The other day a friend posted to Facebook a quote by Jiddu Krishnamurti. The focus of the quote was nonviolence, often translated as ahimsa. According to Krishnamurti, just about any identification meant trying to separate ourselves from others, which he perceives to be a form of violence. And so, to say you’re a Hindu or a Christian is a violent act because it creates a split between you and those not identifying as Christian or Hindu- or, more generally, between the identity you assign yourself and any different identity someone else might happen to be inclined toward in their own way. I suppose on a super subtle level, I agree. The Jnana involved here is something I align with, and I also think this mostly clicks with Raja Yoga as well. I think, though, that this over-simplification verges on theoretical negation of other paths like Bhakti and possibly Karma. With that in mind, and within the context of living in the three-dimensional realm, from where I’m composing this right now, I mostly disagree. I’ll try to explain. Wish me luck.
1) I think violence, in the strictest definition of the term, is generally inescapable (and is inescapable only in the context of this very strict definition) – after all, the necessary act of breathing kills! Having said that, I don’t think violence (again, in the strictest sense of the word) is inherent in life or in creation. It’s often unavoidable, but not necessarily automatic. That might sound contradictory, but to me it isn’t. Life is neither coming nor going; it simply is. As such it isn’t phenomenal. Because it isn’t essentially phenomenal, but does manifest phenomenally, violence is able to be both inescapable and not inherent. Truly, it’s Sat-Chit-Anand. Brahman. It’s these kinds of seeming contradictions that make Hinduism so inherently balanced. In many (most?) other paths, things are black OR white, which lends itself to lop-sidedness and possibly extremism. But within my faith things are often black AND white, thus a more reasonable, balanced, and accepting/tolerant approach.
Back to the quote and a few of my earlier assertions… If violence were inherent in phenomenal life, Gandhi’s mission would have been an entire waste. Additionally, violence (strictly defined, or not) is usually associated with some form of destruction. And unless we’re discussing material existence, which would mean our topic should be attachment (not unity), not only does science teach that energy/life is never actually created or destroyed, but also it doesn’t reason well that life would be well-sustained within material existence if destruction/violence were inherent to its essence.
If this were the case (if violence/destruction were inherent), Vishnu wouldn’t have been named The Preserver. In fact, with the realization that literally everything we do likely causes some form of harm or destruction, Vishnu COULDN’T have been named The Preserver or The Sustainer, because in that context preserving/sustaining would be impossible. However, our immediate physical universe seems to be holding together pretty reasonably, and we believe the same about our spiritual skies, so I’m inclined to reason that Sri Vishnu is doing just fine and that violence isn’t as inherent as it might seem at first glance. This is the first exception I take with Krishnamurti’s quote. It’s too much of a generalization and round-aboutly negates the function of Sri Vishnu. I ain’t havin’ it.
2) Another thing I think Krishnamurti doesn’t consider in this case is that ahimsa doesn’t simply mean violence. It also means aggression. And because of this additional layer of meaning, typical of Sanskrit words, a number of other variables in existence open up to us. Contrary to Krishnamurti-ji’s claim, it’s quite possible to assert that I’m a Hindu without the assertion being an act of violence, so much as an act of Bhakti. Bhakti doesn’t work well at all without identification, which is what Krishnamurti’s words in this case hinge on. At a bare minimum, the positions of the adorer and the Adored must be established, or a relationship of devotion is nearly impossible to forge. And even if my own Self is the object of my devotion, saying “Namastu te” still involves identification. At face value, there’s nothing inherently violent in this process/act, and the process of walking the path of bhakti can’t really begin until one identifies both roles.
I will allow, that more often than not, when Christians and Muslims make a definitive assertion regarding their faith, it is something that indeed could be viewed as an act of violence. Christians proudly proclaim that their guru/avatar Jesus, is THE Way. Likewise, the Islamic equivalent of the Christian Sinner’s Prayer, “Laa ilaha il-Allah, wa Mahammad ur-Rasool Allah,” boldly states not only that The God is the only god (which is actually pretty much just common sense), but also that Muhammad (the Muslim guru, but not avatar) is God’s final messenger to humanity. When we consider these authentically exclusive religions, I can definitely agree that identifying one’s self as an adherent is veritably an act of violence. In my opinion, these religions actually prove Krishnamurti right because it’s very difficult indeed to join those religions, specifically, and not subscribe to the Us-versus-Them identification Krishnamurti is hinting at. The incredible amount of exclusivity alone-just in joining!- seems to constitute violence.
As with many things, I consulted my beloved to get his take on exactly what behaviors define violence. His answer was that (most) actions alone aren’t enough designate violence, but that intention plays a significant role as well. He did, also, carry the opinion that speech alone isn’t usually enough to “be” violent. So, from where he stands, actions are violent depending on their intent- something that occurs easily enough. Violence in speech, though, is a tougher matter.
For me, all things are connected and evolve together. Thoughts often become speech. And the two often heavily influence our actions. Asserting something isn’t automatically violent, but rather depends on the thought patterns which were foundational to that speech.
And there you have it.