Peaceful Coexistence : The Ultimate Outcome Of Nonviolence

Published: 22.04.2005
Updated: 02.07.2015

Valedictory Speech to the delegates of the 5th ICPNA.

It is a matter of surprise that though discussions about peace and non-violence are going on in every region of the world there is a general drift towards violence. Violence does have in it some sort of attraction: that is why a large number of people are inclined towards it and it is also beyond doubt that due to some unknown reasons, even those who are at the helm of the forces of violence talk of non-violence at public meetings or media-sponsored dialogues.

A shopkeeper who resorts to adulteration puts a signboard at the gate of his shop that here the sweets are made of pure ghee though he has none of it. The deceptive signboard highlights the use of pure ghee. What we conclude from it is that vice thrives under the guise of virtue.
Similarly, violence thrives under the guise of non-violence. Violence does not have any base in itself, it makes non-violence its base, it cannot do anything without non-violence.

We agree that there is an environment of violence. Law of the jungle seems to prevail everywhere and a man finds it impossible to protect even his neighbor. But we also notice that a member of a family does not treat the other member violently. Even if he is compelled to use violence against him, it is extremely minimum. We also find that as a rule a man doesn't indulge in violence against his neighbor. This is why there are villages and towns everywhere. Now the question arises as to which group we should support - those who hold that violence is increasing or those who oppose this view.

The reality is that non-violence is more dominant and widespread than violence. It is testified by the fact that despite the hype in violence, people still live together. As a result there are villages, towns and countries. Had there been only violence there would have been nothing but jungle and no signs of civility would have been visible; even a human being would not have been different from an animal, he would not have made any progress. The entire development that has taken place in human history owes its success to non-violence.

One aspect of non-violence is fearlessness - fear no one. The basic component of Mahavira's preaching of non-violence is fearlessness. The message of fearlessness that Mahavira has given is the most celebrated message of all the messages that we have today though it has not reached the masses. When Mahavira says, 'fear none', it means a person should not fear himself, old age and diseases. He should not fear even death, It is such a comprehensive and all-pervasive message, hence it is also the foundation of non-violence.

Some journalists came to me the day before. They raised a question relating to cowardice and non-violence. I tried to disabuse their minds of the wrong impression that non-violence was an act of cowardice. I told them that it was the most erroneous interpretation of ahimsa. How can we talk of cowardice when fearlessness is the basic value of ahimsa? It is regrettable if some people believe that a nonviolent person is essentially a coward. They told me that the young generation of today holds this view. "Do young people not harbor illusions? I asked.
The first foundation pillar of ahimsa is fearlessness.
The second one is restraint - the restraint of senses, the restraint of mind and the restraint of consumption. It is just one aspect of ahimsa. If ahimsa is not premised on self-restraint, it cannot develop itself.
The third attribute of ahimsa is equanimity - a feeling of calmness. One is not elated when something good has happened and is not plunged into deep depression when something unpleasant takes place.
The fourth attribute of ahimsa is peace. Peace means deliverance from tension. The moment one is gripped by tension, unrest is born. Peace prevails the moment tension disappears.

A man went to his Guru and requested him to explain as to what peace and peacelessness meant. The Guru thought that it would be better to elucidate it by means of a practical lesson instead of words. The Guru directed him to go straight towards the wall in front of him. The path was strewn with thorns. A thorn pricked him. He at once sat down and began to scream, "Please come and take my thorn out. It is causing unbearable pain." The Guru himself went and took out the thorn. As soon as the thorn was removed, the man said, “Oh! What a great relief, how peaceful it is!". The Guru told him that it was the prick of a thorn that caused restlessness and its removal brought peace. Peace was already there but it changed into peacelessness, the moment a thorn pricked him.

If there is tension, peacelessness becomes inevitable. Peace is our nature - human nature. A human being loves to live always in peace. If a person spends two or three days in a state of peacelessness, a state of total unrest, you will find him in a lunatic asylum the following day. Where else can he go? He always longs for peace. But it happens that his peace is disturbed by the prick of a thorn. He suddenly finds himself in the grip of tension. He feels restless. Though peace is natural, tension disrupts it. As a matter of fact there is nothing like tension. If the mind is free from tension, one will find nothing but peace prevailing all around. Another attribute of non-violence is compassion - our compassionate and amiable behaviour with others. This compassion undoubtedly ruts an end to the state of peacelessness. Instead of compassion when there is cruelty, it gives rise to a state of conflict and unrest in human mind. As soon as compassion touches the inner core of man, his mind is filled with peace and tranquillity. Non-violence has many facets but these five attributes enunciated above are predominantly important since they are related to our behaviour.

There is another important question before us to ponder over. Many conferences are organized for peace and non-violence in the world. A lot of discussion takes place. I do agree that the meeting of a large number of people and discussions about peace are very important. They help create an environment conducive to peace but I do not think it is sufficient and our work comes to an end here. If we confine our work to mere conferences, deliberations and seminars, we are not likely to gain concrete results. Instead, I attach greater significance to collective thinking. What is needed is that a small number of right thinking people - they may be even five in number - should sit together and share their views for at least a period of four to five months. If needed, this intensive thinking can be prolonged over a period of even five years. It is vitally important that small groups sit and think together. I am sure the outcome of this intensive thinking will be more useful than a gathering of five thousand persons. We have to change the direction a little. I do not think that the conferences that take place in the world every year will come to a halt. It is also not necessary that the conferences should stop altogether. But I doubt if such large conferences where only papers are presented and speeches are made accomplish the goal. In order to fulfil our objectives we need serious thinking and serious thinking cannot take place in a day or two. For this we need long term thinking. Let us take one specific problem and think over it profoundly for a long period. It may take a month or a year and if need be even ten years. If we undertake prolonged thinking on a specific problem, we will be able to reach a definite conclusion, a solution.

