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Nonviolence As a Way of Life (History, Theory, and Practice)

Nonviolence As a Way of Life (History, Theory, and Practice)
Item Code: NAQ716
Author: Predrag Cicovacki & Kendy Hess
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 97881208401713
Pages: 726
Other Details: 9.00 X 5.50 inch
weight of the book: 1.3 kg
About the Book

The discourse of the twentieth century was dictated by its "big" events - two world wars, the Holocaust, the killing of millions of people during the times of political turmoil in India, China, Cambodia, the Soviet Union, and numerous other countries, and the nuclear arms race during the Cold War. The haunting images of broken bodies and destroyed countries, and the thoughts of how easily all life on this planet could be destroyed, brought to our eyes and minds the realization of the unprecedented levels of physical destruction of which we are now capable.

In the frenzy of war, those who are violent are hailed as heroes and saviors. Those who refuse to choose sides, those who do not shoot and murder, those who resort to nonviolence, are regarded as traitors and cowards.

Yet when the weapons stop firing, when the surviving "heroes" are relegated to hospitals and psychiatric wards, it is the healers who take the central role. What is so dearly needed for all of those who are hurting are hospitality and healing acceptance and care.

The brokenness of our world has reached such an alarming level that it appears to undermine the distinction between victimizers and victims: those who victimize others do so because they themselves have been victimized, because they themselves have been hurting. And the forms and levels of hurting have become so numerous that playing the blame game and insisting on justice is often beside the point. What is sorely needed is not another instance of hurting but its opposite: healing. This is why, on the pages that follow, you will find so many stories of hospitality: toward strangers, toward refugees, toward orphaned or imprisoned children, toward the elderly...

About the Author

PREDRAG CICOVACKI is a professor of Philosophy and director of peace and conflict studies at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA (USA). He is the author of several books, including: Dostoevsky and the Affirmation of Life (2012), The Restoration of Albert Schweitzer’s Ethical Vision (2012), and Gandhi's Footprints (2015). He is also the editor of The Ethics of Nonviolence: Essays by Robert L. Holmes (2013).

KENDY HESS is the Brake Smith Associate Professor of Social Philosophy and Ethics at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA (USA). She has a JD from Harvard Law School, an MA from Northwestern University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Colorado. She practiced corporate environmental law for fifteen years before moving to philosophy, and her current research focuses on the moral agency and obligations of corporations.


This book is dedicated to Devendra Raj Mehta, Dr. Sulekh C. Jain, Samani Charitra Prajna, and the entire Jain community. In this short introduction I will try to explain why this is so.

I visited India for the first time in 2007. The occasion was a conference, "Gandhi is Back," held at the Vardhaman Open University, in the ancient Rajasthani city of Jaipur. I presented a paper that compared Gandhi's nonviolence and Albert Schweitzer's reverence for life. Among the roughly eighty participants of the conference, one Indian man in his mid-sixties seemed to be especially revered. I must have missed his presentation and did not really know who he was. On the last day of the conference he approached me, introduced himself, and immediately asked me what I was planning to do the following day. I told him that I was staying in Jaipur for one more day of sightseeing, and he asked me if I would instead join him, for he would like me to see some things. He looked trustworthy enough for me to nod my head in assent, but before I could ask what he would like to show me, he told me that he would pick me up at 6:30 a.m. and departed as suddenly as he had come.

The next morning his car appeared at the appointed time, I got in, and we drove to the hospital where he worked. It was shortly before seven when we arrived, and the hospital was already buzzing with activities. It turned out that my companion was not only the director in this hospital but also its founder. Two of his assistants were waiting for him, and as soon as he parked the car, he told me to accompany the three of them while they visited the incoming patients. About thirty patients - mostly middle-aged men, but some women and children as well - were lined up in front of the hospital, using the wall to hide themselves from the sun. My host walked from one patient to the next and spoke with each for several minutes. His two assistants were taking notes on these conversations, detailing where the patients were from and what medical assistance they needed. They came from all over India, some even from the neighboring countries (such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka), and all of them had one or both legs missing. I soon realized that this was an orthopedic hospital. More importantly, I realized that everyone, without any discrimination of caste, social status, gender, race, or religious affiliation, was welcome here. The door of this hospital was open to all.

It was well past 9 a.m. when my host finished interviewing each incoming patient and took me to eat breakfast with him in the hospital cafeteria. During our meal he told me more about the patients, the hospital, and his work. While we were eating, his assistants were doing a more detailed medical examination of each patient to establish both the nature of the injury and what kind of prosthetic replacement each person needed. After the examination, the patients would rest on the grounds of the hospital, where they had free meals and shelter. The next day they would receive an artificial limb, which would be immediately tested and adjusted. After that the patients were free to go back to their homes. Like food and accommodation, the prosthetic limbs and medical assistance were free.

