Timeless Wisdom of Gandhi and King Today
(Peace, Nonviolence and Nuclear Weapons)
Season of Nonviolence
My Friends, We are in the family of those who value love, justice, compassion, reason, and wisdom. The consequence of bringing these treasures into action is peace. For striving and helping to bring peace into the world, I thank you. Together we can learn to walk in the footsteps of men and woman who devoted their lives to peace. We are not the first people on this journey and if we succeed we shall surely not be the last.
In America I am reminded that there would be no Black Lives Matter movement today in the US without Rev. Martin Luther King. There would be no King without the wisdom of Ahimsa — nonviolence in intention, thought and deed — brought into action by Mahatma Gandhi.
Today, knowing without turning away from remembering the horrors of the previous century such as the horrific destruction of Hiroshima/Nagasaki and a sophisticated culture executing policies of genocidal madness, it is a moral imperative to work to ensure that such human depravity never happen again. There is a duty to learn peace and nonviolence in intention, thought and deed (ahimsa).
The destruction of Hiroshima demonstrated the danger of allowing technology and science in the service of war to advance without proper attention to the insights of morality and a sense of our common humanity.
The rational for building the Bomb was to deter Hitler. But the Nazi’s program to build an atomic bomb was substantially undermined by the destruction of its heavy water facility in Norway in the winter of 1943 and by 1944 it was clear that the Nazi venture had ended. But so much had been invested in the Manhattan project that stopping its progression leading to use was unsuccessful. Only one scientist walked off the project. Dr. Joseph Rotblat later received a Nobel Peace Prize for his wisdom and courage.
The Bomb put before humanity a new reality: humanity has the capacity to destroy itself. This choice came upon us with a bang.
Brigadier General T.F. Farrell described the moment he saw the blast of the first atomic bomb test in July of 1945: The effects could well be called unprecedented, magnificent, beautiful, stupendous, and terrifying. No man-made phenomenon of such tremendous power had ever occurred before. The lighting effects beggared description. The whole country was lighted by a searing light with the intensity many times that of the midday sun. It was golden, purple, violet, gray and blue. It lighted every peak, crevasse and ridge of the nearby mountain range with a clarity and beauty that cannot be described and must be seen to be imagined. Seconds after the explosion came, first, the air blast pressing hard against the people, to be followed almost immediately by the strong, sustained awesome roar which warned of doomsday and made us feel we puny things were blasphemous to dare tamper with the forces heretofore reserved for the Almighty.
This invention hangs over all of humanity reminding us that we must find a path to human security, cooperative security, or we could realize a path to collective annihilation.
Today, every thinking person everywhere understands that the COVID 19 virus reminds us that the weapons costing billions of dollars, rather, trillions of dollars, spent to protect populations are useless in addressing its assault. Cooperation amongst nations and people, as was done in addressing small-pox and polio, is a preferred route. And making the vaccine a global public good is necessary to properly deal with a threat that does not carry a passport nor recognize national, religious, gender, class, caste, or racial differences. It tells us, as does the image of earth from outer space, that we are all in this together, that we are one human family, and that the path of bringing our human qualities into action is both morally uplifting and now practically necessary.
Moreover, with the advances of weaponry that modern science and technology provide the prejudices that lead to dehumanization of any group can very quickly lead to massive injury. Appreciation of the value of diversity is an imperative for human unity.
Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King.
We will explore some of their insights today.
Their understanding of human unity is being pushed upon us fast. Distinguished climatologist Dr. Owen Toon and Dr. Alan Robok have discovered that should less than 1% of the over 13,000 nuclear warheads in the world today explode in a conflict, such as between India and Pakistan, in excess of 5 million tons of soot would cloud the stratosphere impacting global agriculture such that civilization as we know it today would be unsustainable. We don’t have mutually assured destruction, MAD. We have self-assured destruction. SAD
The weapons are suicidal against a state with nuclear weapons, of no value against terrorists, and patently illegitimate against a state without them. They are inconsistent with logic and fundamental principles of justice and equity, such as the treating others as one wants to be treated. Imagine if the Biological Weapons Convention said no nation can use small-pox or polio as a weapon but we will entrust nine nations (India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea, China, Russia, the US, and UK) with the plague to maintain international peace and security. Absurd? Yes. What we have now? Yes again.
