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Posted by wmmbb in Peace.

These words express the same thought but do not seem to have the same meaning. There are parallel constructions in English to the Sanskrit word “ahimsa“, such as “asymmetry”.

There is a somewhat puzzling Hindu proverb:

Nonviolence is the supreme law of life

How could that be even imaginable? There is always going to be a problem with translating the linguistic set of subtleties of one language into another framed in a different cultural tradition. Yet it seems to me if  “law” is replaced with “principle”, it can be appreciated as the appropriate word to us.  Eknath Easwaran in his explanation wrote:

The Sanskrit word for nonviolence is ahimsa: a means “not” or “without”; himsa is violence. This may sound negative, but in Sanskrit a word constructed in this way stands for a state both perfect and positive. Ahimsa implies that when every trace of violence is removed from the mind, what is left is our natural state of consciousness: pure love. Unfortunately, that love has been buried under layer upon layer of ill will and selfish conditioning. To have love bubble up to the surface of our life, all we have to do is systematically remove all those layers.

There are three kinds of violence: one, through our deeds;two, through our words; and three, through our thoughts.Most of what we call violence is in the form of action, and it is with our actions that nonviolence naturally begins.But as long as our minds harbor violent thoughts, that incipient violence will find its way somehow into our speech and behavior. The root of all violence is in the world of thoughts, and that is why training the mind is so important.

The set of relationships suggested here between thought, words and action does not appear difficult, but practice is different. Thoughts are subsumed by actions.Whether it is the Black Block Anarchists at the Occupy protest there are always arguments for violent actions, even when as is often the case the disproportionate response of those who control the means of violence are thereby given the occasion to retaliate.

Something of the same set of arguments appear to have been voiced at the Empire Theatre in Johannesburg on 11 September 1906. This clip from the film Gandhi has an amusing conclusion:

Ganhdian nonviolence, or principle nonviolence, is distinguished from strategic nonviolence, typically recommended by Gene Sharp.



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