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Violence and Nonviolence

--by The Dalai Lama and Victor Chan (Jul 01, 2013)


"What is violence? What is nonviolence?" the Dalai Lama had once asked me in one of our interviews in Dharamsala. "Very difficult to make clear. It is related to motivation. If we have sincere motivation, with compassion and caring in our minds, even if we speak harsh words, use physical force, these actions are nonviolent. But with negative motivation, a friendly gesture using nice words and a big smile, and try to exploit others, it is the worst kind of violence. Because of the motivation."  [...]

"My approach: Today's reality is whole world just one body. Everything is a part of me. Understanding this helps reduce negative emotions. Hatred comes because we don't appreciate interdependence. Suffering comes because we don't understand interdependence. We cause harm, sometimes unintentionally, because we are greedy for money, power. We think these things will make us happy. This is misunderstanding. Real happiness comes from peace of mind. The only way to obtain is be altruistic, be compassionate."

For the Dalai Lama, the essence of the Buddhist worldview can be summed up in two words: nonviolence and interdependence. Nonviolence for him is not passivity: the absence of violence is only part of it. We need to actively help others and we should do that with a genuine sense of compassion, not pity. At a minimum, we should not harm others. Not harming others is a logical extension of the idea of interdependence. Since everything is a part of us, harming others would hurt ourselves.  [...]

"So, taking care of other," the Dalai Lama told us in Delhi, "taking care of other part of the world, is actually taking care of yourself. Because individual future depends on the humanity as a whole. So that's new reality - global economy and also population and technology and also the environment. So long as you have the feeling, you have the sense of concern about the  well-being of others, then there is no room to cheat, no room to exploit, no room to bully. All is part of you, all part of me."

"And it's very important to make distinction: actor and action. We have to oppose bad action. But that does not mean we against that person, actor. Once action stopped, different action comes, then that person could be friend. That's why today, China is enemy; next day, there's always the possibility to become friend. And that's why I have no problem forgiving the Chinese for what they've done to my country and people."

--Dalai Lama and Victor Chan, in 'Wisdom of Compassion'


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11 Previous Reflections:

 
On Jul 6, 2013 Luv4all wrote:

 I didnt realise the interdependence need until i fell sick and needed support. In that time i knew how much dependent i am on others. It stayed with me and now i realise that whatever others do for me or with me helps me progress and not me alone. I always realised that compassion, love, simplicity and goodness give more happiness but living it all the time was difficult. I used to get caught in ambition and spend hours working towards my goals, strong ethics and put others in wrong or compete for progress etc. None of these are wrong, I did not have negativity or bad intentions anytime but there are times when you get pushed off from love, compassion and thining about interdependence while praticing these. It is about remembering these on top, each time and giving less importance to other materialistic success. It is also important to be thoughtful about being non-violent in every way, we miss this sometimes not realising that we hurt the other by our behaviour, words or action  See full.

 I didnt realise the interdependence need until i fell sick and needed support. In that time i knew how much dependent i am on others. It stayed with me and now i realise that whatever others do for me or with me helps me progress and not me alone.
I always realised that compassion, love, simplicity and goodness give more happiness but living it all the time was difficult. I used to get caught in ambition and spend hours working towards my goals, strong ethics and put others in wrong or compete for progress etc. None of these are wrong, I did not have negativity or bad intentions anytime but there are times when you get pushed off from love, compassion and thining about interdependence while praticing these. It is about remembering these on top, each time and giving less importance to other materialistic success. It is also important to be thoughtful about being non-violent in every way, we miss this sometimes not realising that we hurt the other by our behaviour, words or actions.

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On Jul 5, 2013 M.V.R ao wrote:

 The whole world is suffering because of violence. This may be political, individual or otherwise. Everyone has under the surface a streak of violence, a streak which makes him revolt, which makes him rabid, which makes him slay and murder. But you must try to come out of this beast in you. Instead we are encouraging films, TV programs, digital games etc. with lot of violence and crime which is effecting the youth and children as well. This has to be stopped. It is easy to stimulate the baser instincts of human nature. To develop the higher instincts requires some kind of exercise or discipline. Compassion and fellow feeling are the qualities we should develop. Individuals, such as terrorists, who commit violent atrocities in the name of GOD are the worst kind barbarians. How to solve this problem is a big question. In addition we also find daily news about domestic violence, violence on women, violence in colleges and schools in the name of ragging etc. if we go on narrating, th  See full.

