New Man : New World: [04] Training In Non-Violence: A Universal Dimension

Published: 07.12.2008
Updated: 02.07.2015

Non-violence and introspection are not unrelated. Similarly, violence and looking outwards cannot be kept apart. Man is bound to resort to violence if he has always seen material objects and people other than himself. As soon as he starts seeing himself and looking within himself, he gets farther and farther from violence, and imbibes more and more non-violence. Non-violence as a principle and its education and training were elaborated thousands of years ago. Mahatma Gandhi applied it extensively and gave the world a brilliant example of its practice. But curiosity and awareness about non-violence have been roused all the more in the light of the phenomenal growth of violence during the last two or three decades.

A Question worthy of Consideration

People do know the enormous number of killings that took place during the two World Wars. But very few people know that the magnitude of killings in the post-second World War period far surpasses that during the two wars taken together. Mass massacres have taken place in fighting between small states. What happened in Somalia and Rwanda sends shivers down one's spine. Innocent people - men, women and children - in millions are becoming a prey to the struggle for power between two tribal communities. What are these small countries up to? Why are they indulging ruthlessly in mass murders on a massive scale? No solution seems to be in sight. Even the great powers and the United Nations are found wanting in displaying enough responsibility for halting them.

When the conflict is between big countries, big powers like America and England lose no time in mediating between them. On the other hand, human life is thought so cheap in Africa that nobody bothers about mass massacres there. Attempts are made to settle the conflicts only between those countries whose market value is greater. No one is worried about those countries which market value is less, which are not in a position to produce mineral and agricultural products, which are backward in every way.

All these factors have compelled people to think and wonder when and where this increasing violence in the world will stop. In this context, non-violence assumes greater relevance. Everyone feels that in it alone lies the answer to prevailing violence and if violence is not stopped, humanity would slowly head towards its own extirpation. Therefore, it is very essential to develop non-violence. But how to bring it about? The ultimate solution unquestionably lies in non-violence, but working out the right process of developing it presents a complex problem.

A New Star on the Mental Horizon

Once revered Gurudev had said that merely discussing non-violence is not enough. It should be supported by research, training and application. With the coming of these three points a new star appeared on the horizon of thinking. The well-known litterateur Jainendraji hailed it as a beautiful idea, and proposed that it be promoted under the rubric of Ahimsa Saarvbhaum (Non-violence Universal). One more plank - Ahimsa Saarvbhaum was added as a new perspective to Anuvrat. The men of letters and Sarvodaya workers of Gujarat saw in it a new viewpoint according to which by confining oneself to nonviolence as a theoretical principle, without adopting the abovementioned three-point programme nonviolence cannot be promoted. As in science, nothing much can be achieved without research, training and experimentation.

Training: Four Points

It is very important to know the method of training. How can one be trained in non-violence? There is an ancient book called Brihatakalp Bhashya, in which a very good method of training is indicated. It has four points: first, recitation of the original text/lesson, which in this case is 'I will not willingly kill any innocent being, will not commit suicide, will not kill another person and will not commit foeticide'. The second point is understanding the meaning; the third is learning and constantly questioning whether learning has taken place or not, whether the lesson has been learnt or not; and the fourth is faith—whether the learner has come to have faith in the lesson taught, in the meaning or interpretation given and in his own understanding of it.

Training cannot be promoted in the absence of these four points - original lesson, its interpretation, its learning or imbibing, and having faith in it. These points are relevant for training of any kind. This important formula of training was given by Acharya Sanghdas and Acharya Malayagiri.

Let a Resolution turn into a Permanent Habit

Anuvrat is a code of conduct for training in nonviolence. We can rephrase it and say that anuvrat is at once a code of non-violent conduct and a method or process of training in non-violence. A large number of people adopt anuvrat or profess to subscribe to anuvrat, but their adoption or profession notwithstanding; they do not complete its process. Full benefits cannot be reaped without going through the entire process. Hunger and thirst cannot be quenched if the intake is a fraction of what is needed. Similarly, unless a full course of medicine is taken, the desired results will not accrue. Religion is being subjected to a similar treatment. The entire process of being religious is not gone through. Reading the religious text is deemed enough to be religious. People accept anuvrat, they read its code of conduct which makes them resolve 'I will not wilfully kill any innocent being'. But that is not enough. In terms of training in non-violence, it is but an incomplete part of it. The resolution will be strengthened when subjected to self-contemplation. The resolution has to be repeated for a week, two weeks, even four weeks, in fact, until it becomes a permanent, imbibed habit. Once it has become that, it need not be repeated further.

Education and Training are Different

We are interested in the formation of lasting habits. Therefore, we should avoid the illusion that education has achieved its purpose merely by telling someone not to resort to the evil of telling lies. If someone wants to get good quality underground water, it is no use digging innumerable shallow wells. He has to undertake deep digging and keep digging until the third or the fourth layer of water has been reached.

