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Nonviolence: Perception, Practice and Concept

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(Paper presented at the 8th International Conference for Peace and Nonviolent Action*, Jaipur, India 4-7 January 2014)

 (*see Introduction: A Peace Conference)



Nonviolence: Perception, Practice and Concept

– Al Haj Dr. Muhammad Muzzammil Cader

 – Sri Lanka

Nonviolence is a widely spoken word in the world today. As violence increases more and more people speak about nonviolence as a tool, as an alternative and as a method to counter violence. Many do think and believe that nonviolence is the way but few do understand that it is powerful force. Very little is known about the power of nonviolence. Very little is known about the contributions that violence has made for social, economical and political changes in the world. Nonviolence is strongly bounded and connected with humanity. No other force can boast about the links between humanity and nonviolence. It is more than the absence of violence. Absence of violence is only a fraction of the meaning of nonviolence. Nonviolence is about a lifestyle that makes human to live as humans. It respects all living beings. As such non violence is a complete lifestyle. Lifestyle is way to live in this world for the benefit of the life hereafter. The purpose of being born is to accumulate merits by living a life as commanded by the creator and following the lifestyles of his agents (you may call them prophets etc). As such nonviolence has roots in all religions in the world. Nonviolence may not be immediately effective and cannot be practiced without strongly accepting, believing and practicing your own religious teachings. So nonviolence means living in your own religion or faith. All religious teachings promote respect to other religions. This leads us to a point to say that the beginning of nonviolence is not Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King but the roots of all religions. Gandhi, King and others were nonviolent activist who put into practice the true teachings of their own religion with respect to all other religious teachings.

Many perceive nonviolence as passive. This is only a myth or a false notion or belief. If nonviolence is passive, all religious teachings and religions should be passive. Passiveness or being passive cannot bring any change or transformation or creativity. The religions of the world have been sources of social, economical and political changes. Nonviolence that has its roots in religions has been an instrument of social, economical and political changes throughout history. Then how could an instrument of social and other changes become passive? Religious practices have changed and transformed the life of many strong violent characters. Hence nonviolence that is based on a scala of religions have transformed the strongest. Angulimala[1] , according to Buddhist teachings, was transformed by the power of nonviolent action of Lord Buddha. Angulimala was a violent person who had killed 99 people and was running for the 100th one. Lord Buddha ‘overpowered’ him nonviolently when he was on the verge of being killed and transformed him to a character of nonviolence.

According to Islam, once the holy prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) was sleeping under a tree when a violent person walked to him with a sword in his hand and shouted at him and asked “who is there to safeguard you from me killing you”. The Holy Prophet very calmly answered “ Allah-The God All mighty, the compassionate, the most merciful, the giver of peace”. These words of nonviolence caused the attacker to drop the sword in his hand and thus violence was overcome by nonviolence and the character of this strong violence was transformed into a strong believing and practicing nonviolent person. Such is the power of nonviolence.

Nonviolence is not effective with words alone. It needs to be practiced. Nonviolence will never work if it is not put into practice. All people should commit themselves and bring the practice of nonviolence into their daily life.

Truth and honesty are two important ingredients of nonviolence. Nonviolence will never get set in the absence of these two ingredients. Without bringing in nonviolence in your own life and without practicing nonviolence by your own self you cannot expect nonviolence to work.

Huge volumes of books may have been written, hours and days of lectures and talks may have been given, lengthy videos or films may have been made, pleasing and teasing songs may have been sung, but nonviolence will never come within the society if I and you do not practice them with truth, honesty and commitment.

As I have said earlier this practice of nonviolence has strong links with religions. The concept of nonviolence finds its origin in all religions and not in a particular single one. The concept of nonviolence fails, either if you do not link it with all religions or if you link it with only one religion or faith. Whatever religion or faith you may belong to, you should practice with total commitment, truth within your heart and soul called as “arthma”, sincerity and sacrification. You will surely and without any doubts see nonviolence working and dominating the world You and I will then see people living as people respecting all lives as equally important as that of yours. You will then see love for all living beings flourishing. You then see people living with truth and honesty. This means nonviolence is working. This should be your dream, my dream for a nonviolent life in this world that would cause the life hereafter to be pleasant one.


[1] Daku Angulimala is an important early figure in Buddhism, particularly within the Theravada sutta literature. A ruthless killer who is redeemed by a sincere conversion to Buddhism, he is seen as an example of the redemptive power of the Buddha’s teaching and the universal human potential for spiritual progress, regardless of one’s background.