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The Soldier of Ahimsa

Published: 18.06.2004
Updated: 19.06.2011

Much of humanity is living in a revolutionary situation where institutionalised himsa is accepted as the normal state of affairs. For this reason, both the need for and the challenges facing an aspirant to a life of ahimsa are especially great at this point of human history, where the lives of all of the Earth's inhabitants are in danger of destruction.

Like the traditional army which call its citizens to its ranks in times of war, the world needs a new kind of soldier - a soldier of ahimsa - to help save both humanity and the entire planet from extinction. Because our own lives and those of others are literally 'on the line', the time for individual commitment, personal involvement and dedication to goals has never been more appropriate than at this moment.

For an aspirant to the life of ahimsa, these seemingly overwhelming problems offer many valuable opportunities to help create lasting and palpable planetary change. Because ahimsa is grounded in the belief that there is a basic human wisdom that can help solve the world's problems, the soldier of ahimsa is asked to develop inner wisdom as well as compassion and bravery. And because ahimsa involves both reclaiming and mobilizing our personal power in the deepest sense, the soldier of ahimsa can be a potent agent for planetary transformation.

Unlike the traditional soldier who is the product of six to twelve months of regimentation and military discipline, the soldier of ahimsa develops as a result of years of deep inner exploration and self-confrontation. Instead of mindlessly following the orders of another, the soldier of ahimsa takes personal responsibility for every thought, word and action. In his book Satyagraha (The Power Of Truth), the Indian scholar R. R. Diwakar spoke about the qualities of a soldier of ahimsa:

" The discipline for a non-violent soldier is of a different kind:.

  • The one is to kill, the other to die.
  • The one is to hate, the other to love.
  • The one is to get angry, the other to remain patient.
  • The one is to inspire fear, the other to overcome fear.
  • The one is to conflict pain, the other to suffer pain without complaint."

As a result of this orientation, all outward activities take on a different character and tone. Instead of causing fear, the soldier of ahimsa seeks to instil confidence and trust. In place of antagonism, the spiritual warrior works to bring about communication and understanding. As opposed to the offensiveness and bullying of the traditional soldier, the soldier of ahimsa is protected by humility and vulnerability. In place of contempt for the 'enemy', the soldier of ahimsa offers goodwill and respect. Martin Luther King wrote:
"The non-violent resistor not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him. At the centre of non-violence is the principle of love. The non-violent resistor would contend that, in the struggle for human dignity, the oppressed people of the world must not succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter and indulging in hate campaigns. To retaliate in kind would do nothing but intensify the existence of hate in the universe. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the centre of our lives."

The practice of ahimsa is grounded in truth, inner strength, and the courage to be compassionate, even in the face of danger. In many cases, the amount of courage to be compassionate is greater than the bravery needed to be violent, as the soldier of ahimsa confronts his or her lower nature and seeks to transform its energy towards a higher and more creative level of manifestation. A spiritual warrior is not passive, and does not necessarily repress anger and indignation. Jesus gave us a model of a soldier of ahimsa even when He overturned tables and threw the moneychangers out of the temple. His anger and righteous indignation were appropriate for the situation, and were free from the violence, injury and abuse that would normally accompany such a dramatic act. Like Christ, the spiritual warrior also must face up to and accept personal responsibility for the impact his thought and actions will have on others.

In an extreme case, as when a rabid dog or a berserk individual pose a direct threat to the safety of a child, there may be no alternatives to prevent such a threat than through violent means when all other methods fail. Under these circumstances, a votary of ahimsa has the responsibility to act in the least harmful manner possible, rather than to stand by and do nothing. However, the motivation behind the action in any situation must be acknowledged to see whether the act is motivated by compassion or as the result of fear. The Dalai Lama addressed this issue in 1975:
" I believe that having a sympathetic heart, a warm heart, a kind heart, is the essence or the most important thing. Irrespective of whether you believe in religion or not, or no matter what ideology you follow, if you have this, then even such a violent act as killing someone, if it is done with a really good motive, could go beyond the usual level of killing."
In essence, the motivation behind any action determines the degree of ahimsa often more than the outward act itself.

Gandhi was very forceful when he taught that ahimsa goes beyond what is traditionally called 'window dressing'. When non-violence is used as a gesture or as a mask to hide seething violence within, he felt that it could be more pernicious than a violent act that is honest and direct. Gandhi once said that when non-violence is used to mask fear or impotence, it is far better to be violent. He added that there is some hope for the violent, but rarely any hope for the impotent.

Finally, a traditional soldier is trained to respond largely to situations that are symptomatic of deeper problems, while the spiritual warrior actively seeks to deal with the underlying causes of violence and strife. Although an outer situation can serve as a focus and a catalyst for action, the deeper task involves going beyond the appearances of an issue, and contacting the underlying distortions, misunderstandings or fears which motivate the destructive attitude or violent act. Such a task requires tremendous courage and involves deep and compassionate understanding of oneself and others. By dealing with the essence of the problem rather than merely the symptom, one can bring about a lasting transformation rather than a mere pseudo-solution.

The central task for a soldier of ahimsa is to be able to 'feel with' another: to respond to the challenge of the moment with caring, warmth and compassion. This is not to say that a spiritual warrior is governed only by feelings, and does not allow the guidance of common sense dictated by the rational mind. However, unlike the traditional soldier who is ruled chiefly by the mind and rigid authoritarian structures, the soldier of ahimsa responds primarily to heart feelings, which in turn work with the concrete and abstract mind, the intuition, and the power of positive will.


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          1. Ahimsa
          2. Anger
          3. Dalai Lama
          4. Discipline
          5. Fear
          6. Gandhi
          7. Himsa
          8. Non-violence
          9. Violence
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