“The spirit beneath the act”–Daily Metta

April 24

gandhi-21“It is not any single isolated act which can be called Satyagraha apart from the spirit behind.”

–Gandhi (Young India, 9-24-1925)

You cannot get far in the world of nonviolence before coming across Gene Sharp’s famous list of 198 methods of nonviolent action. Sit-ins, reverse strikes, pray-ins, they are all listed, and this list is evolving with each new creative act of nonviolence that takes place in our world. But does this list determine or even tell us much about what nonviolence really looks like? No. It merely gives us tactics, which, while useful, cannot teach us how to maintain nonviolent discipline or emphasize its value. Is humiliation nonviolent? I don’t think so.

Nonviolence, Gandhi maintains, is not a list of tactics, it’s the spirit behind the action. Can a protester who is doing nonviolence according to a list of tactics alone actually be violent in their acts? Yes, they can be. To avoid this dilemma, we must ask: Was the act intended to harm an opponent? Was it intended to alienate someone? Was it done out of fear instead of courage? Or did it strive to maintain the dignity of all parties involved? These questions are not easy to answer. They require some minor self-knowledge, a lot of major introspection and the cultivation of that difficult trait of humility to admit when we’ve made an error.

To truly see nonviolence at work in the human being, we will have to learn to direct our attention below the surface to what’s really going on inside our hearts and minds.


Experiment in Nonviolence:

When you experienced nonviolence for the first time, what happened inside of you?



Daily Metta 250x250Daily 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.