The devices that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki put before humanity a choice that it has never had before. Every generation since August of 1945 must decide whether it will be the last. Today we remember so we will never repeat.
Should this decision even be in anyone’s hands, no less a few men and woman, no more gifted and wise than the rest of us? The dozens of moments when decisions were made on the edge of use arising from human and computer errors remind us that computers, people, and systems can only be as foolproof as their creators.
Are humans foolproof? Soviet computers misread a cloud formation and nearly launched 11,000 nuclear warheads, a US satellite monitoring device could not tell the difference between a sunrise and Soviet launch, a weather satellite launched off the coast of Norway years after the end of the Cold War ended looked like a nuclear attack and President Yeltsin had minutes to decide the fate of humanity. I could go on all day with such instances.
If a computer hacker creates a spoof that looks like a launch between India and Pakistan a decision will have to be made in a matter of minutes whether a terrorist, a hacker, a clown, a madman, or a military adventurist has done it and whether it is actually a launch. President Ronald Reagan said that six minutes to decide the fate of humanity was madness and concluded to work to eliminate nuclear weapons and he and Mikhail Gorbachev set in motion the lessening of the arsenals by over 70%.
Like the virus the Bomb reminds us of our common destiny. India did not get the Bomb because of Pakistan. So, the solution is elsewhere. It got the Bomb because of China. China did not get it because of India but because of the Soviet Union (Russia). Russia got it because of the US. The US got it because of Hitler. The only solution for the security of India is the same as for the US. It is global. It is a universal human threat and requires a global approach. Nuclear weapons elimination will be a global common good. Keeping them at the ready is a global common evil.
George Kennan, the distinguished American diplomat who originated the Cold War containment policy toward the Soviet Union, stated:
“The readiness to use nuclear weapons against other human beings – against people we do not know, whom we have never seen, and whose guilt or innocence is not for us to establish – and, in doing so, to place in jeopardy the natural structure upon which all civilization rests, as though the safety and perceived interests of our own generation were more important than everything that has taken place or could take place in civilization: this is nothing less than a presumption, a blasphemy, an indignity – an indignity of monstrous dimensions – offered to God!” GEORGE F. KENNAN, THE NUCLEAR DELUSION 206– 07 (1982))
Albert Einstein said, “The unleashing of the power of the atom bomb has changed everything except our mode of thinking, and thus we head toward unparalleled catastrophes.”
It is vision that changes modes of thinking. But vision must be clear and strong.
The United Nations was founded to prevent the scourge of war and most people are surprised to find out that the very first resolution of the General Assembly called for creating a Commission to generate proposals, among other things, “for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adoptable to mass destruction.” Nuclear weapons should compel a vision of clarion urgency. This call was not adequate. The world saw an arms race that nearly ended everything.
It is crucial that vision must be compelling in its clarity. If we have no “where” to go, we will go nowhere. Action without purpose is traveling without a destination. Vision is the catalyst that can awaken our better self to action. Vision must be informed by deep wisdom and that is why it is befitting today to turn to the insights of two of modernity’s wisest men, Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The work we must do involves fulfilling existing promises for progress in disarmament actually already pledged by China, US, UK, Russia and France pursuant to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty which includes banning any further testing of nuclear weapons, entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, obtaining a treaty preventing any further creation of weapons grade fissile material, strengthening International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, lowering the status of the weapons, such as no first use pledges, and, as the International Court of Justice has unanimously ruled, negotiating a legal instrument or instruments eliminating the weapons. The recent Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the Ban Treaty, issues such a call and for that reason it should be honored. But much more work needs to done.
These steps will not be achieved without a clear vision of the security obtained by a nuclear weapons free world advanced by you and me following in the footsteps of wisdom. Vision is the powerful magnet that brings change. And once released a compelling vision can change the world. Before we get to their vision let’s address our current condition.
Martin Luther King Jr. described our current predicament posed by nuclear weapons succinctly: nonviolence or nonexistence. The dynamics of violence and its friends fear, denial and falsehood and the dynamics of nonviolence and its friends love, truth and peace begin in the hearts of each of us. The most offensive expression of the violence that grows from the heart bereft of peace is the threat to use nuclear weapons and ultimately destroy all life on the planet earth in order to exalt a human creation, a nation state.
