“The Abbot and the Sword”–Daily Metta

October 7:

gandhi-21“A man of faith will remain steadfast to truth, even though the whole world might appear to be enveloped in falsehood.”

–Gandhi (Harijan, September 22, 1946)

‘Steadfastness to truth’ is another way to say ‘Satyagraha,’ almost a literal translation from the Sanskrit. When Gandhiji maintains that it is a person “of faith” who can achieve this blessed nonviolent state, we do not need, necessarily, to interpret that faith as one of any specific religion or in any other dogmatic sense of the term. We don’t need to put our faith in God to have faith in people, in human nature or in the laws that govern the practice of nonviolence itself.

There is a wonderful story from the Zen tradition that brings out all of the various dimensions of such a faith. It goes like this: Once an armed man came rushing into a Zen monastery and everyone went running out, afraid for their lives. One person remained inside the monastery, and that was the abbot. When the man with the sword came up to the abbot, he was incensed at the abbot’s composure, after all, he must have been thinking, a sword is power. So he said to the abbot, “Don’t you know who I am? I can run this sword right through you and without blinking an eye!” Probably followed by a growl of sorts. The abbot responded, calmly, “Don’t you know who I am? I could let you run a sword right through me without blinking an eye.” The aggressor put down his sword, bowed to the abbot and left the monastery.

He could have been killed, but he had faith in three things: a faith in human nature, a faith in himself, and a faith in the dynamics of nonviolence.


Experiment in Nonviolence:
This story is told again and again when we hear of courageous acts of nonviolent resistance, satyagraha. Find a more contemporary story that echoes this one.