Non-violence - Part 2 - Nonviolence Essay Example

     Non-violence  is  the  ideal  that  all  religions  hold  dear - Non-violence introduction.  A goal  that  we  all understand  and  aim for.  The manner  in  which  the  religions  advocate  themselves  may  vary,  but  the  paths  converge  at  this  point.  In  this  essay  we  will  not  only  study  the  philosophy of  non-violence  among  the  eastern  religions, but  also  divine  the  differences between  the  Taoist  and  Buddhist  non-violence  philosophies.  Finally,  we  will  analyze  how  sacred  activities  conceive  non-violence  while  profane  activities  propagate  them,  through  Houston  Smith’s  writings.

       Smith  fears  that  science,  being  profane  in  nature,  while  banqueting  us  with technological  gains,  is  starving  our  souls  by  eclipsing  the  Transcendent.  Defiant  in  the face  of  such  nihilism,  Smith  has  for  decades  communicated  that  this  is  not  the  way  things  are – life  is  not  pointless,  meaningless, purposeless.  He  has  cultivated “mystical  empiricism”  by  compiling  encounters  with  the  Divine  that  saints,  sages,  and seers  in  every  era  have  reported,  a  collection  of  sacred  activities  that  makes  a  strong case  for  religion  being  the  fundamental  humanizing  force  in  history. (The Way Things Are: Conversations with Huston Smith on the Spiritual Life, Phil Cousineau – editor, Huston Smith – author, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA,  2003.)


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        There  are  four  problem  areas  in  human  life  that  have  to  be  dealt with.  These  are  violence,  wealth,  the  spoken  word,  and  sex.  In  lower  forms  of  life  these  problem  areas  are  monitored  quite  adequately  by  instinct.  For  us,  this  is  where  religion  comes  in  to  help without  which  these  problems  can  get  out  of  hand. (p. 206)

       A fascinating  feature  of  East  Asia  is  the  way  it  configures  its  religions  as  partners  rather  than  rivals.  This  way  there  would  be  no  call  for  violence. It  regards  them  as  strands  of  a  single  rope,  so  to  speak.

       Traditionally,  all  Chinese  were  Confucian  in  their  ethics.  Taoist  priests  would  be summoned  when  people  fell  ill,  and  Buddhist  priests  presided  over  funerals.  (p. 78 ).

Taoism’s  greatest  input  was  its  concept  of  wu wei  (nonaction ) that  succeeds  because  it generates  minimum  friction.  (p. 79). While  Buddhism  is  a  total  civilization,  one  that blueprints  an entire  way  of  life.  (p. 132). Using  chi  (spiritual  energy)  to  designate  the  Tao  as  it  courses  through  human  beings,  philosophical  Taoism  aims  at  efficient,  effective  deployment  of  chi  primarily  by spending  in  the  mode  of   wu wei. Energizing  Taoism,  a  term  covering  the  Taoism’s  that  work  with  nutrition,  yogic  exercises,  and  meditation, seeks  for  its  part  to  increase  the  supply  of  chi,  while  religious  Taoism  aspires to  vicarious  chi,  a  chi  whose  power  can  be  made  available  to  others. (p.87)

       Buddhism  is  the  oldest  institution  surviving  on  our  planet,  twenty-five  hundred  years and  still  intact  with  just  the  – Four  Noble  Truths – the  basic  teachings of  the  Buddha,  still  making  the  impact. It  is  one  of  the  three  great missionary  religions,  in  the  sense  of  seeing  itself  as  universalistic  in  its  relevance  to humankind. (p. 64).

       Original  Buddhism  was  founded  on  the  tripod  of  monarchy,  monks,  and  the  laity.  Each of  these  had  obligations  to  the  other,  and  also  was  entitled  to  benefits  from  the others.  Southern  Buddhism  has  adhered  to  that  ideal.  This  makes  the  monks  more important,  for  they  are  one  of  the  three  legs  on  which  society  rests. (p.132).  Buddhism  also has  the  distinction of  not  having  been  in  war  for  the  creed, when  compared  to  the  other  religions. (130)

        East  Asians  weren’t  strong  on  metaphysics  or  psychology. (p.132). Just  an  pre-dominance  toward  non-violence  and  an  esoteric  belief  in  the  absolute. Three  poisons  are  identified –  hatred,  greed,  delusion  and  religion  helps  to keep  all three  at  bay.

       All  the  eastern  religions  insist  that  first  of  all,  one  has  to  be  compassionate  and generous  and  therefore  non-violence  is  the  commandment  that  is  understood. (p. 68 ). The  society  as  a  whole  will  never  be  remade  to  rival  paradise.  If  one  becomes  more abstract,  life  is  like  a  tapestry  that  we  view  from  the  wrong  side.  We  see  all  the strands  and  knots,  and  it  makes  no  sense  from  the  back.  But  there  is  a  different  view  of  the  whole  thing  to  which  we  are  assured  some  day  we  will  be  privy.  In  the meanwhile,  there  are  all  these  knots  we  have  to  deal  with  existentially;  the  path  has been  charted – compassion  and  justice – imbued  by  vision.  (p. 73).

       In  most  of  the  eastern  religions  the  art  of  non-violence  is  taught  quite  early.  The  Hindu’s  had  a  particular  guru-shishya  (teacher-student)  tradition,  which  basically,  is  a  special  case  of  having  a role  model – someone  you  look  up  to  and  try  to  imitate.  “Children  cannot  grow  up  the  right  way,  if  they  are  not  surrounded  by  people  who  have  mastered  life’s  basics and  can  show  them  the  way.” (p. 75).