Not only do nuclear weapons constitute a threat to our physical security and our sense of reason and proportionality, but they also exemplify a thoroughly modern dilemma where the means of pursuing security undermine the end of obtaining security. In his Nobel Lecture of December 11, 1964, Dr. King said: “Our problem today is that we have allowed the internal to become lost in the external. We have allowed the means whereby we live to outdistance the ends for which we live. So much of our modern life can be summarized in that arresting dictum of the poet Thoreau: ‘Improved means to an unimproved end.’ This is the serious predicament, the deep and haunting problem confronting modern man. If we are to survive today, our moral and spiritual ‘lag’ must be eliminated. Enlarged material powers spell enlarged peril if there is not proportionate growth of the soul. When the ‘without’ of man’s nature subjugates the ‘within’, dark storm clouds begin to form in the world.”
Nothing so dramatically expresses the discordance between physical capacity and moral immaturity than a thermonuclear device. As General Lee Butler, former head of U.S. Strategic Command said on December 4, 1996 before the National Press Club: “We have yet to fully grasp the monstrous effects of these weapons, that the consequences of their use defy reason, transcending time and space, poisoning the earth and deforming its inhabitants.” Imagination is not sufficient to grasp the magnitude of what we have created: “The destructive power of nuclear weapons cannot be contained in either space or time. They have the potential to destroy all civilization and the entire eco-system of the planet.” Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons. United Nations General Assembly A/51/218, 15 October, 1996. p.17.
In that landmark opinion of the highest court in the world, Judge Weeramantry tried to convey the unimaginable:
Before 1945 “the highest explosive effect of bombs was produced by TNT devices of about 20 tons.” The nuclear weapons exploded in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were more or less the explosive power of 15 and 12 kilotons respectively, i.e. 15,000 and 12,000 tons of TNT (trinitrotoluene) respectively. Many of the weapons existing today and in the process of being tested represent several multiples of the explosive power of these bombs. Bombs in the megaton (equivalent to a million tons of TNT) and multiple megaton range are in the world’s nuclear arsenals, some being even in excess of 20 megatons (equivalent to 20 million tons of TNT). A one-megaton bomb, representing the explosive power of a million tons of TNT, would be around 70 times the explosive power of the bombs used on Japan, and 20 megaton bomb well over a thousand times that explosive power.
Since the mind is numbed by such abstract figures and cannot comprehend them, they have been graphically concretized in various ways. One of them is to picture the quantity of TNT represented by a single one-megaton bomb, in terms of its transport by rail. It has been estimated that this would require a train two hundred miles long. When one is carrying death and destruction to an enemy in war through the use of a single one-megaton bomb, it assists comprehension of this phenomenon to think in terms of a 200-mile train loaded with TNT being driven into enemy territory, to be exploded there. It cannot be said that international law would consider this legal. Nor does it make any difference if the train is not 200 miles long, but 100 miles, 50 miles, 10 miles, or only 1 mile. Nor, again, could it matter if the train is 1,000 miles long, as would be the case with a 5-megaton bomb, or 4,000 miles long, as would be the case with a 20-megaton bomb.
Such is the power of the weapon upon which the Court is deliberating – power which dwarfs all historical precedents, even if they are considered cumulatively. A 5-megaton weapon would represent more explosive power than all the bombs used in World War II and a 20-megaton bomb “more than all the explosives used in all the wars in the history of mankind.” Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, 1996, International Court of Justice at 452-53 (Separate Opinion of Judge Weeramantry, footnotes omitted)
The US nuclear posture contemplates keeping thousands of these weapons indefinitely in a state of readiness and even contemplates their use in theater operations. Other states will mimic this posture. Moreover, at enormous cost, trillions of dollars, yes, trillions, nations are modernizing and expanding their nuclear arsenals. What a paradox, the more we improve the weapons the less security we obtain.
There is a cold logic to this situation: over time, through accident or design, human fallibility will cause the unacceptable use of these weapons if they are not eliminated. Additionally, the possession by some states is the strongest stimulant to others to acquire them. But logic will not persuade anyone until they contemplate seriously an actual specific event.
