It's not often I bother to read the foreword of a book. And even rarer that I spend time thinking about what I've read in a foreword. The foreword I'm talking about is by Dr. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (a.k.a. Mahatma Gandhi and no relation to Sonia, Rahul & co.)
The book is Mahatma Gandhi - His Life & Ideas, by Charles F. Andrews. If you saw Attenborough's movie, that's the cute, earnest Scottish priest who hung out with Gandhiji. I'll get to the book later - it was written when Gandhiji was still alive, and looks to be an interesting read as well, but first things first: the foreword.
I read it only last night, and what I have learnt from it keeps going through my mind. I'm used to finding treasure at book fairs, and the fact that I very nearly skipped past reading it, but didn't, makes me feel as though I found treasure within treasure. Here are some excerpts that have been working on my mind.
"Whether we 'pursue' or 'possess' makes a very big difference in our outlook on life. Pursuit of truth requires us to be honest, humble, open in mind and spirit, and willing to listen and evaluate a situation impartially .. it is this form of positiveness that leads to the creation of a culture of nonviolence .. Possession of the Truth is an attitude that has its roots in arrogance and leads to a closed mind and spirit. It also leads to a rejection of all thoughts and influences that are contrary to our own. This form of outright rejection of differences evokes negative attributes in human beings like suspicion, prejudice, hate, division, and so on, leading to a culture of violence."
"It is the literal translation of the word ahimsa, according to Gandhi, that has done the greatest harm to its universal acceptance. A majority of the Hindus and all of the Jain community have translated ahimsa to mean non-violence, as in not doing any harm to anyone under any circumstances. The consequence of such absolutism is hypocrisy. The absolutists, therefore, will not commit any violence themselves but will get someone else to do it for them. This also leads others to believe that nonviolence is impractical and unattainable .. as long as there is the will to live among human beings, some violence is an inevitable part of life. This is why Gandhi said ahimsa cannot be translated to mean 'nonviolence'; it should really mean 'love'."
"Ahimsa is as much about positively doing some good as about negatively not doing any harm .. we cannot practise ahimsa effectively by ignoring the positive and focusing only on the negative .. protest against war should be accompanied by action for better understanding and relations between people in the country and outside. When we indulge only in the negative without the positive then we have disasters like the hippie movement of the sixties. Millions came out against 'the establishment' but there was not much thought given to the positive aspect of an acceptable replacement. Being against something is understandable, but the action becomes laudable if there is a clear definition of what we are for. To most people all over the world peace has come to mean the absence of war or the absence of violence. Gandhi said peace can only be achieved if we are able to eliminate all forms of exploitation."
"Physical violence is the type of violence where physical force is used -- war, murder, beating, killing, spanking, and so on -- while passive violence is the type of violence where no physical force is used -- hate, prejudice, discrimination, waste of resources, uncaring attitude, etc .. All of us practise passive violence all the time in many different ways, causing hurt or deprivation to someone somewhere. For instance, our over-consumption of natural resources in the world leads to inequitable distribution and poverty. The poor become angry at the rich and attempt to get illegally the essentials of life that they are denied legitimately. This begins the cycle of violence .. "
"Anger, it is said, generates more than 80% of the violence that we experience in our lives. Yet, as a society, we have consistently ignored this powerful emotion so that all of us have learned to abuse anger rather than use the energy positively. We either lash out verbally or physically in anger and in both cases we create a situation with a potential for violence. It is, therefore, passive violence that fuels the fire of physical violence .. if it is our intention to put out the fire of physical violence and create peace we need to cut off the supply of fuel that ignites the fire. This is why Gandhi said "we must become the change we wish to see in the world.""
I've always loved that quotation of Gandhiji's, so I'll stop at this point. Also I am five minutes late for the Harry Potter movie on Pogo TV this afternoon. I shall come back and post more on this remarkable foreword later today!