But what does the word ‘non-violence’ mean in simple terms? To what extent can and should non-violence be exercised in daily life? And is it true that the world today is in dire need of non-violence?
Non-violence has been variously interpreted by different people including philosophers and scholars. Generally the term means ‘non-injury’ to others. It is a concept based on the fundamental goodness of man.
In the fight for what is right and good- freedom, morality, justice and equality, violence must be avoided. All these are to be gained by avoiding use of physical force.
One must avoid inflicting pain on others to win one’s goal however true and justifiable it may be. Evil must be resisted in a calm manner and not through violence in thought or action.
For almost always violence be gets violence-and there will be no end to it. The path of non-violence calls for a great amount of fortitude on the part of the person practising it to achieve the best of goals.
It also calls for courage and a lot of self-sacrifice. Thus non-violence, as Gandhi said, is not the weapon of the coward but of the strong. But to what extreme can the principle of non-violence be extended?
Just like other benevolent principles, non-violence fails to make sense once you take it to an extreme. It is not possible for man to exist at all if he is to ensure that he does not harms or injure a single animal, plant or micro-organism throughout his life.
We breathe-and in the mere act of breathing wee kill a number of germs and bacteria that cannot be seen by the naked eye. We walk-and the mere act of walking crushes innumerable small, microscopic organisms that abound on the soil.
Moreover, injury by itself need not be solely physical in nature; it can be emotional and mental as well. There are no standard and practicable measures by which we can gauge the extent to which an act may cause mental and emotional harm.
Aggression between men can be repulsed and checked by non-violence. But where the aggressor has no regard for the resulting destruction and bloodshed, total non-violence would only invite aggression.
It must be remembered that even Gandhi, the modern propounded of the gospel of ‘non-violence’ allowed the use of violent weapons in the fight for right goals if there was a need.
Mahatma Gandhi is considered the apostle of non-violence. Truly, he expanded the concept so that non-violence as a principle acquired a totally new meaning and dimension.
For him the path of ahimsa or non-violence was the only way to achieve freedom and truth which was the supreme reality for him. He explained how ahimsa was an active force and not simply a term passive in its meaning.
The fight through ahinsa was a legitimate struggle that demanded a lot of merit and virtue on the part of its followers.
Ahinsa for Gandhi was not cowardice. Gandhi encouraged the use of ahimsa so that its practice on an individual level might finally enhance its significance for the nation as a whole- for only individual constitute a nation. That the message of non-violence preached by Gandhi came when it did is most appropriate.
In these modern times it is violence that has emerged as one of the most common causes of human suffering. The pursuit of material benefits has resulted in growing conflicts between individuals groups and nations.
New forms of violence have thus emerged. Highly sophisticated and lethal chemical and nuclear weapons have opened up ways to inflict a maximum of destruction and damage.
In truth, one ought to blame the modern ways of living for the violent tendencies that have taken strong roots in man. There is less of patience, perseverance, true courage dedication and absolutely no sense of values at all.
Man today is lost; and wandering souls can be easily misled in the name of anything. Violence has grown to such an extent today that is has almost acquired some kind of legitimacy.
One firms that the growing violent attitude will ultimately wipe out mankind as a whole!
The world is desperately in need of non-violence as a way of life, to spread the gospel of love, brotherhood and peace. Man must awaken and realise that the world of violence in which he is living can blow up on his face at any time.
Before time runs out, man must realise the folly of indulging in violence and give it up. Only the path of non-violence can truly provide mankind release from all ills and bring about harmony in the world. Only non-violence can restore sanity around us.