Monday, April 21, 2008

Understanding Acceptance and Resistance

In a world filled with war, crime, violence and anger, how do we act when confronted with it? It is easy enough to aspire to peace, but how can we actually live peacefully when the world presents otherwise? Is a peaceful action always the best response? If not, are war and violence in perfect order?

In words of the Hindu sage Vivekananda, two ways are left open to us--the way of the ignorant, who think that there is only one way to truth and that all the rest are wrong, and the way of the wise, who admit that, according to our mental constitution or the different planes of existence in which we are, duty and morality may vary. The important thing is to know that there are gradations of duty and of morality--that the duty of one state of life, in one set of circumstances, will not and cannot be that of another.

In the Bhagavad-Gita, Sri Krishna calls Arjuna a hypocrite and a coward because of his refusal to fight. This is a great lesson for us all to learn, that in all matters the two extremes are alike. The extreme positive and the extreme negative are always similar.

The story tells us that one man does not resist because he is weak, lazy, and cannot, not because he will not; the other man knows that he can strike a fatal blow if he likes; yet he not only does not strike, but blesses his enemies. The one who from weakness resists not commits a sin, and as such cannot receive any benefit from the non-resistance; while the other would commit a sin by offering resistance.

When the vibrations of light are too slow, we do not see them, nor do we see them when they are too rapid. So with sound; when very low in pitch, we do not hear it; when very high, we do not hear it either. The difference between resistance and non-resistance is of like nature.

What do YOU think?


Alexander said...

There's a spiritual quote that runs, "Then strive ye with heart and soul to practice love and kindness to the world of humanity at large, except to those souls who are selfish and insincere. It is not advisable to show kindness to a person who is a tyrant, a traitor or a thief because kindness encourages him to become worse and does not awaken him. The more kindness you show to a liar the more he is apt to lie, for he thinks that you know not, while you do know, but extreme kindness keeps you from revealing your knowledge." -- 'Abdu'l-Bahá

Seems to somewhat fit the discussion?

Timothy said...

I think of one person Ghandi

Roy said...

Evil flourishes when good men do nothing. The problem, as in other threads, is defining evil, and what should good men do?

That's supposed to be the reason for the legal system. Should we subvert the system when it doesn't suit us?

Refer: Zimbabwe elections, Chinese invasion of Tibet, Osama bin Laden. Charlie's Angels, James Bond, Nelson Mandela?

* An eye for an eye?

* If I am incapable of the above action, am I justified in convincing/paying someone to do it for me? (My cousin Vinnie for example)

* Assessment based on socio-political causes of the action before resorting to punishment? Do we accept the judge's decision? What if the judge/s has/have a subtle inherent bias? Race, religion, politics?

* If justice were truly efficient, this subject wouldn't have come up. For better or worse we happen to belong to the very confused human race and so we continue in confusion.

What does a lion do when a hyena tries to steal its lunch?

MJ said...

"good men"? That's quite a postulate there. There is no such thing as good or evil men (women). One is not by nature good or evil. What we do may produce results that observers or the object of said action, call "good" or "evil", but these are not absolute states that people "are".

"good" and "evil" are metaphors, shorthand for describing complex events, amalgamations of psychologies, personalities, habits, cultures, nurture, motivations, resources etc

Making the mistake of turning abstractions like "good" and "evil" into object qualities is the act of confusing our language with what it strives to describe.

That's not to say that there are not a lot of messed up people out there, and many more who exhibit a lot more poise and balance, but chronic misbehavior of even the worst kind does not make a given person evil, just really sick or way out of sync with societal norms. Those that can be treated should, those that cannot probably need isolation.

Roy said...

Well said... I was really just trying to highlight the main elements on issue. Cancel that "evil" post!! Edit to "criminality"!!

We have to make some social distinctions however and I fear we are reverting to the "natural law" question again.

Gnida said...

It's your right to defend yourself, I dont find any ethic problem with this. Try to learn krav maga, or if you dont want to hurt anybody- aikido:) In a certain cases this is the only way to survive.

Joel said...

On the strength to turn the other cheek, I find it thrilling to turn a conflict into a positive. But it is nice to have the mental fortitude to be able to back up turning the other cheek with the ability to stop further violence. (Guess that doesn't really make sense.) I am not opposed to physically stopping someone from hurting me or others. I prefer to have someone stop because of other reasons than force. Gets into the modeling of behaviors for others (especially children) without the use of threats or physical consequences.

I read the mention of duty. I wonder where those duties are coming from, or where the sense of having a duty is derived.