 The whole world is suffering because of violence. This may be political, individual or otherwise. Everyone has under the surface a streak of violence, a streak which makes him revolt, which makes him rabid, which makes him slay and murder. But you must try to come out of this beast in you. Instead we are encouraging films, TV programs, digital games etc. with lot of violence and crime which is effecting the youth and children as well. This has to be stopped. It is easy to stimulate the baser instincts of human nature. To develop the higher instincts requires some kind of exercise or discipline. Compassion and fellow feeling are the qualities we should develop. Individuals, such as terrorists, who commit violent atrocities in the name of GOD are the worst kind barbarians. How to solve this problem is a big question. In addition we also find daily news about domestic violence, violence on women, violence in colleges and schools in the name of ragging etc. if we go on narrating, there is no end to the list.
 
The whole universe is changing from moment to moment. Even we have brought huge change in our life style and many other aspects by using science and technology. But we continue to be selfish, jealous, ambitious, prejudiced, short sighted and suffering from disappointments, greed, lust, hatred, love, desires and anger as used to be even before the prehistoric days. We resist internal change. We need to make time to understand ourselves. But many of us have little or no idea who we are. We are under the impression that self knowledge should happen automatically or it should be for only retired people. Taking time to understand ourselves, enables us to develop internally. If we discipline ourselves - our mind and heart, if we get rid of the negative qualities mentioned above and nothing selfishness, and egoistic in us and when our hearts become purified with love and compassion and knowing the inter- connectedness of all beings, we are equal to God, and the whole world becomes heaven. Of course, it is very difficult to achieve! However I find there is lot of awareness in these days around the world, and let us hope at least to some extent some internal change in the human beings takes place - in tune with the universal change for a better society and in turn better world.-  Thanks.
 

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On Jul 4, 2013 david doane wrote:

 I like the authors' emphasis that nonviolence begins with realizing that we are all one.  It is insane for me to be violent toward another part of me.  There are parts of me and there are other people that I don't accept or don't understand or are afraid of (often called the shadow side), but they are all me, and instead of being violent with those parts it is crucial that I get to know those parts, accept our interdependence, learn to cooperate, learn from one another, integrate, and allow the wholeness that we are.  It's important to learn that to disagree, object, and assert what I want or don't want are different than being violent, which is to intentionally be hurtful.  When my intention or motivation is to hurt, I'm being violent.  My understanding is that violence is not necessary, and we are violent out of habit and because it's easier to be violent than to be scared and vulnerable, or so we think.  It is possible to be direct and honest wit  See full.

 I like the authors' emphasis that nonviolence begins with realizing that we are all one.  It is insane for me to be violent toward another part of me.  There are parts of me and there are other people that I don't accept or don't understand or are afraid of (often called the shadow side), but they are all me, and instead of being violent with those parts it is crucial that I get to know those parts, accept our interdependence, learn to cooperate, learn from one another, integrate, and allow the wholeness that we are.  It's important to learn that to disagree, object, and assert what I want or don't want are different than being violent, which is to intentionally be hurtful.  When my intention or motivation is to hurt, I'm being violent.  My understanding is that violence is not necessary, and we are violent out of habit and because it's easier to be violent than to be scared and vulnerable, or so we think.  It is possible to be direct and honest with compassion and without being violent, and it's crucially important that we learn to do that.

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On Jul 1, 2013 Tim wrote:

There is more to nonviolence than just refrain from violence. Nonviolence stems from the philosophy of compassion which gets a person to understand that fundamentally all are one. Or, as J. Krishnamurti termed it : there is no other. So, the other is you, even though that other may not yet be conscious of the reciprocal and may act violently against you. His violence then is to be seen as a manifestation of that unconsciousness. But the moment one is aware, one's responsibility is to stand firm on the principle but not reciprocate the other's violence. The will to dominate, to infringe on a weaker person's rights, such doing must be stopped. This by standing firm on the principle. But to fixate on anyone as an enemy only perpetuates the conflict and thus misses the mark which is to stop the wrong doing while leaving the door open to the doer so that he may eventually change his perspective. This is the compassionate answer. The use of brutal force morally diminishes the  See full.

There is more to nonviolence than just refrain from violence. Nonviolence stems from the philosophy of compassion which gets a person to understand that fundamentally all are one. Or, as J. Krishnamurti termed it : there is no other. So, the other is you, even though that other may not yet be conscious of the reciprocal and may act violently against you. His violence then is to be seen as a manifestation of that unconsciousness. But the moment one is aware, one's responsibility is to stand firm on the principle but not reciprocate the other's violence.
The will to dominate, to infringe on a weaker person's rights, such doing must be stopped. This by standing firm on the principle. But to fixate on anyone as an enemy only perpetuates the conflict and thus misses the mark which is to stop the wrong doing while leaving the door open to the doer so that he may eventually change his perspective. This is the compassionate answer.
The use of brutal force morally diminishes the doer. As do the transient goals, supremacy, dominance, that motivate his actions. No party, in the long run, can win over principles which are fundamentally just and speak to the human heart. This is what I understand from this interview of the Dalai Lama whose firm stand and intelligent response have gained  worldwide respect and affection.

