By: Jen Champion
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is an inspiration. He acted with compassion and nonviolence towards all people. His actions sought to bring freedom, peace, and equality to our community, country, and world.
Dr. King said, “Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”
Deeper in history, around 400 CE, we see this theme in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In this classical yoga text, there are eight limbs of yoga, revealing the importance of having moral discipline and restraints known as Yamas. One of the Yamas is Ahimsa, Sanskrit for nonviolence. We are to cause no injury with our deeds, words, or thoughts. The code advises to be gentle to oneself and all creation and refrain from all forms of violence, including criticism and judgment.
Most of us have visited the cycle of self-doubt and criticism. When we can recognize the behavior, we can begin to change it. It becomes easier to acknowledge our harsh thoughts and create space to ignite compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. We can find the courage to move forward with grace and be a positive force in our lives and communities.
Dr. King said, “In the nonviolent army, there is room for everyone who wants to join up. There is no color distinction. There is no examination, no pledge, except that, as a soldier in the armies of violence is expected to inspect his carbine and keep it clean, are called upon to examine their greatest weapons: their heart, their conscience, their courage, and sense of justice.”
King’s messages are valuable lessons we can uphold today. He emphasized, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase; just take the first step.” This inspiration reminds us that small changes and steps can lead to significant differences. May we all be encouraged to practice Ahimsa with all life and live with a peaceful consciousness steeped in compassion, peace, and equality.