“The religion of non-violence is not meant merely for the rishis and saints. It is meant for the common people as well. Non-violence is the law of our species as violence is the law of the brute. The spirit lies dormant in the brute, and he knows no law but that of physical might. The dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law–to the strength of the spirit.” ~ Mohandas K. Gandhi, For Pacifists
Society teaches us that violent acts are sometimes acceptable and necessary, which makes it easy for us to justify our actions when we commit them ourselves. But they are not, for they bind us to the “law of the brute,” which as Gandhi points out, restricts us to our physical selves. Yet we are so much more than the temporal bodies we see before us; we are souls, eternal spirits that were created for so much more than this world and this life. But each time we commit a violent act, either by physical force or by words and actions, or we harm another living creature, we belittle our spiritual self, which is the essence of our being.
Still, there are exceptions to non-violence, for regardless of our own dignity we cannot ensure that all men will adhere to the higher laws of the spirit. There will be brutes who follow the law of violence, and we need to be able to defend ourselves and our loved ones from those who mean to do others harm. Fortunately this has become much less common in this day and age, however, if we should ever find that such action is necessary, when we act, we should seek to remain constantly aware that we are stepping into the brute’s world–a world that we were not created for–and that we must work to bring ourselves back from there as quickly as possible.
It is important to always remember that we have been blessed with the gifts of intelligence and rational thought, of brotherhood and community, of the ability to reason and to persuade. And although these gifts may not always prevent violence from entering into our lives, they certainly can help to mitigate its effects and reduce its severity if we use them to define our actions as kind and caring, loving and compassionate, merciful and forgiving, grateful and appreciative, and constructive and supportive, rather than the violent urges that bring us down to the level of the beasts.
For me, it all boils down to this question, “What am I contributing to the lives of those around me?” Either I am adding peace, love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, and joy, or I am adding violence, anger, hate, and suffering.
Be mindful of the anger you exhibit towards others and instead seek to use your spiritual gifts when dealing with them.
Questions to consider:
Why is violence so predominant in our societies? Why do so many people find it to be an acceptable form of conflict resolution?
How can we make sure to keep non-violence as our own personal religion? Why might we want to?
What did Gandhi mean when he said that “violence is the law of the brute?”
For further thought:
“Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.” ~ Thomas A. Edison