The Mayor of Nagasaki pleads with us to understand the human dimensions of the small device exploded on his city:
“The explosion of the atomic bomb generated an enormous fireball, 200 metres in radius, almost as though a small sun had appeared in the sky. The next instant, a ferocious blast and wave of heat assailed the ground with a thunderous roar. The surface temperature of the fireball was about 7,000 degrees C, and the heat rays that reached the ground were over 3,000 degrees C. The explosion instantly killed or injured people within a two-kilometer radius of the hypocenter, leaving innumerable corpses charred like clumps of charcoal and scattered in the ruins near the hypocenter. In some cases, not even a trace of the person’s remains could be found. A wind (over 680 miles per hour) slapped down trees and demolished most buildings. Even iron-reinforced concrete structures were so badly damaged that they seemed to have been smashed by a giant hammer. The fierce flash of heat meanwhile melted glass and left metal objects contorted like strands of taffy, and the subsequent fires burned the ruins of the city to ashes. Nagasaki became a city of death where not even the sound of insects could be heard.
After a while, countless men, woman and children began to gather for a drink of water at the banks of the nearby Urakami River, their hair and clothing scorched and their burnt skin hanging off in sheets like rags. Begging for help, they died one after another in the water or in heaps on the banks. Then radiation began to take its toll, killing people like a scourge (of) death expanding in concentric circles from the hypocenter. Four months after the atomic bombing, 74,000 people were dead and 75,000 had suffered injuries, that is, two thirds of the city population had fallen victim to this calamity that came upon Nagasaki like a preview of the Apocalypse.”
When Mahatma Gandhi heard of this horror he said, “What has happened to the soul of the destroying nation is yet too early to see. Forces of nature act in a mysterious manner. We can but solve the mystery by deducing the unknown from result of known results of similar events. A slaveholder cannot hold a slave without putting himself or his deputy in the cage holding the slave.” For Pacifists (Ahmedebad: Navajivan, 1949) pp. 83-84.
The psychologist Robert Jay Lifton has described part of the cost to the small handful of nuclear weapons states as “a collective form of psychic numbing.” I recall descriptions of the striking banality of the notorious Nazi Adolph Eichmann during his trial as a shocking gray haze of insensitivity that executes orders for the annihilation of innocents without remorse. I think of our readiness to unleash in short order concentration like ovens with wings. I think of the arrogance of continuing to keep the nuclear arsenals on hair trigger alert ten years after the Cold War has ended.
This expression of ultimate human arrogance hides a fundamental weakness. It demonstrates a failure of respect for the power of love, the reality of God, from which we arise and to which we must return. That power is denied by this present and threatening violence. This ultimate violence is idolatry without boundary, exalting human ideas and force above the creator’s gift, the very life of the creation.
Dr. King said that in his Nobel Speech, “Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself.” The violence of threatening to unleash the Apocalypse represents an immorality of vast proportion and calls us to an affirmation of faith of vaster proportion. Gandhi stated his faith in the reality that must inform those of us who will stand up to prevent the destruction of God’s gift:
Do I still adhere to my faith in truth and non-violence? Has not the atomic bomb exploded that faith? Not only has it not done so but it has clearly demonstrated to me that the twins (nonviolence and truth) constitute the mightiest force in the world. Before it the atom bomb is of no effect. The two opposing forces are wholly different in kind, the one moral and spiritual, the other physical and material. The one is infinitely superior to the other which by its very nature has an end. The force of the spirit is ever progressive and endless. Its full expression makes it unconquerable in the world. In saying this I know I have said nothing new. I merely bear witness to the fact. What is more, that force resides in everybody, man, woman, and child, irrespective of the color of the skin. Only in many it lies dormant, but it is capable of being awakened by judicious training.
It is further to be observed that without the recognition of this truth and due effort to realize it, there is no escape from self-destruction. The remedy lies in every individual training himself for self-expression in every walk of life, irrespective of response by the neighbors.” M.K Gandhi, Non-Violence in Peace and War ( Ahmedebad: Navajivan, 1949), Vol II, p. 94.
