Practicing Non-Violence

"All human beings are like the organs of a body: when one is afflicted with pain, the others cannot rest in peace."
Sad Shirazi, Medieval Iranian Poet

When we are at war with others, it may be so because we are at war with ourselves. - Given the turbulent times we live in, a few words are due about practicing non-violence. One may be surprised to find talk about non-violence under ‘self-defense’ if one fails to see that violence only tends to breed new violence, thereby perpetuating an endless vicious cycle. This philosophy applies not only to a physical fight, but much more so to how one generally interacts with people. The most advanced proficiency in a martial art is when one is able to think like one's opponent, to then resolve a conflict, and turn it into constructive collaboration, be it in a physical confrontation or in an argument. After all, the best way of getting rid of enemies is by turning them into friends. But that requires that first and foremost we stop being 'defensive'.

On a higher level, it is about acquiring and maintaining a particular attitude in the face of a confrontation, as expressed so convincingly in Chapter 7 in H.H. The Dalai Lama’s book Ethics for the New Millennium. In due respect, some of this humble man’s thoughts are summarized as follows:

It is about a deliberate response to resist the strong negative thoughts and emotions that tend to arise when we encounter harm. Practicing fortitude which is courage in the face of adversity. A voluntary acceptance of hardship in pursuit of a higher, spiritual, aim. Recognizing that underlying any given situation there is a vastly complex web of interrelated causes and conditions. Acceptance can help ensure that the experience is not compounded by the additional burden of mental and emotional suffering (this has nothing to do with cowardice).

There are times when harsh words - or even physical intervention - maybe called for. But by safeguarding our inner composure by adhering to the above principles, we are in a better position to judge an appropriate response, rather than being overwhelmed by negative emotions - like anger.

It's up to our personal choice - but this maybe the key by which we can arrive at practicing true nonviolence. A difficult path - yet also a more far-reaching one. (The reader is encouraged to read this remarkable book in its entirety - it contains a message that is very befitting for our troubled modern world).

 

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