: Between 2000 and 1000 B.C., when the Greeks were still nomads, the oldest religious writings in history appeared in India. They were the Vedas in which we find what has been described as “the first outpourings of the human mind, the glow of poetry, the rapture of nature’ s loveliness and mystery.” Following the Vedas came the ritualistic Brahmanas, the Laws of Manu, and the philosophical Upanishads… From the beginning, amidst prayers, philosophical speculation, commandments, poetry, and epics, the idea of nonviolence was present. In the Upanishads, ahimsa or nonviolence is one of the five moral virtues. In the Bhagavad Gita, ahimsa is a superior ethical virtue:
I forsee no good will come
From killing my own kindred in war
Even though they slay me, I wish not to strike them.
How can we be happy, having slain our own kindred
Though they, with hearts deadened with avarice,
See not the evil that will come.
“The Sermon on the Mount, said Gandhi, ‘went straight to my heart and he records his delight in the verses which begin: “But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever smite thee on thy right cheek turn to him the other also.” Gandhi was not concerned with the exegesis of what he read, with amassing supporting scriptural passages, or with the defense of his interpretation against a contrary one. When what he read went straight to his heart, that was sufficient. The reason for this is clear. What he read had confirmed his own deepest insights. The believer in nonviolence, however, will find numerous defenses of the interpretation of Jesus as a Prophet of the nonviolent life. If the episode of Jesus casting the money changers out of the temple with a “scourge of
cords” has troubled him he will learn that the verb used for “driving out” or “casting out” is the same as that employed to describe sending away a cured leper and sending forth workers to the harvest. He will find support in one scholar who writes that the essence of what Jesus taught is distilled in the
“Golden Rule,” and crystallized in the two great commandments of “complete
love of God, and unfailing love of neighbour. His blessing is for the peacemakers.“
Nelson, Wiliam Stuart, “The Tradition of Non-Violence and its Underlying Forces” (1959). Faculty Reprints. Paper 159.
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