But, we cannot be passive in pursuing this capacity. Dr. King words from his Nobel Lecture burn through the haze of daily news reports:
“Recent events have vividly reminded us that nations are not reducing but rather increasing their arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. The best brains in the highly developed nations of the world are devoted to military technology. The proliferation of nuclear weapons has not been halted in spite of the Limited Test Ban Treaty…The fact that most of the time human beings put the truth about the nature and risks of nuclear war out of their minds because it is too painful and therefore not ‘acceptable’, does not alter the nature and risks of such war. The device of ‘rejection’ may temporarily cover up anxiety, but it does not bestow peace of mind and emotional security…There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the destructive power of modern weapons eliminated even the possibility that war may serve as a negative good. If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war. In a day when vehicles hurtle through outer space and guided ballistic missiles carve highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can claim victory in war. A so called limited war will leave little more than a calamitous legacy of human suffering, political turmoil, and spiritual disillusionment. A world war – God forbid! – will leave only smoldering ashes as a mute testimony of a human race whose folly led inexorably to ultimate death.
So, if modern man continues to flirt unhesitatingly with war, he will transform his earthly habitat into an inferno such that even the mind of Dante could not imagine…I do not wish to minimize the complexity of the problems that need to be faced in achieving disarmament and peace. But I think it is a fact that we shall not have the will, the courage, and insight to deal with such matters unless in this field we are prepared to undergo a mental and spiritual reevaluation – a change of focus which will enable us to see that the things which seem most real and powerful are indeed now unreal and have come under the sentence of death.
We need to make a supreme effort to generate the readiness, indeed the eagerness, to enter the new world which is now possible, ‘ the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God’…It is not enough to say, “We must not wage war.’ It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it…we have inherited a big house, a great ‘world house’ in which we have to live together – black and white. Easterner and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslems and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other… This means that more and more our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. We must now give an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in our individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all embracing and unconditional love for all men.” (I apologize for the gender emphasis of the vernacular of his time).
He continues stating that developing this kind of love is not weak and cowardly nor only a personal path to salvation but a necessity for human survival. It is an aspect of being itself to which King makes reference and he invokes this power as a tool for geopolitical and personal survival. “When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response which is little more than emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.” He has placed before us a choice of Dante’s hell or a door to ultimate reality.
I believe that the mystery that placed the power of destruction in the binding forces of the atom has placed the healing power of love in our hearts and further gifted us with both the courage and wisdom to use that power effectively. I thus agree with Dr. King when he stated in his Nobel Acceptance Speech “ I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of nuclear annihilation.”
Thus, I commit to work to cause my country to disavow its unlawful, immoral posture of failing to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons. I commit to work through national and international legal mechanisms to curtail, control and abolish these devices. Will not some of you join this call from the conscience of humanity?
King further said, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.” Thus, I commit to dig deep into my own heart and open that spring from which God’s spacious pure love flows. Can we not join together in this work of becoming fully human? Then we can share in the ultimate optimism of Gandhi and King who said, “I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. I believe what self-centered men have torn down, men other centered can build up.” We have the choice to respond to this call from a conscience awakened by nonviolent redemptive goodwill.
With the help of each, which is a gift in our hands to choose, and the help of God, which is a gift surely granted, we can and will become the change we want to see. We can and will realize ourselves as the children and thus rightful heirs of the power which brought us into this world, the power of love itself. We can and should be grateful for the wisdom that men such as Gandhi and King have shared, and we can and will be correct if we live that gift from now on.
Do you know that yours is not the first generation to yearn for a life full of beauty and freedom? Do you know that all your ancestors have felt the same as you do – and fell victim to trouble and hatred?
Do you know also that your fervent wishes can only find fulfillment
if you succeed in attaining a love and understanding of people,
and animals, and plants, and stars, so that every joy becomes your joy and every pain becomes you pain?” Quoted in David and Beatrix Hamburg’s comprehensive work,
– Learning to Live Together, p. 363.
Saadi, the Persian poet of the 13th century, sang:
The human family is one body with many parts
Creations arising from one unseen essence
Any harm to any part summons an awakening
a dis-ease and a healing response from all parts
You who fail to feel the pain of others cannot be called truly human.