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On Jun 30, 2013 Edit Lak wrote:

 I’m mesmerised… You know, I’ve gotten to mid life, scratching and screaming on the way – all in a good way  :-)  but living and relocating countries at a young age, new languages, no older siblings or anyone to grow my inner self with, but I did it, I did everything I believed in and I followed my soul to the fence- line of life. That fence-line is the safety zone of what I believed was my comfort and understanding zone, you know that place where you get to and say, ‘geez, I’ve done a lot, I’ve learned a lot and now it’s time to rest and let the young ones fix everything, well it isn’t a comfort zone and I was just like may many other people, a hypocrite in my own rite that stopped ‘being’. It’s only recently that I have realised that sitting on this side of the fence accomplishes nothing, but by breaking down the boarders and barriers in inner self, is the answer. If we do not keep on hearing and  See full.

 I’m mesmerised… You know, I’ve gotten to mid life, scratching and screaming on the way – all in a good way  :-)  but living and relocating countries at a young age, new languages, no older siblings or anyone to grow my inner self with, but I did it, I did everything I believed in and I followed my soul to the fence- line of life. That fence-line is the safety zone of what I believed was my comfort and understanding zone, you know that place where you get to and say, ‘geez, I’ve done a lot, I’ve learned a lot and now it’s time to rest and let the young ones fix everything, well it isn’t a comfort zone and I was just like may many other people, a hypocrite in my own rite that stopped ‘being’. It’s only recently that I have realised that sitting on this side of the fence accomplishes nothing, but by breaking down the boarders and barriers in inner self, is the answer. If we do not keep on hearing and seeing the differences of ‘non-violence’ and violence in our actions, we forget our possibilities’ to change the negative into positive, If we do not do, we slip into the ‘lazy’ a bad lazy, a dividing lazy of destruction...  Well, If only this/these principals of this article/passage were only taught in schools, and were expressed verbally in open conversations every-where as practice, just as breathing is, then this world would be a different place to live in.  It really would be..  It would be the place we are all hoping for. This like the previous passage is ‘wisdom growing’, is true self growing, in one’s own space, from the wise life and experiences of those that are not scared of the fence-lines or boarders, and break free from them .. That living with the experiences give us the wisdom and knowledge to grow, to  pass through others, of our connections and next generations, for them not to have problems and struggles,  for all of us to accomplish peace ‘externally’ and ‘internally’..  Thank you for the giving and growing you offer, much appreciated with love..

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On Jun 29, 2013 Conrad P Pritscher wrote:

 Excellent article. Thanks for the opportunity to respond.  I have been a Zen Buddhist for over 20 years yet I find myself habitually becoming impatient with others particularly while I am driving. Intellectually I know I am one with everyone and everything but I do not translate that into peaceful compassionate action very often. I am now writing about skin color and I notice white privileges are frequently unnoticed by white people. I sense there is some violence  to people of color as a result of white's failure to share privileges, particularly   with African Americans and Latinos, even though white persons often do not intend to be violent. In this country,  white people often think that people of color, particularly black people, are not as good as  whites. Part of that is unconscious through semi-conscious acculturation. The continuance of white privilege for so long leads me to believe that we now  need to at least gently (non violently)  See full.

 Excellent article. Thanks for the opportunity to respond.  I have been a Zen Buddhist for over 20 years yet I find myself habitually becoming impatient with others particularly while I am driving. Intellectually I know I am one with everyone and everything but I do not translate that into peaceful compassionate action very often. I am now writing about skin color and I notice white privileges are frequently unnoticed by white people. I sense there is some violence  to people of color as a result of white's failure to share privileges, particularly   with African Americans and Latinos, even though white persons often do not intend to be violent. In this country,  white people often think that people of color, particularly black people, are not as good as  whites. Part of that is unconscious through semi-conscious acculturation. The continuance of white privilege for so long leads me to believe that we now  need to at least gently (non violently) shock some white people into discussing racism with other white people.so that whites  acknowledge and share  their privileges. I am a recovering racist and  I would appreciate anyone with any ideas about skin color and  privilege to let me know what you think. Warm and kind regards to everyone.

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1 reply: Liz | Post Your Reply