       The  Shinto  tradition,  the  Japanese  miracle,  has  an  affinity  with  nature and  its simplicity  is  very  compelling.  (p.88). This  philosophy  is  grounded  by  its  interaction  with  nature  and  in  keeping  the  sacred  rites  simple  and  accessible.

       Both  the  Hindus  and  Buddhists  say  that  something  gets  accomplished  in  this  same  world  in  the  new  bodies  into  which  they reincarnate. (p. 28). Karma,  as  they  call  it,  is  where  you  pay  for  violence  and  other  sins  during  the  reincarnation.  People  are  advised  to  resist  the  urge  toward  violence  so  that  they  have  a better  karmic  balance  the next  time  round.

       The  primary  work  of  religion  occurs  in  the  depths  of  the  human  heart:  that’s where  the  switches  of  aspiration  and  hope  are  flipped. But  it’s  impossible  to  look  into someone  else’s  heart,  much  less  photograph  what’s  there. (p. 162).

       At  the  same  time,  they  nurture  the  transcendent  urge  that  has  compassion  as  its  wake. (p. 201). Smith  says  that  the  great  religions  of  the  world  unanimously  affirm  Transcendence  as  the  goal  of  the  human  quest.  It  is  a  journey  that  begins  in  ordinary knowledge,  but  when  it  is  seriously  pursued  it  crests  in  “an  intuitive  awareness  of things,  a  discernment  of  the  way  things  are.” (p.15).

      Even  if  we  consider  the  drawbacks  that  exist  today,  religion  has  an  idealism  that  is  unquenchable,  as  is  their  hope  which  in the  long  run  promotes  non-violence  as  opposed  to  actions  supported  by  scientism which  brings  forth  violence. (p.16)

        Sacred  rituals  in  all  the  religions  are  meant  to bring  people  together  to  the  source  of  power.  The  basic  principles  of  the  religion  are  stressed  which  helps  center  people. Each  religion  has  its  own  optimum  time  to  say  the  prayers.  In  Islam  the  prescribed times  for  prayer  –   on  awakening,  at  noon,  mid-afternoon,  sunset,  and  on  retiring – frame  the  day  nicely.  Five  times  a  day,  distractions  are  suspended,  and  one’s  attention is  drawn  to  the  infinite.  The  rituals  of  yoga,  meditation  and  chanting  of  the  mantra,  practiced  by the  Hindus  help  a  person  get  in  touch  with  their  higher  consciousness,  help  concentrate  on what  is  really  important  and  promote  calm disposition. As  do the  breathing techniques  and  meditation  forms  advocated  by  Buddhism and  Taoism.

       All  religions  come  with  a  set  of  sacred  rituals  which  helps  the  followers  on  to  the  right  path. In  a  materialistic  and  pluralistic world  driven  with  sacred  and  profane  passions,  religion  grounds  us  to  the  basic  frame  work  of  living.

       “My  persuasion  is  that  what  really  breeds  violence  is  political  differences. But because  religion  serves  as  the  soul  of  community,  it  gets  drawn  into  the  fracas  and turns  up  the  heat.  But  that’s  not  the  way  it  works.  That’s  a  confusion  of  cause  and effect.” (p. 93).

         Smith  has  chronicled  the  progressive  encroachment  of  what  he  has  called “modernity, ”  a  mind-set  framed  by  the  Newtonian  worldview,  which  virtually  reduces reality  to  that  which  is  perceivable. Smith  has  upheld  with  exceptional  rigor  the  minority  view  that  the  methodology of  science,  which  relies  upon  prediction  and  control,  is  both  misleading  and destructive  when  applied  to  metaphysics.

        “The  hunt  for   knowledge,  analytic  and objective  to  its  core,  has  violence  built  into  it.  For  to  know  analytically  is  to  reduce the  object  of  knowledge,  however  vital,  however  complex,  to  precisely  this:  an  object.”  Science,  operating  out  of  its  place,  he  asserts,  turns  demonic,  like  an  angel that  has  fallen.

        “It  presumes  to  control  too  much  and  to  disclose  more  of  reality  than,  in  fact,  it  does. To  approach  existence  as  if  it  were  purely  or  even  primarily physical  and  mathematical  is  to  falsify  it.  The  approach  could  end  in  smashing  our planet,  for  if  a hammer  is  the  only  tool  one  learns  to  use,  it  is  tempting  to  regard everything  as  if  it  were  a  nail.”  (p. 164).

       Science  has  become  for  many  the  “sacral  mode  of  knowing, ”  which  it  is  for  the material  world,  but  not  the  immaterial  one.  It  is  a  mistake, to “think we  can prove spiritual  truths  by  science,  because  science  can’t  speak  to  the  things  that  concern religion. ”

       The  beauty  of  religion,  for  Smith,  is  the  way  it  provides  human  beings with  the  means  of  relating  to  an  invisible  realm  that  is  both  powerful  and  good.  His call  for  a  reconciliation  between  the  two  modes  of  knowing  is  reminiscent  of  author Karen  Armstrong’s  description  of  our  natural  capacity  for  “binocular  vision,”  the  ability  to  see  and  know  both  logically  and  intuitively. (p. 102)


Smith Houston,  The Way Things Are: Conversations with Huston Smith on the Spiritual

      Life, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA,  2003.

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