And of course, let us never ignore the moral principle so clearly offered in the most powerful clear guidance of conscience:
1 Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” Udana-Varga, 5:18; Christianity: “All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them.” Matthew 7:12; Confucianism: “Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” Analects 15:23; Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do not unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” Mahabharata 5:1517; Islam: “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” Hadith; Jainism: “In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.” Lord Mahavir 24th Tirthankara; Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. That is the law; all the rest is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat 31a; Zoroastrianism: “That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatsoever is not good for its own self.” Dadistan-I-Dinik, 94:5.
I would only add:
Nations must treat other nations as they wish to be treated. Nations
must not do to other nations what they would not
want done to themselves. Nations and their leaders
ignore these universal laws of reciprocity at enormous
hazard to us all.
As the Sufi Saint Bawa Muhaiyadeen said:
If each of you will open your heart, your action, your wisdom, and your conduct, and look within, you will see that every face is your face … all sorrow is your sorrow…. When that state develops inside you, that is God’s love … If that love develops, you will not hurt any other living thing. You will not cause pain, you will not reject any life. And you will not torture any other life. Because if you hurt anyone, it will hurt you. (Book of God’s Love)
That awakening naturally guides to serve life, the Creator’s gift of the world, and the lives with which He fills it:
The heart without the hand withers
The hand without the heart is dangerous
When God’s qualities bring the two together as one
Chaos becomes balance
Salt turns to sugar
A world of violence, fear, betrayal, and suffering filled with tears of grief
The sweetness of service, love, compassion, insight, inspiration, peace, filled with tears sweetened with joy and gratitude.
May these gifts be yours.
The prohibition of nuclear weapons has ancient roots. In the landmark decision on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) unanimously ruled that there is a duty incumbent on all nations and especially those with nuclear weapons, to negotiate in good faith and achieve the universal elimination of nuclear weapons under strict international legal controls. Further, the Court stated that any use of nuclear weapons must conform to the principles and prohibitions of International Humanitarian Law which forbid the use of weapons that fail to discriminate between civilians and combatants, injure neutral third parties, cause suffering beyond specific military objectives or cause irreversible environmental damage.
These humanitarian principles are of ancient origin. An interesting point in light of the spiritual insights of Gandhi and King to international affairs is found in the opinion of Judge Christopher Weeramantry in that case before the ICJ:
“The Ramayana tells the epic story of a war between Rama, prince of Ayodhya in India, and Ravana, ruler of Sri Lanka. In the course of this epic struggle, described in this classic in the minutest detail, a weapon of war became available to Rama’s half-brother, Lakshmana, which could “destroy the entire race of the enemy, including those who could not bear arms”. Rama advised Lakshmana that the weapon could not be used in the war “because such destruction en masse was forbidden by the ancient laws of war, even though Ravana was fighting an unjust war with an unrighteous objective.” These laws of war which Rama followed were themselves ancient in his time…The Greek historian Megasthenes makes reference to the practice in India that warring armies left farmers tilling the land unmolested, even though the battle raged close to them. He likewise records that the land of the enemy was not destroyed with fire nor his trees cut down. The Mahabharatha relates the story of an epic struggle between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. It refers likewise to the principle forbidding hyperdestructive weapons when it records that : “Arjuna, observing the laws of war, refrained from using the pasupathastra’, a hyper-destructive weapon, because when the fight was restricted to ordinary conventional weapons, the use of extraordinary or unconventional types was not even moral, let alone in conformity with religion or the recognized laws of warfare.
The environmental wisdom of ancient Judaic tradition is also reflected in the following passage from Deuteronomy (20 : 19) : “When you are trying to capture a city, do not cut down its fruit trees, even though the siege lasts a long time. Eat the fruit but do not destroy the trees. The trees are not your enemies.” …In the Islamic tradition, the laws of war forbade the use of poisoned arrows or the application of poison on weapons such as swords or spears. Unnecessarily cruel ways of killing and mutilation were expressly forbidden. Non-combatants, women and children, monks and places of worship were expressly protected. Crops and livestock were not to be destroyed by anyone holding authority over territory. Prisoners were to be treated mercifully in accordance with such Qur’anic passages as “Feed for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan and the captive.” So well developed was Islamic law in regard to conduct during hostilities that it ordained not merely that prisoners were to be well treated, but that if they made a last will during captivity, the will was to be transmitted to the enemy through some appropriate channel.”
An offering of quotations for your benefit by two of humanity’s great servants
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Hate is too great a burden to share.
