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Non-violence


This week, I had the opportunity to be part of an interfaith event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, on the 50th anniversary of his assassination, to continue the work he started. There were speakers present from many faiths including Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, and Hinduism. One of the gurus from India spoke about Dr. King's trip to India. Dr. King and his wife, Coretta, spent 5 weeks in India in 1959 as "pilgrims" (his words). “We were looked upon as brothers with the color of our skins as something of an asset,” King recalled. “But the strongest bond of fraternity was the common cause of minority and colonial peoples in America, Africa and Asia struggling to throw off racialism and imperialism” (Papers 5:233). King’s trip to India had a profound influence on his understanding of nonviolent resistance and his commitment to America’s struggle for civil rights. In a radio address made during his final evening in India, King reflected: “Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. In a real sense, Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation” (Papers 5:136). (from KingInstitute.stanford.edu) All of the religions represented on this day, preach non-violence in some form or another (when you cut to their very core, even though political leaders have used religion for centuries to oppress and divide). In the spiritual practice of yoga, the very first Yama of the 5 Yamas (the Yamas are the very first branch of the 8 Limbs of Ashtanga yoga) is Ahimsa, which means "non-violence". I've written about Ahimsa before and taught it as a basic principle in many of my classes. There is a reason why it is the first Yama. Ahimsa is the foundation of the 5 Yamas, or universal practices. Non-violence is the basis of yoga. What does that mean? Through the practice of yoga we learn to practice non-violence towards our own bodies and mind and experience our connectedness with all creation and our own Higher Self. When we realize our connection to all life - we cannot practice violence against others, or towards the Earth - our home. But, how does this yama apply to our daily lives? Most people think this is an easy Yama to practice - If you aren't physically doing violence to yourself or others, you're non-violent, right? We think of violence as blood and guts. Dr. King was assassinated because of violence....But violence goes so much deeper. Coretta Scott King said, “I must remind you that starving a child is violence. Neglecting school children is violence. Punishing a mother and her family is violence. Discrimination against a working man is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring medical need is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence.” Rev. William Barber took her words a step further and said, "An apathetic attitude is violent." Politics and Religion are those 2 things we aren't supposed to talk about because they are "divisive", but I propose they should be the opposite - they should be conversations worth having so that we might find our common good. On the 50th anniversary of King's assassination, I saw people of many faiths come together to talk about non-violence. Some shared prayers and others sang songs or chants. There was even the sound of "OM" in a conch shell. ...Politics SHOULD be about how we can better serve our communities - what is best for our communities - and that includes people of all genders, races, and faiths. We cannot know what is best for everyone in our community unless we have conversations and really LISTEN to each other. For, if we are only pushing political agendas that are self-serving, we are doing violence to one another. When we do not extend a hand to our neighbor, but instead ignore her pain or worse yet, blame her for her own situation, we are doing an act of violence. Non-violence is about kindness towards ourselves and towards each other. Non-violence is about being mindful in all of our thoughts and actions. Non-violence is about more than just physical violence but includes unkind speech, actions and thoughts. Non-violence is about awakening the peace of our own inner being and acting with compassion towards others. Non-violence is about unity. Yoga is about unity (union, to yoke) This is how we heal our separation from Our Selves and each other. This is yoga.


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