We do not yet know what training is. Teaching and training are two very different things. The former requires that we learn the lesson and understand its meaning. But when it comes to the latter, words by themselves do not serve much purpose. They do go some way in the initial stage, but they do not become a part of our conduct until their meaning has been fully imbibed and made part of our very being. It is not unlike food, giving nutrients to the body but not converting itself into blood and flesh until after full assimilation. The culmination of training is formation of enduring and irreversible habits. With that the task of training is complete.

Illustration from Anuvrat's Code of Conduct

One of the code's vows is, 'I will remain alert to the protection of the environment.' By reading it, understanding its meaning, knowing what constitutes environmental pollution and thus acquiring the right conviction, we prepare the soil for being fit for the planting of seeds. The practice of self-contemplation is the second essential step. The vow has to be uttered nine times, followed by nine silent repetitions through appropriate lip movements, followed further by nine times silent verbalization in the mind, and culminating into the import of the vow becoming an inseparable part of our consciousness. Later, it should be repeated in the posture of relaxation, conjoined first with meditation and then with intensified and sustained visualization of a desired colour in conjunction with the associated psychic centre. In fact all the stages of anupreksha or self-contemplation have to be gone through. It is not possible to do all this in one day. It should go on day after day until one is convinced that the resolution has become a lasting and irreversible part of one's being. It is up to each individual to decide at what point he has acquired consummation.

Resolution and Fulfilment

I have no hesitation in saying that the method of training is being followed neither by householders nor by sadhus (saints). A resolution remains a mere resolution without being experimented and acted upon. The harder the experimentation and more vigorous the practice, the easier it is for a resolution to be fulfilled.

Food and Violence

Let us concentrate more on the method of training. The first component of training in non-violence is the food eaten. There is a close connection between food and violence. What matters is the nature of the food. Is it satvik (good and pure) or tamasik (passion-rousing)? Meat and alcoholic drinks promote violence. When we look back in history, we find that those charged with the task of fighting wars (Kshatriyas in India) were openly allowed to use meat and liquor. Brahmans, Vaishyas and Shudras had no such choice. It is a different matter, though, that in the course of time they too began using them. Wars require cruelty and lack of sensitivity and compassion. Without them violence is not possible. Different people have used a variety if stratagems including modes of entertainment involving cruelty and insensitivity. In some Arab countries young children are tied on to the back of racing camels, which are prodded more and more to run faster and faster while the children cry, weep and die of fear and the Sheikhs and other spectators enjoy the fun. Could anything be more insensitive than it?

The Roman Example

The Roman Empire was once very powerful. People there underwent successive violent and bloody conflicts and in the process lost all their sensitivity, so much so that they lost interest in traditional ways of killing. As a result, they resorted to newer and newer methods of torturing people to death. The fiercer the death, the greater the enjoyment they derived out of it. Special torture cells were built to entertain the onlookers. No wonder it led to the final fall of the Roman Empire. For violence once unleashed knows no discrimination. So a stage came when they started killing their own kinsmen. Mutual killings ultimately brought down the empire.

The Case of America

The newspapers keep reporting how American soldiers are getting desensitised. In Vietnam, Iraq, Somalia and elsewhere, they have had to display their capacity to kill and destroy. They have got so much used to it that the thought of violence does not disturb them any more. Family feuds easily result in senseless violence. Small boys and girls carry fatal weapons like pistols in their hands and enjoy indulging in violent activities.

The Experiment of forming Permanent Refined Habits

Developing sensitivity is essential for the growth of non-violence, and for doing that, one will have to adopt the method of self-contemplation. Perhaps no better method for the above purpose has yet been developed.

“Treat all beings like yourself”.
“Weigh all souls on the scale of your own soul”.

Try to contemplate on these two sayings. Quite a few people who had done so said that it changed their outlook completely. The need of the hour is to practise self-contemplation - repetition of a truthful saying - for changing one's attitude. Everyone knows how hard a rock is, but through repeated friction a rope makes indentations on it. One important element of training is “repeated activity and practice”. It constitutes a powerful experiment in forming permanent refined habits.

Non-violence and the Body

Another component of training in non-violence is health. We give the word 'health' a narrow meaning - a good state of the body, free from any disorder. This is not its proper understanding. But even if we leave out the mental and emotional dimensions of health, physical health itself has a profound relation with violence and non-violence. Nowadays, it is an important subject of scientific study. Malfunctioning of the liver gives rise to the instinct for violence. Hyperacidity gives rise to bad thoughts and feelings. A low percentage of glucose in the blood rouses the killing instinct including suicide. Again, the violent instinct is aroused by an imbalance in the nervous system or in the secretions of the endocrine gland.

Tests are essential

People look after their bodies in order to keep them healthy and free from disease, which is not a bad thing. However, it is equally necessary to direct attention to the effects the major organs have on people's minds and dispositions. Modern medical science requires people to undergo several tests, but rarely do people go in for tests aimed at ascertaining the proper functioning of the various endocrine glands like the thyroid, the pituitary and the adrenal. Their tests are essential for preventing violence.