We must meet hate with creative love.
Love is the most durable power in the world. Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.
The nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage that they didn’t know they had. Finally, it reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality.
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate…Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.
It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.
There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.
No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.
No social advance rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes though the tireless efforts and persistent work of dedicated individuals.
Violence leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue.
But there are some things in our social system to which all of us ought to be maladjusted. I never intend to become adjusted to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating method of physical violence.
We have genuflected before the god of science only to find that it has given us the atomic bomb, producing fears and anxieties that science can never mitigate.
We have guided missiles and misguided men.
A nation that continues to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of nuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.
The choice today is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.
At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love…love in this connection means understanding, redemptive good will…It is an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative… It is the love of God operating in the human heart.
The end represents the means in process and the ideal in the making…we cannot go with the idea that the end justifies the means because the end is preexistent in the means…the idea of nonviolent resistance…is the philosophy…that the means must be as pure as the end, that in the long run of history, immoral destructive means cannot bring about moral and constructive ends.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.
Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land.
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners, will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
If we could erase the “I’s” and “mine’s” from religion, politics, economics, etc., we should soon be free and bring heaven upon earth.
All that I can in true humility present to you is that Truth is not to be found by anybody who has not got an abundant sense of humility. If you would swim on the bosom of the ocean of Truth you must reduce yourself to a zero.
There are innumerable definitions of God, because His manifestations are innumerable.
Often in my progress I have had faint glimpses of the Absolute Truth, God; and daily the conviction is growing upon me that He alone is real and all else is unreal.
There only is life where there is love. Life without love is death. Love is the reverse of the coin of which the obverse is truth. It is my firm faith that we can conquer the whole world by truth and love.
Let everyone try and find out that as a result of daily prayer he adds something new to his life, something with which nothing else can be compared.
I do dimly perceive that whilst everything around me is ever-changing, ever-dying, underlying all that changing is a Living Power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves, and recreates. That informing Power or Spirit is God. And since nothing else that I see merely through the senses can or will persist, He alone IS.
I have found people who envy my peace. That peace comes from prayer; I am not a man of learning but I humbly claim to be a man of prayer. I am indifferent as to the form. Everyone is a law unto himself in that respect.
Love is the subtlest force in the world.
The force of nonviolence is infinitely more wonderful and subtle than the material force of nature, like electricity.
The truth is that God is the force. He is the essence of life. He is pure and undefiled consciousness. He is eternal.
The more efficient a force is the more silent and the more subtle it is.
There is no such thing as defeat in nonviolence.
I can truthfully say that I am slow to see the blemishes of fellow beings, being myself full of them.
I am endeavoring to see God through service to humanity, for I know that God is neither in heaven, nor down below, but in everyone.
God is conscience. He is even the atheism of the atheist. For in His boundless love, God permits the atheist to live. He is the Searcher of Hearts.
I know that I can do nothing. God can do everything. O God, make me Thy fit instrument and use me as Thou wilt!
I can testify that I may live without air and water but not without Him. You may pluck out my eyes, but that cannot kill me. You may chop off my nose, but that will not kill me. But blast my belief in God, and I am dead.
There is not a moment when I do not feel the presence of a Witness whose eye misses nothing and with whom I strive to keep in tune. I cannot recall a moment in my life when I had a sense of desertion by God.
Nonviolence is not a garment to be put on and taken off at will. It sits in the heart and it must be an inseparable part of our very being.
There is no halfway between truth and nonviolence on the one hand and untruth and violence on the other. We may never be strong enough to be entirely nonviolent in thought, word and deed. But we must keep nonviolence as our goal and make steady progress towards it. The attainment of freedom, whether for a person, a nation or the world must be in exact proportion to the attainment of nonviolence by each.
Prayer needs no speech. It is in itself independent of any sensuous effort. I have not the slightest doubt that prayer is an unfailing means of cleansing the heart of passions. But it must be combined with the utmost humility.
As food is necessary for the body, prayer is necessary for the soul. Prayer is an impossibility without a living faith in the presence of God within. God demands nothing less than complete self-surrender as the price for the only real freedom that is worth having.
I have an immovable faith in God and His goodness, and an unconsumable passion for truth and love. But, is that not what every person has latent in him?