TJ said...

Consider Arjuna. The "true profundity" is to be effective in doing what is right. Sometimes our duty does include violence.

Duty comes from God and Family. In my family we train children to fight. Push-ups, squats and etc. are a very effective form of discipline.

Abhaa said...

In words of Vivekananda--"The idea of duty varies much among different nations. In one country, if a man does not do certain things, people will say he has acted wrongly; while if he does those very things in another country, people will say that he did not act rightly--and yet we know that there must be some universal idea of duty. In the same way, one class of society thinks that certain things are among its duty, while another class thinks quite the opposite and would be horrified if it had to do those things. Two ways are left open to us--the way of the ignorant, who think that there is only one way to truth and that all the rest are wrong, and the way of the wise, who admit that, according to our mental constitution or the different planes of existence in which we are, duty and morality may vary. The important thing is to know that there are gradations of duty and of morality--that the duty of one state of life, in one set of circumstances, will not and cannot be that of another.

To illustrate: All great teachers have taught, "Resist not evil," that non-resistance is the highest moral ideal. We all know that, if a certain number of us attempted to put that maxim fully into practice, the whole social fabric would fall to pieces, the wicked would take possession of our properties and our lives, and would do whatever they like with us. Even if only one day of such non-resistance were practised, it would lead to disaster. Yet, intuitively, in our heart of hearts we feel the truth of the teaching "Resist not evil." This seems to us to be the highest ideal; yet to teach this doctrine only would be equivalent to condemning a vast portion of mankind. Not only so, it would be making men feel that they were always doing wrong, and cause in them scruples of conscience in all their actions; it would weaken them, and that constant self-disapproval would breed more vice than any other weakness would. To the man who has begun to hate himself the gate to degeneration has already opened; and the same is true of a nation. Our first duty is not to hate ourselves, because to advance we must have faith in ourselves first and then in God. He who has no faith in himself can never have faith in God. Therefore, the only alternative remaining to us is to recognise that duty and morality vary under different circumstances; not that the man who resists evil is doing what is always and in itself wrong, but that in the different circumstances in which he is placed it may become even his duty to resist evil."

Trevor said...

The impact of our actions, individually and collectively, is inconceivably vast. We can all appreciate, to some extent, the environmental impact of polluting behavior. But based on what we now know about the universe, the true impact of our actions is far broader. For example, chaos theory has established that even our most minute actions can have incalculably large effects. This places a great burden of responsibility on everyone. Exercising common sense consideration and care towards our environment is a good start. But if we really want to protect our planet against the negative effects of human behavior, we must bring our thinking and action into spontaneous accord with Natural Law. We must align our behavior with the universal intelligence that governs the universe and sustains millions of species on Earth. Fortunately, such spontaneously life-nourishing behavior is natural; the human brain physiology is hard-wired to experience Enlightenment--higher states of consciousness in which we directly experience, and become attuned to, cosmic intelligence, or the Unified Field in the terminology of modern physics. The development of our total brain potential, and the resulting expansion of human comprehension to be universal, should be the goal of education today.

The Unified Field is the deepest level of physical reality discovered by Science. It is a universal field of Nature's intelligence that governs the vast universe with perfect order. Cosmic Consciousness is the state of Enlightenment, a state of human awareness in which the individual mind directly experiences (and identifies with) universal intelligence. In this state, the individual ego expands to become Cosmic. Such individuals are Cosmic individuals, and their actions are spontaneously supportive to all life.

The connection is simple. During meditation, consciousness quickly expands to experience universal consciousness (the Unified Field). The individual consciousness temporarily identifies with universal consciousness in the simplest state of awareness--the state physiologists call "pure consciousness." Not all meditation techniques achieve this pure consciousness experience, however. My remarks pertain to meditation practices that provide this fundamental experience in an effective and efficient manner.

More than 50 studies, published in the world's most esteemed scientific journals, have repeatedly demonstrated that group meditation can quell violence and war in war-torn areas. It defuses the acute religious, ethnic and political tensions that fuel social conflict. It has been shown to prevent global terrorism, and to reduce crime, domestic violence, and all negativity born of acute social stress.

When two nearby loudspeakers emit the same sound, these sound waves add constructively. They produce a sound volume equivalent to four loudspeakers (the square of the number of speakers, which is two). This is a universal principle of wave behavior. When a ripple in the Unified Field is generated by individuals in close physical proximity, the power of their combined waves grows as the square of the number of individuals. This is what the research confirms. Because of this, even relatively small groups can have enormous societal impact. Indeed, 8,000 individuals meditating together for extended periods can transform world events. This has been very rigorously demonstrated.

