Wisdom from the son of Armenia.
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APOLITICAL NONVIOLENT MEANS TO CHANGE SOCIETY
The world is plagued by a monumental problem: violence, and hatred (compounded by lust, anger, and greed) which are present everywhere. People are baffled about the real causes and argue about what the solution is. There are many theories about how to solve these ills of society whether by religious, political, social, or military means.
Gandhi and Martin Luther King both used nonviolence as a means to bring about social change. Ironically both were assassinated. Why would visionary leaders who insisted on nonviolent means be violently terminated?
One answer is that they used nonviolence as a political tool for social change. The political process engenders friends and enemies. It is not surprising that those who find themselves on the enemy list and whose self interests are threatened resort to violence.
There is a possibility to use nonviolence in an apolitical way to bring about social change. This was exemplified by Caitanya Mahaprabhu five hundred years ago in India. He was able to use nonviolent means to uplift society without the discrimination of friends and enemies. By using nonviolent means to promote brotherhood of people, Caitanya Mahaprabhu elevated the consciousness by which people understood their commonality rather than their differences. Politics emphasizes the differences whereas spiritual vision sees the similarities between people.
The less one knows the more differences one sees. The more one knows the more similarities one sees.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught that regardless of religious or political affiliation, all people experience birth, death, old age and disease. He analyzed correctly that these four unalterable experiences are the result of the real problem of life. Understanding the real problem is half the solution. Politics, economic disparity, social inequality, war, etc. are not the real problems of life although they might appear to be. They are temporary effects of the problem along with the unalterable effects.
What is the real problem that can manifest in temporary and unalterable effects? It can be stated as an individual or a society’s illusory concept of proprietorship. If I assume something belongs to me that does not in reality and I appropriate it for my personal use, I become a thief. A thief is punishable.
Punishment is used as a means of rehabilitation. Birth, death, old age and disease are four unalterable aspects of the punishment. War, famine, economic, political, social, and other problems are temporary aspects of punishment.
Suffering is a sign that something is wrong. However, most people cannot understand the real cause of their suffering and therefore they cannot understand the real solution. No one has consciously chosen to be born, to die, to get old, or get sick. Yet, these things are forced on us. During our lifetime we suffer miseries caused by our own body, miseries caused by other bodies, and miseries caused by cataclysmic events. All these sufferings are forced on us. We must understand that these sufferings or punishments are forced on us because we have done something wrong either knowingly or unknowingly. Unfortunately, most of us never understand that we are unknowingly committing acts that violate the laws of nature. The following discussion we try to clarify this crucial point.
All social and political organization is based on a fundamental concept of property. Most laws in a capitalist society protect private property; socialism, the ownership of the state; communism, supposedly the ownership of the people as a community; monarchy, the ownership of the King and his nobles; dictatorship, the ownership of the dictator and his military and industrial cronies; anarchy, no one is the owner. All social organization is based on a principle of proprietorship. Each of the above principles of proprietorship is wrong. Therefore, the people that live in those societies never achieve real happiness nor peace. Unwittingly, they engage in acts that are punishable by the laws of nature.
What is the true principle of proprietorship? Let us analyze this question from the specific to the general.
Marx claimed that the actual worker(s) who produce a commodity should be the proprietor(s). Capitalists argue that the person who supplies the capital to purchase raw materials that are transformed by workers into a final product and who pays the workers a wage is the owner. We realize that there are raw materials, capital, workers, organization, means of production (land, buildings, equipment, transportation), finished product, sales, accounting, taxes and more elements to understanding the dynamics of ownership. In spite of all these considerations there are certain fundamental principles that are irrefutable:
1. Man transforms preexisting raw materials into products (or provides services). The raw materials already exist and they were not created by man.
2. All the transformations and services man makes are temporary.
3. The raw materials, however, existed before man’s existence and will continue after his disappearance.
We can conclude from the above points that man is not the owner of anything, including the transformations he makes, because everything is supplied for his work from nature and everything he makes will disappear back to the original elements including his own body, which is the means for him to provide services.
An example of the above is the United States. Over five hundred years ago there was no United States of America. The land, rivers, raw materials all existed but the United States of America did not exit. Five hundred or one thousands years from now the United States will probably not exist. However, the land, rivers, raw materials, etc. will continue to exist.
The temporary transformation of the raw materials and the subsequent claim of proprietorship is illusory because it exists for only a short period. During that short period certain people claim proprietorship and pass laws to protect their self proclaimed proprietorship.
