“The causes of war”–Daily Metta

January 25:

“All activity for stopping war must prove fruitless so long as the causes of war are not understood and radically dealt with.”

–Gandhi (Harijan 2-11-1939)


My friend Tom Hastings had a New Yorker cartoon on the door to his Portland office. It depicted several individuals throwing a plastic bottle into a trashcan overflowing with them, each one saying, “it’s only one bottle; it doesn’t make a difference.” But we have seen the effects–entire islands of plastic in the ocean. What we do individually matters because we participate in a collective. This idea applies not only to what we consider trash as the New Yorker cartoon suggested, we can also use this notion in nonviolence in relation to how we manage, and channel our emotions into destructive or constructive institutions. A little fear here, a little greed there, a little retribution there. What effect does it have?

Fear, greed and anger might not seem a priority to work on in ourselves because there is so much more happening in the world that deserves our attention, like ending war, or getting to work on time. Yet Gandhi tells us that in order to actually end war and exploitation, we have to get to its roots. What is the mass-incarceration system if not the institutionalization of mass fear? What is global corporate exploitation if not the institutionalized of mass greed? And what is war if not the institutionalization of mass anger?At the same time, what is love if not the ultimate transformation of our destructive drives into a growing force for generosity, kindness and courage?

Whatever we do in the world of institutions and mass actions will be more effective when we make an effort to get to the source of violence –our own minds.


Experiment in Nonviolence:  Try a daily spiritual practice, if you haven’t one already.  Then, the next time you find yourself steaming over one of life’s many injustices, work out a plan to do something constructive about it instead of letting the steam escape without putting it to work!



Daily Metta 2015, a service of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, is a daily reflection on the strategic and spiritual insights of Mahatma Gandhi in thought, word and deed. As Gandhi called his life an “experiment in truth,” we have included an experiment in nonviolence to accompany each Daily Metta. Check in every day for new inspiration. Each year will be dedicated to another wisdom teacher.