Monday, September 24, 2012
let's start here: ahimsa pressuposes the ability to strike.
gandhi seems to imply that once one makes ahimsa a ruling principle, the possibility of self-defense, or striking for the sake of justice becomes automatically justified. on the other hand, himsa is not only violence, it implies a sense of lack of identification with life (jiva), a lack of understanding. himsa is basically avidya or ignorance.
this takes care of some of the points made in class about what to do in cases when one is faced with arbitrary injustice (such as the question of ahimsa under totalitarianism or slavery, etc). ahimsa is not an amorphous anomic attitude of inaction towards injustice. FAR FROM IT. it's an active principle of understanding the economy of the strike. truth never himsa a cause that is just.
so we have: 1- everything is brahman, 2- if we're all brahman, my "other" = "me." 1 & 2 sort of imply 3- non-harming is more evolved than harming simply because it takes more of understanding and self-control. the easy distortion is to make "we're all brahman" look like a new-age fad while missing the subtlety of the lemma. am i ready to see other humans, non-human animals, non-animal life & non-living nature as i see myself?
let's not ignore that himsa can easily get inscribed in a vicious economy of injustice. this is the well-known ancient semitic eye-for-an-eye, and nemo me impune lacessit, etc. a satyagrahi is never vindictive. he believes not in destruction but in conversion. ahimsa (as gandhi demonstrated) has important political and social consequences. in war, for example, with the so called jus ad bellum norms, in penology, in sociology, etc. no wonder martin luther king made ahimsa a central tenet of his struggle for civil rights in america in the 1960's.
so, understanding is crucial.
let's entertain for a second the reincarnation metaphor of the jaina: within the cycle of rebirth, one's mother may be reborn as a stray dog. if, then, one is followed by a stray dog, one might ask oneself, "why me? why this particular dog? who might it have been in a previous life?" since time is beginningless, it is said that all beings have been reborn numberless times as the mothers of all other living beings. jainism understand -literally- that all beings are then our "mothers." so, if a being tries to harm us today, at some time in the past it has nurtured us as our mother. this is why we should repay its kindness by seeking its welfare now.
here comes the turtle. it's quite easy to assume an anthropomorphic blind-sided attitude. the i'm-a-human-and-that's-it attitude. which doesn't go deep enough. what is human?
it's then that understanding the turtle becomes crucial. we living things ARE ALL JIVA! "humans" don't come from a different, special, pre-destined arrangement.
so long as one retains one's sword, one has not attain complete fearlessness.