Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Sword Doctrine

There is little doubt that the geographic state of the United States lives by the sword and that we are spinning the wheel of violent destiny. We invade other nations, we torture our prisoners, and we boycott and starve nations that have thrown off our oppression, often for decades.
Here is Gandhi on the Doctrine of the Sword:

"In this age of the rule of brute force, it is almost impossible for anyone to believe that anyone else could possibly reject the law of final supremacy of brute force. And so I receive anonymous letters advising me that I must not interfere with the progress of non-co-operation even though popular violence may break out.

Others come to me and assuming that secretly I must be plotting violence, inquire when the happy moment for declaring open violence to arrive. They assure me that English never yield to anything but violence secret or open. Yet others I am informed, believe that I am the most rascally person living in India because I never give out my real intention and that they have not a shadow of a doubt that I believe in violence just as much as most people do.

Such being the hold that the doctrine of the sword has on the majority of mankind, and as success of non-co-operation depends principally on absence of violence during its pendency and as my views in this matter affect the conduct of large number of people. I am anxious to state them as clearly as possible.

I do believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence I would advise violence. Thus when my eldest son asked me what he should have done, had he been present when I was almost fatally assaulted in 1908, whether he should have run away and seen me killed or whether he should have used his physical force which he could and wanted to use, and defended me, I told him that it was his duty to defend me even by using violence. Hence it was that I took part in the Boer War, the so called Zulu rebellion and the late war.

Hence also do I advocate training in arms for those who believe in the method of violence. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honor than that she should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor.

But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment, forgiveness adorns a soldier. clip

I am not a visionary. I claim to be a practical idealist. The religion of nonviolence is not meant merely for the Rishis and saints. It is meant for the common people as well. Nonviolence is the law of our species as violence is the law of the brute. The spirit lies dormant in the brute and he knows no law but that of physical might. The dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law to the strength of the spirit. clip

Nonviolence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. It does not means meek submission to the will of the evil-doer, but it means the putting of one's whole soul against the will of the tyrant. Working under this law of being , it is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honor, his religion, his soul and lay the foundation for the empire's fall or its regeneration." more

Horace Alexander, who knew Gandhi and saw him in action, graphically describes the attitude of the nonviolent resister to his opponent:

"On your side you have all the mighty forces of the modern State, arms, money, a controlled press, and all the rest.

On my side, I have nothing but my conviction of right and truth, the unquenchable spirit of man, who is prepared to die for his convictions than submit to your brute force. I have my comrades in armlessness.

Here we stand; and here if need be, we fall."

Far from being a craven retreat from difficulty and danger, nonviolent resistance demands courage of a high order, the courage to resist injustice without rancour, to unite the utmost firmness with the utmost gentleness, to invite suffering but not to inflict it, to die but not to kill.
Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state has become lawless or corrupt. And a citizen who barters with such a state shares in its corruption and lawlessness. MK Gandhi

As I went through my day today, I realized how the doctrine of the sword permeates my mind and my emotions. Even as I try to be polite, and understanding, and good, the doctrine of the sword resides like a dragon at the root of my separation.

I considered how, when my sense of self extends beyond my skin, into these words, and into your consciousness; that my sense of separation then mutates into an ocean of extended selves, each of us living inside each other.

And as this separation drops away into this mutated self, the mind of the sword becomes so sharp that it cuts without dividing. Its razor sharpness breaks through the world of mind, even as an arrow breaks the sky.

For just a little while today, I was totally comfortable with myself, with my thoughts, with my fears, with my sense of self. Perhaps it was Gandhi's ahimsa.

And in that moment, as I looked at all those faces in the Food Store, I could imagine that this nation, this world, could give up the sword and find this "ahimsa".
And in that moment.
All is Well.

"Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. (Matthew 26:52)



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