The power of non-violence

It is 12 January 2003 and US president Bush has rallied his troops for what he calls “The first war of the 21st century”. What is your view of this crisis, where, briefly, do you stand? This is the question we are putting to people around the world, especially those with their own public reputation and following. Our aim, to help create a truly global debate all can identify with.
Sulak Sivaraksa
12 January 2003

If one must summarise Buddhism in one word, then it would be ahimsa or non-violence. In order to act non-violently, one must overcome the three poisons of the mind and sources of violence - greed, hatred, and delusion - through mindfulness and loving kindness.

Non-violence does not mean inaction or omission. It requires continuous and active dialogue with others, and overcoming dualisms that pit "us" against "them", human against subhuman. It is the recognition that, in Gandhi's wise words, "An eye for an eye just makes the whole world blind." Is it really greed for oil and power in the Middle East that is blinding Bush and Blair, with the disarmament of Iraq as the deceitful but easily refutable pretext for war? Is it hatred that enables them to render 23 million Iraqis, already facing a humanitarian crisis after ten years of economic sanctions, faceless and reduce them to one hated figure, Saddam Hussein?

Another war would not only lead to unnecessary loss of life of hundreds of thousands of people, but also trigger a humanitarian disaster in Iraq. Is it the delusion of the lone superpower that makes it so impervious to the growing planetary sentiments against war on Iraq? War on Iraq would be unjust, destructive, and illegal. It would also diminish the faculties for critical self-reflection in the American and British governments, thus hindering the wisdom that is necessary for peace. It is very important to understand that non-violence is an effective and very powerful response to the present conflict.

Originally published as part of a debate on 12 January 2003 Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. 1.

See also Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. II


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