Another example is unfolding before our eyes today. Venezuela was supposedly a capitalist country that protected private ownership. Under the leadership of Hugo Chavez, the country is being transformed into a socialist economy wherein the state becomes the principle owner of the means of production, capital, and distribution of goods. This changing of the fundamental principle of proprietorship in different societies has occurred many times in the last two hundred years. The expectation is that the people will live a happier and more fulfilled life under the new organization of ownership. Judging from history, we cannot draw such a conclusion. Great experiments such as the Soviet Union, the United States and many others have failed to deliver the desired results.
One might agree that the Soviet Union failed to manifest the ideal of the communist state. But how can one argue that the United States also failed? After the stock market crash of 1928 and the onset of the great Depression in the 1930s, the USA Government began to institute programs such as social security to mandate forced distribution of wealth. With World War II, the Government imposed strict controls on businesses, civil liberties, military inscription, agricultural subsidies etc. Even as early as the Civil War, the Government began to intrude on States’ rights to mandate more equitable civil liberties.
This trend continued until the 1960s when there was a great upsurge of legislation by the Federal government that mandated States to protect voter rights, education, etc. The establishment of the Federal Income Tax and later Inheritance taxes and property taxes were other impositions to force more equal distribution of wealth and pay for expanding government services in education, health, etc. What has developed in the USA is a hybrid capitalist/socialist state. The incursion of the USA Federal Government into States’ Rights (Civil Rights Laws) and Individual Rights (Income Tax and Inheritance Laws) has all been done in the name of guaranteeing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of the people. Yet, the people remain dissatisfied which is the hallmark of failure.
In the USA, the government is tilted toward the capitalist side with the inclusion of many socialist programs. The political debate is always continuing whether to increase socialism or not. In China, the tilt favors socialism with the inclusion of limited capitalism and very strict government control. Europe and Russia are situated between the USA model and the Chinese model. They have all failed to make the people happy because their concept of ownership is flawed.
The reason for these past and certain future failures is explained in the Isopanisad, an ancient Vedic text. The first two statements in this text clarify the question of proprietorship:
Text 1: The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the Complete Whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the Complete Whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.
Text 2: Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.
From Text I we can understand the reason why many people are perplexed about the existence of God. It also makes clear that God has created a natural self sustaining opulence into nature. Because God is perfect and complete, everything that emanates from Him like this material world is also perfect and complete in itself. To understand this profound statement we need to understand what a perfect and complete emanation is and why it is perplexing to us. Man has never produced a perfect and complete machine. Such a machine would be self perpetuating without the further intervention of man. For example, a watch maker produces a watch or a software company makes a software program. Both creations are not self perpetuating without the continual intervention of the manufacturer. (One needs spare parts or junks the machine and buys a new one)
God, however, has created the material world which has inherent in it self perpetuating mechanisms that function without His direct intervention. Plants produce seeds that perpetuate their existence. Human Beings can reproduce themselves. Nature renews itself every spring after a winter slumber. Such a perfect and complete machine bewilders the scientists who then declare that there is no God because they cannot detect His Direct presence in His Creation. The scientists also aspire to produce their own self perpetuating machines in imitation of nature but they cannot do it. They childishly experiment with perpetual motion machines and genetic manipulation but their attempts have all failed.
One cannot detect the direct presence of God in His Creation because the creation is complete in itself having emanated from a perfect and complete Being.
Secondly, the completeness of the emanation has inherent in it a natural opulence that is also bewildering. You plant one seed and it produces a tree that gives hundreds of fruits each year with many thousands of seeds. Each of those seeds can produce another tree with abundant fruit. There is an inherent natural opulence in the creation of God that is part of the self perpetuating perfection of His Creation.
We may ask a question, “Why should man suffer and not be happy when there is such natural opulence in creation?” The answer is that it is caused by false concepts of ownership that deny that God is the ultimate proprietor and propose that individual men, or the state, the commune, the monarch, the dictator or no one is the proprietor. If society is organized on the premise that God is the proprietor of everything as Text 2 explains and each individual accept only their minimal needs that God has already set aside for them and use the rest in the service of God, then all men can live happily.
