My journey to nonviolence really began in college, where I found Tolstoy. Prior to this, I wouldn't say I was a violent person, but I didn't give it a lot of thought. I was, a typical American. Having no exposure to the nonviolent thinkers of the last century, nor any of the centuries prior, small acts of violence could be heroic, and of course growing up with Superman and Spiderman, evil could only be defeated by physical might!
Sometime toward the end of high school, I grew an interest in philosophy and spirituality. I began picking up books by Neitchze, Kant, Huxley, and Plato. At the same time I started reading books on religion and spirituality. Religion didn't really play any part in my life then. Church was someplace we went on Christmas Eve and sometimes on Easter. That was it.
But this stuff was intriguing! This stuff was stuff that the pastor never spoke of in Church.
And this all led me to Tolstoy.
Russian authors are my favorite! Their overly verbose, thick books describing characters so real to me, though I was so removed from their time and life. These 900 page books would enrapture and engross me until I had finished them. Dostoevsky was and still is my favorite of these authors. His work was my first foray into the Russian writer. Notes From the Underground and Other Writings struck me deeper than anything else I had read up to that point. Specifically the story, White Nights. The brilliance of this story, the longing ... it all jumped off the page. And I was hooked. Next came the Brothers Karamozov, my all time favorite novel.
At some point I read a short story collection from Tolstoy, and found his style equally inviting. It came quite naturally then that I would pick up his book The Kingdom of God is Within You. This book outlined his intense belief in nonviolence (or nonresistence to conflict), and was expressly built upon the life and teachings of Christ. These ideas were powerful, but what was powerful still was that he changed his life to live my those ideals. This is the power we all hold - the power of example.
From there, his book, The Gospel in Brief, culled the teachings and life of Christ out of the rest of Christianity, and spoke quite deeply to me. This wasnt the mumbo jumbo that I felt religion was. No, this was practical, and peaceful.
These two books heavily influenced Gandhi and were what ultimately led me to the writings of Gandhi. Gandhi's life-long quest for Ahimsa and Truth have inspired many amazing things in the world. The idea of changing the world by changing yourself was a very new idea to me. And such a powerful; one! You don't have to be Superman. You don't have to be Bruce Willis. You don't even have to physically fight evil.
It is in this spirit of deep inspiration that I'd like to pass on what Ahimsa means. After you read the following, really take a minute to think about the implications, and how joyful our lives can be if we sign our lives over to this principle. Meditate upon these ideals for a minute.
The 6 Pillars of Ahimsa
A- Abstinence from Animal Products
H- Harmlessness with reverence for life
I- Integrity of thought, word, and deed
M- Mastery over oneself
S- Service to humanity, nature, and creation
A- Advancement of understanding and truth