Napoleon lost the battle at Waterloo. People wondered how a superb warrior with a dream of world conquest met with defeat. An examination of his brain revealed that his pituitary gland had stopped functioning when he took the decision of going to battle at Waterloo, which prevented him from taking the right decision.

The Meaning of Training in Non-violence

Training in the right ways of eating and keeping healthy is very important A method, commanding universal attention, for imbibing non-violence can be found if only scientists take deep interest in it. Since the concept of training in non-violence was put forward, two conferences have been held on the subject and the attention of the people in the world has begun to be drawn towards it. We received many letters inquiring about the method. Ordinary people think that it means sending peace volunteers to a theatre of conflict and settling it through mutual negotiations and third party advice. It may be one angle of looking at the problem, but it cannot be regarded as a comprehensive method of training in non-violence. We have restricted the scope of the discussion of non-violence to the domain of war and peace. But in fact it permeates living behaviour. Everyman confronts moments of violence and non-violence. Let us go to the root of the matter. The dream of building a non-violent society can come true if we begin our programme of training in non-violence with the triple training in following a proper dietary regime, principles of healthy living and emotional balance.

The Modern Language Of Peace

The U.N.O. was formed to preserve world peace. Now wars do not break out suddenly. Discussions and deliberations generally take the steam out and the U.N.O. helps in killing the momentary instinct for war. Not surprisingly, defence experts define peace as the interregnum between two wars. Another reason of the reduced possibility of wars is the almost prohibitive cost of modern weaponry as also the balance of power between warring nations. But for it, there would have been a nuclear war. Endless arming in the name of preserving the balance of power would not have been encouraged and peace and security would not have been sought to be ensured through increasing armament if the principle of training in non-violence had gained wide acceptance.

Need for Controlling Arms Manufacture

One aspect of training in non-violence is exercising control on the manufacture of arms. The merchants of arms like America are reigning supreme today. The production of weapons has become so excessive that finding buyers has become a burning problem. Therefore, the manufacturing countries are ever looking for a region susceptible to wars so that the excess arms may find a market. How to render the arms industry ineffective should also be a part of thinking on training in non-violence.

A Farsighted Vow

Lord Mahavira laid down the following vow for his followers: 'I will not manufacture arms, nor will I exchange arms or assemble their components'. Nowadays weapon systems are assembled - the body of the aeroplane may be manufactured at home and the engine may be bought from elsewhere and fitted into it, or the body of the indigenous tank may be fitted with imported engines, rockets and guns. How farsighted a vow it was as part of training in nonviolence!

A Change of Life-Style is Imperative

Another principle of the training in non-violence is a change of life-style. The training will never be complete unless accompanied by the change. Having a bad life-style is tantamount to courting failure.

Once upon a time Ruber (the God of Wealth) became very pleased with one of the devotees and so took the latter to his home region. Showing him his own priceless and abundant treasures, he told the devotee, 'You have worshipped me a great deal. I am very pleased with you. You are free to take back with you as much out of the treasure as you like.' The devotee was simply baffled. Each successive gem turned out to be brighter and more precious than the other. He could not decide which one to take with him and wasted nearly an hour in this confusion. Meanwhile there came the guard of the treasure and asked him to quit since this time was out. The devotee protested, ‘You have turned me out even though I have not been able to select anything to carry with me.’ The guard retorted, ‘You are simply foolish like thousands of others who entered from one door and walked out empty-handed from another'. There is a lesson in the anecdote. We may get entry to Kuber's own treasure house, but we will not be able to get anything out of it without changing our life-style.

All these methods of training in non-violence should be used. Rising above and going beyond mere discussion and reading of theoretical literature on the subject, if one makes the above principles an integral part of his nature, it will presage a new dawn in the history of non-violence, for then, it will cease to be a mere verbal artefact and become our enduring and irreversible character.

Sources
Edition 2005
ISBN No. 81-7196-019-7

© Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
210 Deendayal Upadhyay Marg,
New Delhi-110 002

Edited by:
Muni Dhananjay Kumar

Translated by:
Prof. R.P. Bhatnagar

Published by:
Kamlesh Chaturvedi
Adarsh Sahitya Sangh,
210 Deendayal Upadhyay Marg
New Delhi

Printed at:

R-Tech Offset Printer Delhi-110032

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. 24. Tirthankara Mahavira
  2. Acharya
  3. Ahimsa
  4. Anuvrat
  5. Body
  6. Brain
  7. Consciousness
  8. Environment
  9. Fear
  10. Gujarat
  11. Gurudev
  12. Kshatriyas
  13. Mahatma
  14. Mahatma Gandhi
  15. Meditation
  16. Non-violence
  17. Nonviolence
  18. Pituitary Gland
  19. Psychic Centre
  20. Sadhus
  21. Sarvodaya
  22. Science
  23. Shudras
  24. Soul
  25. Vaishyas
  26. Violence
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