God’s creation, the material nature, provides all living entities with their minimum needs on a daily basis. Jesus explains in the Bible that birds sow not, yet they reap. If we perform an experiment to test this premise we will see the following. Place an open sack of rice in a public place and observe from a distance what happens. You will see birds come and take one or two grains of rice which is enough for one day and depart. They inherently act in such a way as to take only what they need for one day and come again the next day to find another daily ration. However, if a man comes, he will look carefully to assure himself that no one else is observing and then take the whole sack of rice, thus depriving other living entities of their ration. He cannot eat all the rice in one day. Obviously, he does not have the faith that by taking only his one day’s ration, he will be able to come back again the next day and find the next ration. The animals have this understanding inherent in them. But man has been conditioned by politics and false ideas of property, race, nationalism etc. to not have such faith. Therefore, his behavior is different than the rest of nature’s creatures.
By lacking faith and taking more than required a man will deprive others of their daily needs. This greedy behavior is the origin of social and political problems. It is compounded by ideas of nationalism and other designations based on the temporary body.
The real problems of life are birth, death, old age, and disease. Everyone is plagued by these problems regardless of the religious, ethnic, national, family or other designation. It is a scientific fact because it can be verified by everyone and it is present everywhere.
When we can identify something that is absolutely true, then we are able to escape the oppressive grip of illusion and begin to act effectively. For example, life insurance companies are absolutely sure that everyone will die. Therefore, they are able to exploit this truth by selling life insurance. If we understand one thing that is true for everyone, then we can effectively act on a common platform.
No one consciously chooses to be subjected to these four things: birth, death, old age and disease are imposed on us. When a person violates the civil laws of society, he is then forced to be subject to the penal laws. Obviously, human beings have done something wrong to be forcibly subject to these four impositions. The error of judgment that has put mankind in such difficulty is the following: mankind deliberately or unwittingly disobeys the laws of nature by disregarding the proprietorship of God.
Text 2 of the Isopanisad articulates the guiding principle by which mankind can free itself from unnecessary suffering:
“Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.”
By dedicating everything above one’s minimal requirements to the service of God one can live in accordance with the laws of nature established by God. One is no longer subjected to the miseries of life. Birth, death, old age and disease are thrust on us by the action of the laws of nature on our own body, or caused by the action of other bodies (living entities) or by natural cataclysmic events outside our control like hurricanes, etc. By respecting the ownership of God we are released from the oppressive action of the laws of nature. Indeed, nature which is under the command of God begins to cooperate with man and mankind’s quest for ultimate freedom from the miseries of life becomes easily attained.
The attitude that engenders sinfulness accompanied by violence and hatred is our deliberate or ignorant disregard for the proprietorship of God. The initial stage of violence manifests when we deny oneself the opportunity for self realization. Then by extension we deny others around us the same opportunity. We fabricate many reasons why we are justified to deny ourselves and others. These justifications fall under the headings of nationalism, racism, ethnicity, atheism, etc. By refusing to recognize God we become violent and hateful of ourselves because we are all part and parcel of God and we extend that to others.
If we become inimical to God we undermine our own attempts to become happy in life. This is manifested in two ways: one, we deny ourselves the possibility to understand God: two, we purposely act against or contrary to the instructions of God. This is a formula for disaster for mankind.
If we become an observer without knowledge of the proprietorship of God, a process begins by which we will gradually become angry and violent. According to Text 2 of the Isopanisad, “Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord.” When we observe something in life without understanding that it is owned and controlled by God, we may develop attachment to it. We think it would be nice to own or enjoy that thing. If our contemplation continues, our attachment may become a very strong desire to own and enjoy the object. We convince ourselves that I would be so much happier if I owned and enjoyed the object. Such a desire may turn to lust for the object or the obsessive desire to own and enjoy it. I become certain that I will not be happy unless I own and enjoy the object. At this point if anything acts to hinder my getting the object that I am lusting for, I become angry. Anger is the result of frustrated desire. Greed, or the excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, evolves from anger following frustration when we fail to achieve our desire.
Lust, anger and greed evolve from the mistaken idea that there is not an ultimate God who is the real proprietor of everything. Lust, anger and greed engender violence and hatred. From such feelings we develop a deluded state of mind. We believe that we are the real owner and enjoyer of objects. We totally forget that there is an ultimate owner and enjoyer much greater than we are. This confused memory results in loss of our intelligence whereby we cannot any longer discern what is the truth and what is falsehood.
Indeed, we accept falsity as truth and truth as falsity. At this point we fall into a whirlpool of irresponsible and destructive behavior.
The only viable solution to mankind’s problems is spiritual elevation of consciousness and the awakening of one’s responsibility to strictly follow the laws of nature established by God. Everything belongs to God and everything can be used in the service of God for His pleasure. By following such a principle, mankind will achieve social peace and harmony without disrupting the natural harmony and opulence God has provided.