The tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, Florida, an affluent suburb, was a stark reminder that violence in America is not limited to certain neighborhoods but can happen anytime, anywhere. The activism of the students that followed was humbling. The overwhelming support from across the country for their call to action #March4OurLives was soulful. It was a signal for us adults to come together, transcend our differences and take steps to stop the senseless violence and promote compassion and nonviolence.
This tragic event is yet another reminder that today an act of violence does not see our age, skin color, gender, sexual preference or our socio-economic background. We are all affected. Why not, then, we need to feel inspired to promote compassion and nonviolence, and not wait for an act of violence!
As we recently reminded ourselves of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr.Martin Luther King Jr., it is time to truly learn from his activism and his relentless dedication towards promoting love, compassion and nonviolence.
When Dr. King met Mahatma Gandhi
It is a well known fact that Dr. King was inspired and influenced by the teachings of nonviolence of Mahatma Gandhi. It is less commonly known that in 1959, at the young age of 30, Dr. King had taken a five week trip to India to deepen his understanding of how the Mahatma had applied the ancient Indian principles of nonviolence (or ahimsa) to help free India from British colonial oppression.
Dr. King referred to his visit to India as a “pilgrimage” and often spoke of the pivotal role that it had played in his life. Upon his return he wrote “I left India more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to people in their struggle for freedom and human dignity. As a result of the trip, my understanding of nonviolence is greater and my commitment deeper.”
Dr. King’s transformation during his India trip was so profound that it seemed that he had learnt directly from Mahatma Gandhi. However, Mahatma Gandhi had already died in 1948.
Perhaps Dr. King had found and met with the Gandhi Within?
“Ahimsa” in the ancient Indian Sanskrit language is usually translated to “nonviolence”. However, Ahimsa truly means the “absence of violence” on three levels — thoughts, words and actions. This state of consciousness would then be equivalent to being in “unconditional love”.
“Mahatma” means “great soul” — someone who has achieved a higher state of consciousness. If we are to aspire to promote nonviolence in the world, then we must look into what would have made Gandhi a “Mahatma”. Mahatma Gandhi was a “karma yogi” and had invoked his internal strength to become a beacon of truth, love, compassion and nonviolence. He had used these noble qualities to fight against injustice and oppression.
Now, nearly sixty years after the Civil Rights Movement, senseless violence still continues across the country. It includes suicides, domestic abuse, bullying in schools, opioid addiction and mass shootings. Each year, nearly 15000 people die due to gun violence, over 40000 people commit suicide and over a million cases of domestic abuse are reported.
It is time to find systemic solutions to stop the senseless and growing violence.
It is time for America’s civic leaders — Mayors, Educators, Police Chiefs to discover and implement new solutions that would stop the ongoing violence in the country and promote love, nonviolence and compassion. There is no higher calling and That would be a great legacy to leave for future generations and a true mark of respect for Dr. King.
It is time that we, as America’s leaders, #FindTheGandhiWithin