The major religions of human kind are Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. These three came out of the Middle East, have one God, and Abraham is basic to the history of each one. The other two are Buddhism and Hinduism which come out of the subcontinent of India. Buddhism is not recognized as much in India but has moved on to be major in Southeast Asia and Japan and actually a great deal of Western Society.
Gandhi, one of the leaders of independence in India (1930, 40s), was a follower of the Hindu philosophy known as “satyagraha”. The term describes a major movement in the area of conflict resolution. It is not aimed at just a one time action, but rather a complete cultural transformation including political, social, and economic transformation. The uniqueness of this way is the primary importance of morality over power politics and rejects the western tradition of the ends justifying the means. Purity of ends is an essential ingredient. Another term in this philosophy important to the Hindu culture as well as the Jain (another major religion in India) is Ahimsa, a multidimensional concept, inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself.
Much of what Dr. Martin Luther King studied was the Gandhian way of disobedience. Gandhi gained much of what he learned from Christianity. If you “google” the terms you will find many different directions to go in understanding and living this philosophy.
What always amazed me was the concept that self-suffering is part of the mind-set of ahimsa. When civil rights marchers were training for sit-ins and bus boycotts and other acts of civil disobedience they were told “you do not strike back.” And the pictures are many of people attacked by dogs, facing fire hoses, being beaten and jailed. No wonder the powers in these places — be it British colonialism in India or white supremacy in Selma, Alabama, were fearful. When fear no longer holds control over people and their lives, much of the control of the powerful is negated. Much of this thinking is tied into the voter suppression actions in our country recently.
It is interesting to see how people settle on various ways of dealing with social and cultural issues. Not long ago I mentioned Ayn Rand (author) and her philosophy of capitalism and individualism. The idea is that the end justifies the means and every person has to “look out for number one”. No one way holds all the answers to how we are to live in this world, but the philosophy that allows for kindness, an end to violence and conflict is worth thinking about.
We see the conflict between Israel and Palestine; China and Burma between the ruling elite and a minority ethnic group, the Taliban and Afghanis; within our society between people of color and whites and within and between political parties between liberals and conservatives. Polarization is moving into culture wars. Our society will come to a standstill if we cannot resolve our differences peacefully and learn how to compromise rather than hold to stubbornness and arrogance, violence and hatred.
(Father Richard Rohr) Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.