Knowing that something like that would cost thousands of dollars in the US, I must have had an incredulous look in my eyes. My good host understood my puzzlement and told me that I would see the whole process for myself, and that he would explain later how this was possible.

After breakfast I accompanied him to the department where newly produced limbs were tried on the patients who arrived the previous day. After about two hours there, my host took me to another department that looked more like a workshop than a hospital. This was where the prosthetic limbs were being made. At first I only noticed relatively primitive looking tools and machines used there, but then I realized that the man working closest to me has a prosthetic leg. And the one next to him as well. In fact, all the workers in this little "factory" had prosthetic limbs. This was part of the secret of how this complex could run for free. The people working here were former patients who, upon receiving the help for which they came, opted to stay in the hospital and work in this workshop for several months. While working, they would have free lodging on the premises of the hospital. They received no salary for their work, but they did it because of their gratitude for the help received. And their voluntary work made it possible for other people to come and receive free help.

As I was standing there speechless, my host told me that I was free to stay there or to roam freely through the rest of the hospital while he made some phone calls and answered his correspondence, and that he would find me later for lunch.

During our late afternoon lunch, my host told me more about the history of the hospital and how it was possible to make it run free. The cost of production, with those simple machines and free labor, was incomparably cheaper than in the United States and other developed countries. The United Nations is well aware of the work of this hospital, and has employed its director and his team more than forty times in places of armed conflict where people were left with missing limbs: Rwanda, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka ... wherever they were needed. The U.N. transports the director and his team to a neighboring country into which many refugees pour from the areas of conflict, and they establish a temporary hospital and stay put for several months during the most acute crisis. The financial compensation by the U.N. has been an important source of income for the hospital, which enables it to keep providing its services for free.


There is hardly an educated person in the world who would not recognize a photograph of Gandhi. In this regard, there is a striking analogy between Gandhi and Einstein. They are well-known and almost universally admired, yet most of us can hardly say anything beyond the key phrases of "nonviolence" and "relativity" when discussing their accomplishments. It may indeed be true that no other person has contributed more to our understanding and appreciation of nonviolence and relativity; nevertheless, we often forget, or simply ignore, the fact that their individual work with "nonviolence" and "relativity" was the culmination of a long and complex history of personal and intellectual developments.

In the case of Einstein, most of this development occurred during the few decades immediately preceding his work. To understand Gandhi's development, however, we need to return to spiritual movements that occurred centuries ago.

There are three traditions that had a significant influence on Gandhi: Christianity, Hinduism and Jainism. Gandhi was fascinated by the New Testament, especially the Sermon on the Mount from the Gospel of Matthew. In this well-known text, Jesus presents his ethics of love and nonresistance to evil: "Love your enemies" and "Turn the other cheek" became the ideals by which Gandhi tried to live. Through his actions and words, he also encouraged his countrymen, and all other fellow human beings, to implement these ideals in their daily practice.

Gandhi's devotion to the ideals preached by Jesus was so strong that some of his Christian friends suggested that he convert to Christianity. Yet Gandhi was, and remained, a Hindu. In this more than three thousand-year-old tradition and its sacred writings, Gandhi found a continuous inspiration for the life of nonviolence. While Christianity encourages us to love our neighbors and our enemies as we love ourselves, the sacred texts of Hinduism proclaim the interconnectedness and even essential identity of all living beings: love your neighbors and your enemies because they are yourselves! This Hindu belief can be seen in a Hindu's ordinary way of greeting: the hands are pressed together and accompanied by a slight bow and the word "Namaste" (or "Namaskara"), which means, "I greet the divine in you!" And if I recognize the divine in you, how could I harm you and not show my respect for you?

Many in the Western world are familiar with the Christian and Hindu traditions, but the tradition of Jainism - so important to Gandhi's work - is less well known. Perhaps the oldest religion in the world, Jainism is the only one that insists on nonviolence as the central principle of all human behavior. The Jains use the word "ahimsa," which literally means the "non-harming" of any other living being, but which more broadly refers to a refusal to violate the essence of any other living being. All living beings contain living souls, trapped by bad karma performed in previous lives. Following the example and the teaching of Vardhamana Jainaputra, a slightly older contemporary of the Buddha known as Mahavira (the Great Hero), the Jains try to liberate themselves by observing a number of prohibitions. The most important of the prohibitions are those forbidding the Jains to kill or harm another creature (including plants and insects), to steal, to lie, to take intoxicants, or to engage in sexual intercourse. Gandhi knew of these Jain "vows" from his early childhood, and he tried to implement all of them in his life and the lives of those living in his small village community (ashram). He was convinced that the strict so observance of these vows makes human beings less egotistical he and less focused on the material world and the pleasures of a observance of these vows redirects energy toward spiritual ous the flesh. At the same time, and even more importantly, the on tasks and helps us become more humane toward others, and more complete as human beings.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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