It's not a matter of opinion. The scientific method provides incontrovertible methods of establishing scientific fact through rigorous experimentation. The efficacy of group meditation to reduce crime and war has been more extensively studied and rigorously established than any phenomenon in the history of social science. It is a scientific fact; there is no room for arguement.

The experience of pure consciousness is self-evident. Just as when you're awake, you know you're awake. If you're not absolutely sure you're awake, the chances are you are dreaming. Similarly, if you're not sure you are experiencing pure, unbounded consciousness, then you're probably not. It may be time to try a more effective system of meditation.

- John Hagelin Phd.

ornamentalmind said...

I see the light, and agree! :-)

Valtermar said...


Your message reminded me of Mahatma Gandhi, who preached resistance, but without resorting to violence.

I have seen again, recently, the film "Ghandhi", which tells his story. One sees great bravery in those that resisted repression, offering themselves to be spanked as a way of protest, without resorting to violence themselves. At least that was the way the actions were portrayed in the film.

Ashok said...

Yes and no, Valt !

It's actually about standing up to your belief, with non - violence and love in your heart.

He also gave the call," Do or Die !" That is, when he realised it was time to give the shove.

And, Valt, thank you for participating in the discussion the way most of us mortals do here !

Molly Brogan said...

I didn't see the movie but understand what both of you are saying. It seems as a whole, humanity has a long way to go to make the leap from those that must resist to learn the nature of resistance, to those that can resist but don't out of compassion.

Morgan said...

Violent actions do not justify violent responses. Engaging with the very violence that one is trying to rid of makes one a hypocrite.

Derek said...

I would say that it is beyond the rational mind of how to respond, because it can all be so paradoxical. For instance, if you have an opportunity to defend yourself again a dangerous attacker, would it not be an advantage to others potential victims of his assaults to do so and render him harmless?

Also martial arts like Ki-Aikido and Karate are originally spiritual discipline - they can be lethal when used in defence, yet they have been the catalyst for many people becoming enlightened.

If we know unequivocally what is right and what is wrong, then we must enlightened. If not, we are still learning our spiritual lessons and one of those lessons is not to judge. Surely then the best path to knowledge would be to encourage us to act from intuition and spontaneity? :-)

Morgan said...

derek said, "Surely then the best path to knowledge would be to encourage us to act from intuition and spontaneity? :-)"

Was this an intuitive and spontaneous answer, or an answer using logic and reason?

The very rationality, logic, and reason, that you are claiming is not the answer is the very catalyst that brought you to this conclusion. Acts that are acted upon in a intuitive and spontaneous manner are the acts the cause mankind the most strife. Because they were not well thought through. "We can bomb the world to pieces, but we can't bomb it into peace"
~ Michael Franti / Bomb The World

Molly Brogan said...

I think a good question for this discussion is, if you are attacked, or your family attacked, would you defend in a way that included violence? When is violence called for and in grace, if ever?

Derek said...

In Zen, this is a question we refer to as a koan - which is a paradoxical question, one that gets no answer from the rational mind. Also it is not about acts that are acted upon from the intuition, but knowledge that is gained and accepted into the awareness.

OK, your post is talking about acts of violence, and I see through my crazy Zen, that restraint is a challenge, but like any other koan, there is no answer from a rational viewpoint, because we (I-am consciousness) are much more than our rationality.

In infancy, our perception is just so, as we become more conscious of the world around us our perceptions are guided by beliefs we form. With some, these perceptions are with violence and defense, with others (e.g Buddhist monks) these perceptions are with love and acceptance - at least that's what they aspire to, but with the violence about these days, they are challenged too.

Morgan said...

The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there. - Robert M. Pirsig

Derek said...

Very true. We each have our own Zen and we carry it with us. Some choose to give it a different name though.

veryheaven said...

non-violant actions to use in situations where the very one in trouble is able to leave the place, get the troubleshooter out of her/his space/home, run away, is not caged or otherwise immobile. exceptions: if the person is physically attacked, e.g. hold tight or gun at head, woow, than different actions possibly needed. ninjalike?
my suggestions in uncomfortable but perhaps usual offending and violent situations: ignorance. kindness. laugh. leave. ask calmly for the reason.
if the troubleshooter uses weapons such as a knife, gun, nails, hammer - use your kickbox tactics, if you have any, just to get the weapon out of the violent persons hand. than back up. look into his/her eyes. stand firm. if you are sure the person will behave now, leave the place - walking backwards. or just leave.
remember 2packs´death? no chance there that time for him to even leave or defend himself.
teach selfdefence tactics to your children. teach silent movements, learn bodylanguage, learn passive defense.

