If anyone still believes that the power brokers of our time don’t control every aspect of human society, including the current escalation of war in Syria, and North Korea, with additional threats being hurled at Russia and China, then this article won’t likely reach them.
For those who have finally thrown their hands up in disbelief and horror, but are compelled to truly look at how we got here – again – it is likely that you will benefit from a discussion on the topic of ahimsa, a Sanskrit term meaning “non-violence,” or “do no harm” as part of the yamas and niyamas which are studied in yoga.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the “chemical weapons” used “by Assad on his own people” in Syria are just another contrivance like the “weapons of mass destruction” which were “found” by the U.S., and which subsequently gave them “permission” to start a war in Iraq.
Our governments and political system have become so warped that they don’t even need to fake evidence anymore – they just do what they want, with their terrorizing agenda in mind, with no care for the destruction of people, property, or financial cost. Violence is always an excuse for more violence in this upside-down world in which we live.
With evidence that the sarin gas attacks were staged, we can keep pointing the finger at all the players outside of us, but to truly overcome this nightmare, we need to look within.
The idea of ahimsa has its roots in ancient India. If we practice ahimsa, we do not intentionally harm any living creature, not even a lifeless object. If we accidentally step on a bug, that is not considered a violent act, but the overall intent behind our actions and thoughts forms the crux of this philosophy. Within ahimsa is the idea of universal benevolence toward all people and animals.
Ahimsa was popularized by people like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., who preached and practiced non-violent resistance, but there is something more that we need to do to change the world we live in other than just take posters to the streets, and occupy federal buildings or facedown pipeline projects.
In the most advanced practice of ahimsa, we not only oppose violence, but we dissolve violence by using it as our ultimate weapon. We turn our enemies into friends. You can imagine that dropping bombs in Afghanistan, conducting 3,000 airstrikes against Syria since 2014, or launching a missile attack on any country might not make friends of your supposed enemies. This is the opposite of ahimsa. It does not banish the possibility of further conflict, but ensures that conflict continues.
It is our internal attitude which seeks to punish our enemies that leads to our perpetual hell. We can liberate ourselves by changing our minds and hearts – by practicing universal benevolence – or, as Tulsi Gabbard has suggested, we can create more terror by supporting terrorism.
We need to understand this principle in subtle ways in our daily and personal lives before it can ever be applied on the grander stage of world geopolitics. It is obvious that we disrespect other countries, and their people by bombing them, but what about how we treat others within our own small spheres of influence? Do we hurt people with angry words, or by offering them contemptuous body language?
Does our own internal hatred bleed out onto others around us? Has our apathy toward our fellow human beings harmed them in violent ways? Way before violence becomes an armed, full-out, no-holes-barred war, it begins in tiny ways within us.
As Martin Luther King Jr. has stated, “Nonviolence means not only avoiding external physical violence, but also internal violence of the spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you also refuse to hate him.”
This action is exemplified in Daryl Davis, the African American blues musician who has befriended countless members of the KKK over the past 30 years, causing many of them to renounce their active hatred of another race and their membership in the organization.
You could also see ahimsa being practiced when two mothers from Northern Ireland, one Protestant, and one Catholic, had both lost sons to the endless fighting in the area. They put their differences aside, and said to the armies who were leading the fight, “NO MORE.” Many say that these mothers’ actions helped lead to the peace agreement there.
In our own lives, enemies don’t appear as cartoon villains that cackle behind our backs, but we may know that we actively dislike another person, and that they dislike us. You may hear about how they dislike you through emails or gossip, and never even exchange a personal conversation with them. The “enemy in disguise” is the person who regularly sends words or actions of a negative flavor in your direction. Making them your friend is probably the last thing you would imagine doing.
Often, an enemy has simply made up his mind about you without really getting to know you. (Or you, them.) You can make friends by offering details about your life, or opening up to them. Think of Dale Carnegie’s advice from How to Win Friends and Influence People and simply use their name a lot, or allow them to talk about themselves. This makes people love you. They can’t help but soften up if you say their name repeatedly, or ask them about their personal lives. You can also follow Carnegie’s other eleven tricks to making friends presented in this timeless book.
You can also find common interests with another person to break down the walls of the “other” that we mistakenly believe in.
We needed our ego to develop when we were tiny infants so that we could understand that we were separate from our mothers. This process is called individuation. Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell talk about it abundantly, however, the ego begins to get out of control. It starts to put up barriers based on our past experience and our confined, limited 3-d experience of time and space, and therefore the people within this matrix of time and space.
There really is no YOU, IT, HE, SHE, ME, THEM, etc. It’s all connected, but in order to function with seeming autonomy and individualism, we let the ego run the show. We create an “out there” which is really just a perfect reflection of “in here.” In traditional psychology, this is often called projection. Carl Jung further called this the shadow self. He said,
“To become conscious of it [the shadow] involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge, and it therefore, as a rule, meets with considerable resistance.” (CW 9ii, para. 14-15).
We find these dark aspects of our personalities – self-hatred, other-hatred, fear, jealousy, desire for infinite power, anger, etc. – as unsavory so we stuff them inside ourselves. They then wait, like a tiger ready to pounce on a gazelle, for the moment we meet anyone that we can pin these undesirable traits on – just as long as we don’t have to look at them in ourselves. Our inferiorities become another’s faults. Our pain become another’s insensitivity, etc.
These projections isolate us from others, and create “enemies.”
As Jung also explained,
“While some traits peculiar to the shadow can be recognized without too much difficulty as one’s own personal qualities, in this case both insight and good will are unavailing because the cause of emotion appears to lie, beyond all possibility of doubt, in other person. No matter how obvious it may be to the neutral observer that it is a matter of projections, there is little hope that the subject will perceive this himself. He must be convinced that he throws a very long shadow before he is willing withdraw his emotionally-toned projections from their object… As we know, it is not the conscious subject but unconscious which does the projecting.” (CW 9ii, para. 16- 17)
If you want to practice ahimsa, you have to start breaking down your own projections. That is what Martin Luther King Jr. really meant. You can’t hate another if you are too busy looking at ways to love yourself – to accept your shadow, and not allow it to taint your ideas of the world around you.
In classic Jungian style, the U.S. is projecting its fear and power-hunger onto every country around it, while refusing to look at its own shadow. We, living in the U.S., and other parts of the world though, are not 100% experts yet at looking at our own darker stuff either, and so the game of war continues.
We can take this even further and start to dissolve our fears and desires. A man with no desires says Paramahansa Yogananda, has no anger. A man with no anger has no rage, and a man with no rage makes no violent wars.
As the Buddha taught, the feeling of a separate “I”, which we call ego-consciousness, is directly related to the strength of ignorance, greed, and hatred. The dissolution of a separate self, and its accompanying wanton lust, greed, and fear, also makes way for true peace. This is politics we need to be practicing.