In areas such as Yoga and Buddhism, an element of the guidance is to practice non-violence. Recently I heard someone saying "I condemn all violent people". Although his words may not have been meant to be taken literally, it sparked an idea to write about nonviolence...
Often we think that violence is the physical act of harming or killing another. But this is only the extreme of violence. Violence begins in the mind. The very act of condemnation and judgement are the beginnings of violence.
If we bear hatred, have harmful thoughts towards another, or have harmful thoughts towards ourselves - these are forms of violence. Even the act of limiting the world or someone else into a concept, could be called violence. All physical acts of violence tend to just be outward reflections of the inner violence of thoughts and feelings.
Why be violent with yourself? We are often trained to be somewhat self-abusive. If the child is often verbally or physically abused for making any kind of mistake, or doing what is deemed inadequate, a failure, or just plain "wrong", then the mind believes that not meeting expectations is worthy of punishment. And so the self-punishment ensues - if some goal is not reached, if you do not act as well as you think you could have, or if you make a mistake, a hidden belief is that the self-punishment will correct the mistake and prevent further ones. But is this true at all? Does self-punishment and self-condemnation not just make things worse, promote unhappiness, and actually promote even more mistakes through fear or low self-worth? Is there any need for it at all?
The same goes for your ideas about other people - how often is the mind judging, condemning, resisting, "making wrong", mocking, "making small", comparing, feeling inferior or superior, resenting, hating or fighting? And what is the purpose of all of this drama? Is it not just a drain of energy, a waste of your resources? Is it effective in bringing about any useful change, or does it just create a mess? When the mind is convinced by its own negativity, resistance and fear, the action that arises will carry this same energy. How effective is this as a way of approaching life?
To adopt the principles of physical nonviolence can be very noble, but it is not real, healthy or sustainable if it is not a natural expression of an inner non-violence.
The real nonviolence begins inwardly. The physical violence will decrease as the collective mindset of humans becomes less violent. Fighting with the body is just a reflection of fighting with the mind - the need to judge, separate, condemn, resist, overpower and destroy. The inner world of mankind creates their outer world. The society of human beings is merely a reflection of their collective inner state. All real change occurs inwardly first, and the outer stuff follows on as a natural result.
So for anyone concerned about practicing nonviolence, don’t be primarily concerned with the outer actions. Be aware of the foundation, of the inner realm of thoughts, reactions and emotions. Don’t be violent with them - if you have "bad" or "violent" thoughts - then this is the real opportunity for nonviolence - to not fight, judge or condemn, but allow to be exactly as they are. Whenever you give up fighting any inward pattern, it loses power over you.
Notice any violent thoughts, the condemnation of yourself or another, the resistance to Life, any resentment or hostility - you will see that they tend to just create suffering, rather than soundly resolve any situation. If we see the futility of being violent with ourselves, if we see the suffering we create primarily for ourselves through condemning or judging another, then these mental habits lose our allegiance, along with the power of belief.
If we do not relinquish our inner fighting, how can the outer violence ever subside?