We usually initiate an immediate discussion and deliberate over it for two-three days and forget it altogether. All our efforts go wasted. We achieve nothing. We must examine both the aspects i.e. holding large conferences and organizing periodical group discussions. This new direction is not only rejuvenating and inspiring but it will also be helpful in the accomplishment of our objective. We must give thought to it and formulate a plan. It may even involve just two persons who can carry research into the problems of violence and the advantages of non-violence. If they concentrate themselves on this research project alone, they can also bring to light some new facts, some new insights and innovative ideas which might turn out to be a blessing for humanity.

We sometimes feel disappointed and disheartened at the slow pace of our progress. We stop thinking because we could not reach any conclusion despite having worked for a long period. In such a situation our line of thinking or style of functioning should be to pursue our objective doggedly.

Those who want to work in the field of peace and non-violence must discuss individual problems, family problems, institutional problems, social problems, provincial problems, linguistic problems, national and international problems. We cannot ignore one and concentrate exclusively on the other. All those problems are so intertwined and interconnected that they cannot be studied in isolation from one another. We should bear in mind that in order to produce cloth we need thousands of threads. Our life is full of threads. An individual’s life is woven in such multitudes of threads that one can never succeed by taking just one aspect into consideration. Hence what is essential is that we consider it holistically keeping the Anekant way of thinking in mind i.e. the non-absolutist approach to solving problems. I have explained it time and again and as far as I have understood there is no better approach to solving the problem of violence or any other problem than that of Anekant.

Conflict or violence or war takes place because one person thinks of the other as his opponent or enemy. One nation looks on the other with suspicion and apprehension. This mutual distrust or apprehension is responsible for the unusual spurt in violence. As a matter of fact the quantum of violence prevalent in the world is not so much as is imprinted on the screen of suspicion in our mind. Mutual distrust and apprehension have blown it out of proportion. If we can erase the black ink of suspicion, the barriers that divide humanity can be removed and man can come close to man.

The most unfortunate and disastrous situation is that the boundaries of religion, nationality and beliefs keep people apart. It is difficult for humans to demolish the walls of distrust and hatred that divide them. They have no idea of the immense harm being caused on account of this distrust. Humanity is passing through a serious crisis of faith and trust. The world lies deeply mired in suspicion and hatred. Not only individuals but families and nations are all afflicted with this disease. One always remains in panic as to when one's opponent would attack him with missiles. He remains in a state of perpetual panic and terror.

The environment of panic and distrust is creating a great problem. It must come to an end. The world cannot be rid of violence and war unless the cloud of distrust and suspicion is dissipated. If we can meet and talk, it is possible that fifty percent of the problem will be solved automatically. For the remaining part of the problem we can do something constructive in the form of a worldwide campaign for non-violence training and for the creation of a non-violent future generation. Thus, there are only two solutions i.e. dialogues and training in non-violence.

These two ways alone will make our work complete. If only meetings take place and no constructive plan is undertaken, our efforts will lead us nowhere. The prerequisite is the initiative for a dialogue or a meeting. Training in non-violence comes later. The first and the foremost necessity is to break this wall of suspicion and create a situation that the two opposing groups sit together and talk. Anuvrat has in it a potential to promote dialogues and meetings and provide the divergent groups with opportunities to take practical lessons in non-violence training.

Many international conferences were organized under the auspices of late Acharya Tulsi. I consider them landmarks because they brought hundreds of workers from all across the world together. They generated a tremendous wave of ahimsa awareness across the globe. We have to take his mission further. We must realize that Acharya Tulsi's work can not proceed unless we prepare a global plan of educating the youths and children in the power of non-violence and bringing about attitudinal transformation in them. Our problem is that intensive efforts have not been made to unify forces of peace and non-violence. On the contrary thousands of training camps in various parts o the world are going on to train young generation in violence. There are a large number of schools of terror and hatred where systematized and organized methods are being used to indoctrinate the youths in the cult of violence and impart to them training in the use of weapons of mass destruction. They have a powerful network and are spread in every nook and corner.

In comparison to the organized forces of hatred forces of peace and non-violence are in a state of disarray. They have neither a strategy nor a concrete plan. They also do not have an organized network of people committed to non-violence. Nothing will happen unless we concentrate our energies on activating the right hemisphere of human brain. It can unleash a powerful current of peace and happiness which can sweep the globe and give rise to a new world order - a world order rooted In love and harmony.

We have also to give a serious thought as to how a worldwide network of the forces of peace and non-violence can be created. If this happens, I am confident that the horror of war that looms large on our heads can be minimized and the ultimate outcome will be peaceful coexistence. If we can find out a way to ensure peaceful coexistence, I will consider the journey of non-violence complete and successful. If this happens, I am sure, man will live in peace and harmony and its spirit will pervade the entire universe.

Fear None


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Presentation and English rendering by Dr. S.l. Gandhi and Mahendra Jain

Courtesy: Anuvibha Reporter April-June 2003

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