Questioner: Does Spirituality ask us to be non-violent? And Spirituality also asks us to fulfill our duties. So, in today’s world when we are subjected to any kind of violence, it may be physical, emotional, mental, how duties can be fulfilled along with non-violence?
Acharya Prashant: A lot of images are there in your statement. First of all, non-violence is not just a particular code of conduct. Non-violence is just about not seeing oneself as limited. Not unnecessarily building boundaries for oneself.
Allow me to clarify. I said nonviolence is about not seeing oneself as limited and not building boundaries around oneself. How is that non-violence?
What is violence?
Listener: Seeing other as separate from oneself.
AP: Wonderful. Seeing others as separate. And whenever somebody is separate, what you are saying is, I am this much and you are outside of me. So, my interests then do not include you. Whatever I have to achieve, in whatsoever ways I have to live, I have to live, be, achieve, and die, all by?
AP: Myself. So, in that sense, just the being of the other is violence. You see, I will die, and you will continue living. Is this not violence? I am suffering, and you are laughing, is that not violence? So, I am separate from you. This separation, this otherness, is violence. Violence need not wait to be manifested as violent conduct. Violent conduct may seldom occur. Violent conduct may even be suppressed by rules of law or morality or even fear. Even fear can make you suppress violent conduct. Fear, that the police will get you. So you will not allow for the conduct to be violent. But still, the mind will remain violent. Because the mind is seeing the rest of the world, the entire existence, as the implicit or explicit enemy. Sometimes an open enemy, at other times, a stranger. And whenever somebody is a stranger, he is an implicit enemy.
Are you getting it?
Spirituality is about not taking existence as an alien or separate place. Not as a strange place. Spirituality is about belonging to existence. Not belonging to a narrow household, or caste or ideology. All these are boundaries. So, wherever there are boundaries, there is violence. Wherever there are boundaries, there is also the fear of being small, powerless, limited. Is there not? The moment this is there, you feel that pang of violence.
That does not mean that the non-violent feels very powerful. Because to feel powerful that would mean that you are ready to exercise power over somebody. Feeling powerless and powerful are almost the same thing. They imply separation, distance.
If this thing about nonviolence is clear, then we can move to duties. And then the relation between non-violence and duties.
Is the thing about nonviolence clear?
What is violence? If that is clear then we can also know non-violence. Violence is to take yourself as living by yourself. Violence is to feel an orphan in existence. Violence is to feel as if, to have been dropped from somewhere on this Earth. As if you are an alien. And most of us feel that way, right?
We don’t have a total belongingness to life. You feel that you belong to your house or to your city. The moment you go out of your city or your country, you start feeling uprooted. The moment this feeling of being uprooted comes, that is violence. The really nonviolent one is at home in everywhere and in every situation. Wherever he is, he is at home. He does not ever feel like a stranger or an alien. He has roots everywhere. If you don’t have roots everywhere, if your being is specific, narrow and localized, then this is violence. If you say, this is my inner circle and everybody out of this is an alien, then this is violence. If we can understand violence, then non-violence is clear.
Duties. Would you know duties, if there are no others? Again, I am asking, “Would there be duties if there are no others?”
AP: Okay. Would there be duties if there is no otherness?
Okay. Let me ask, by an example.
When you are in a workplace, you feel the pressure of duties. In fact, on day one of the job, you are clearly told, what is expected of you, what your duties are. They are often called as responsibilities. Right? You know that this is what I have to deliver. This is my duty. And those are specific duties, you will not want to go beyond them because you are not paid beyond them. Right? Am I right?
Now, look at your relationship with a loved one. Do you still have duties there? One mark of duties is, that you already know what is to be done. Second, you will not go beyond what is to be done.
In a loving relationship, are there duties?
AP: I ask this again. You find that your friend is having a severe headache. And you go and you start giving him a massage. Is it written somewhere, that you must oil his head? Has it been communicated to you that the massage should last 20 minutes? Are you getting paid for it? And if after 20 minutes, he says, “I am liking it, kindly continue a little more.” Would you say, that this is outside my brief? Let’s talk to the HR.
Would you say that?
Hence, duty is there only when otherness is there. If otherness is not being felt, then there are no?
AP: Now, relate this to violence. What is violence? Otherness.
And what is a duty? Otherness.
Hence all duties are?
AP: And hence, violence, otherness. Hence duties equal?
Nonviolence is not about following duties. Nonviolence is an action in clarity and love. That alone is nonviolence. Following your duties, your conduct may appear nonviolent. He is a very dutiful employee. He is a duty-bound soldier. Your conduct may appear orderly, and nonviolent. But what about the mind?
Outside there would be order, inside? Turbulence, chaos, rebellion.
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: How to remain non-violent?
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