Tag Archives: gandhi

Thinking about Nonviolence as a Result of Reading Ahimsa

Being a believer in nonviolence in today’s world is perplexing. So, when I read a book that I think might help people to consider the possibility of thinking broadly about the practical human value of nonviolence, I want to recommend it. Not because this piece of fiction has answers. I recommend it because it might be provocative. I think, we as a human race, have a lot of interdependent thinking to do about how to get along.

The book Ahimsa (a·him·sa /əˈhimˌsä)by Supriya Kelkar gets us thinking about resolving conflict, how we want to be with others and the future.

Kelkar, the author, was born and still lives in the Midwest. She earned her BA at the University of Michigan. AHIMSA, is inspired by her great-grandmother’s role in the Indian freedom movement. This book is marketed as a middle-grade novel. I see it as a book for everyone. If I were a high school or college teacher teaching social studies, history, humanities or civil rights I would consider assigning it. If I were a third (I started my career as a third grade teacher) or fourth grade teacher I would consider reading it aloud.

The story is captivating. Fascinating in that the story is complex, revealing and beckons you to want to know more about the struggles of oppressed people. The issues faced by the characters are fundamental liberty and life. They include: trust across difference, power and privilege, the friendship of a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy, a mother dedicating her self to a cause, India in the 1940’s, the caste system (untouchables), non violence, education in India,authoritarian British rule, Mahatma Gandhi’s deeply held view of ahimsa, well devolved characters authentically navigating the realities of complexity.

According to Wikipedia, Ahimsa is one of the cardinal virtues and an important tenet of Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Ahimsa is a multidimensional concept, inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself. Ahimsa has also been related to the notion that any violence has karmic consequences. While ancient scholars of Hinduism pioneered and over time perfected the principles of Ahimsa, the concept reached an extraordinary status in the ethical philosophy of Jainism. Most popularly, Mahatma Gandhi strongly believed in the principle of ahimsa.

Ahimsa’s precept of ’cause no injury’ includes one’s deeds, words, and thoughts. Classical literature of Hinduism such as Mahabharata and Ramayana, as well as modern scholars debate principles of Ahimsa when one is faced with war and situations requiring self-defence. The historic literature from India and modern discussions have contributed to theories of Just War, and theories of appropriate self-defence. From Wikipedia. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahimsa

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“What does it matter if people look upon us as dreamers?" ~ Gandhi

Do we see the value of using the ‘lens’ of the common good as one of the major considerations we take into account as we make sense of the complexity of our thoughts, words and actions?

In answering that question it may lead you to want to develop your own basic meaning for the common good.

Abraham Maslow, a renowned psychologist, saw the necessities of people lives – such as the needs for: air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, safety, security, stability and others as basic.  He proposed a theory that states that these specific kinds of requirements of life are primary to all humans. His theory goes on to say that humans also have real needs for: family, affection, relationships, achievement, status, responsibility, opportunities to develop knowledge, meaning and self-awareness, and many more needs as further requirements for a healthy life when the basics such as food and drink are met. Could it be that, for you, the common good may have something to do with all people having a right to meet their individual basic needs?

Other threats to the world and to all of us people on it might include the potential of: nuclear war, a conventional war, a pandemic of major scale, the acidification of the oceans, global warming or the potential fallout from a super volcano leading to the light and warmth from our sun being blocked from earth.

Could it be that, for you, the common good may also have something to do with finding ways to respond to, deal with and/or predict the kinds of potential treats mentioned in the last paragraph?

Some might say that working toward supporting the common good is purely an act of wasted energy. There may be some people that would call a person who is trying to impact the common good a ‘dreamer’ because they (the folks working for the common good) are unrealistic.

I am proud to be a dreamer.

Dreams provide a focus for our actions.  Dreams offer direction for our energy.  Dreams can uncover possibility.

Gandhi asks, “What does it matter if people look upon us as dreamers?”

I say that it is time to dream: time to dream about a brighter future for all of mankind as individuals.  It is time to dream about a better world.  It is time to dream about bettering ourselves as we relate to others, and bettering our communities (locally and globally) for all.  Yes, it is time to dream and to follow your dreams with action!

I believe that the dream of serving the common good is a potentially powerful and useful focus for a each of us as we contribute to the fabric of life that is being woven.