Truly Human: Daily Metta

“Fortunately for humanity non-violence pervades human life and is observed by men [and women] without special effort. If we had not borne with one another, mankind would have been destroyed long ago  Ahimsa would thus appear to be the law of life, but we are thus far not entitled to any credit for observing it.” ~ Gandhi, Ashram Observances in Action, p. 22

Gandhi often argued, and in my own little way I have tried to echo him, that we become truly human only when and to the extent that we are nonviolent. I think that here he focuses on the specific connection: as human beings our defining characteristic—our one capacity that marks us off from lower orders of life—is our capacity for choice. In other words, the defining moment where we consciously decide to engage the nonviolent capacity we’ve inherited and not the violent capacity we’ve also inherited; where we step off from the automaticity of nature to the humanity of free choice (let’s say, from non-violence to nonviolence). He is adding a critical point to the brilliant work of scientists like Frans de Waal, who have shown the ample capacity animals have for compassion, reconciliation, etc., that until recently scientists have ignored. They have shown the capacity for nonviolence in our evolutionary legacy. It is ours now to show the human ability to choose it—individually, culturally, institutionally.

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About Daily Metta

Book cover imageStephanie Van Hook, the Metta Center’s executive director, launched Daily Metta in 2015 as a way to share Gandhi’s spiritual wisdom and experiments with nonviolence.

Our 2016 Daily Metta continues with Gandhi on weekdays. On weekends, we share videos that complement Michael Nagler’s award-winning book, The Search for a Nonviolent Future: A Promise of Peace for Ourselves, Our Families, and Our World. To help readers engage with the book more deeply, the Metta Center offers a free PDF study guide.

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