves think of the implications of their science, it’s too bizarre. But it works, so they use it.

    If reality is a kind of illusion (there are also theories of the universe and the brain itself being holograms of a sort — serious scientific theories), then the source has to come from somewhere outside material experience. It’s logical to see thoughts, moods, and emotions as giving rise to material consequences. At the very least, it is not as strange an idea as it seems to people caught up in a very materialist mindset.

  2. Thanks, Scott, for commenting. I can’t even imagine how busy you are with your teaching, and your own extensive and insightful writing, so I really appreciate the time you take to show up here.

    I agree, there is a world we can see with our eyes, and a world we can’t see with our eyes. The invisible world, I believe, is where our thoughts first take form and then, if we think them enough, they take physical form. I don’t think we will ever have peace unless we can first observe and correct our dark thoughts.

  3. For me… Dr. King exemplifies the nonviolent struggle best for me (second to Jesus), as one here in the american context, who turned the other cheek as a way of life rather than just in particular incidents.

    And central to King’s understanding of life is that we are truly bound up together, and that an “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Like you said, “let’s work this out together.”

    • Dr. King is one of my heroes, and inspirations. Talk about the courage of a gentle soul. I will always be awed by what he did, in the time period he did it. He gave his life for a higher calling and because he did, he changed his country in profound ways. He opened a door the rest of us will walk through. Thank you for commenting about another Man with a Plan.

  4. Total love and forgiveness certainly seems a far way of for humanity, but it is their destiny. Be ye perfect as your Father is in Heaven is an unstoppable dictum. God is inevitable progress and our oneness with Him is inevitable, thank goodness.

    • Thank you, I agree! Things seem discouraging some days, but love and wholeness are who we are and to there we are returning. 🙂

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