Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Deep Nonviolence

Nonviolence is not-harming; it's what we don't do, not what we do. There's vast spaciousness in allowing things to be what they are short of violence. Nonviolence reminds me of the Taoist idea of "doing not doing"; by not-harming, by being nonviolent, we are going with the flow of life. The term "peace", however, is more limiting. It implies specific institutions and actions such as talk of "peace keeping armies". Nonviolence is one of the most ancient of great ideas: "ahimsa" - the Sanskrit word meaning "not harming" in the old Jain religion of India and later in the Vedic, Hindu, and Buddhist scriptures. Furthermore, we find strong suggestions of nonviolence in the ancient Jewish and Christian scriptures. Indeed, the earliest Christians would not fight in wars. In the mid twentieth century, "nonviolence" was a political strategy. We see scenes of mass demonstrations for Indian independence from the British, U.S. black peoples' civil rights protests in the deep South, and grape boycotts to secure rights of migrant farm works. While teaching nonviolence at the University of California, Berkeley, I became clear that nonviolence as protest is too narrow. Now, I sometimes use the term "deep nonviolence" to point to nonviolence at the root level -- where constructive actions naturally arise. This especially addresses the deep crisis between the whole of humanity and all other life on earth. The violence of humans upon the earth and it's living forms is now apparent. Deep nonviolence looks upon all our actions that may, can, and do harm life on earth. By working toward eliminating such actions (at all levels), we allow the earth to heal, to return to it's natural state of harmony and health; just as we can allow our bodies to heal of themselves by not harming them with drugs. Nature wants to be healthly; people want to be at peace. Remove the harming, and the rest takes care of itself.

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