Molly Brogan said...

Are non violent defenses the only acceptable response to a violent attack?

Morgan said...

Violent actions do not justify violent responses. Engaging with the very violence that one is trying to rid of makes one a hypocrite. With that said, you should be able to conclude that I adhere to nonviolent resistance.

I don't claim to have the answers as some do, but I don't mind taking out the garbage. It leaves me with a cleaner home.

veryheaven said...

in general i "feel":
if someone even thinks about molessing me, attacking me, and tries to confront me with his bloody mood, s/he will quickly receive such a view from my eyes -very easy to understand - to think twice in the very moment. how come you creature think you can come into my peaceful world and bring rage and negative energy in here? get out. it´s my world. very helpful. and peaceful.
we have a say in germany:
if you invite the devil [exchange it with brutality, thiefs, snakes, warriors..] to your house, why wonder if he rings your bell?

Molly Brogan said...

Ok. You are walking down the street with your two year old, enjoying the day. someone runs up from behind and grabs your baby and carries the baby off. What do you do? Do you think you can get this child back from the assailant using non violent means?

Morgan said...


Molly Brogan said...

Well, I think that passivity in this instance allows the child abuser to continue on. In the moment, what comes up will tells us how to respond according to our own path. If it includes aggressive resistance so that we can learn the nature of resistance, then the outcome will be to everyones benefit. As in the original post, until we learn the nature of resistance, refusing to fight will only bring the event back into our life again and again until we learn. Once we know and fully own that we can prevail in any circumstance, and deal the fatal blow, then choosing not to is the outcome that benefits everyone.

I think, that after we reach that point, violence falls out of our direct experience because we have learned what we need to from it.

Valtermar said...

I think it depends on the assessment of the situation and what purpose is being sought. Ideally, one would not allow oneself to be driven by feelings of rage or desire for revenge. I know it is a challenge, to have such a control, but it would be the most desirable.

On being attacked, one might need to give a response in self defense, by acting, or an action might not be necessary. It depends on the situation.

First thing is to check if a perceived attack is really an attack.

Second thing is to decide what can be done about it. What would the outcome of a reaction be?

Is a physical reaction called for? How far must it go? What are the expected results? What will it accomplish?

When one manage to not be lead by rage, one might even allow oneself to act lead by compassion.

Compassion, though, can only lead those that have learned compassion as a value, who have learned cruelty to be something to abhorr. If one value life, if one value every human being as someone worthy, if one have learned to understand what leads people to act, how beliefs influence actions, and if one have learned to see beyond one's own desires and to look for a common good, one might be in a better position to perceive what can be done in order to achieve a goal that is not only something for one's own delight but something that will attend to all needs, as far as it is possible, through a course of action that avoids cruelty, includes compassion, and can lead to the settled goal.

In the case of the situation Ghandi was perceiving, there were conditions he thought were unacceptable, and he thought actions were called for. Those conditions to be changed were not for Ghandi's own satisfaction, but it should serve all people of India. The actions called for, though, tended to force actions of repression from the British government existing in India in those times. This repression was done by force. Would a response with force do? What would the outcome be?

Besides not liking violence, I think Ghandi foresaw that the use of violence would only give the british government justification for using more violence, and there would be an escalation of losses. Instead, I think he thought that it would be better to make them feel shame instead of making them feel justified and victorious on using violence. At least, that is what the film lead us to think.

Ashok said...

Valt, you make it seem it all a so very intellectual process. Being Gandhi, however, was a very much more holistic than that. Did you miss out on his humour, for instance !

I would suggest the process starts with coming face to face with an experience that triggers a feeling, a conflict, through understanding which one comes to understand oneself, on behalf of entire humanity itself. That intense feeling of what you already know within yourself provides the crucially important base for intellectual clarity of the problem, the solution, and the series of action that must bridge the in - between.

Valtermar said...

I don't think I missed on his humor, at least what was portrayed of it.

I agree with you about the process you suggest. First the experience and its interpretation, the coming feelings and the understanding. What I did was to express the understanding as I have comprehended it.

Molly Brogan said...

I suppose we could discuss whether shaming is a form of violence, as some would think. But ultimately, I think that when we are called to respond, each step of the process is formed by who we are in the moment. You have really offered clarity to the process here. Very nice.