Today many Facebook posts seemed to be calling attention to the particular negligence that occurs via misappropriation of other cultures and overlooking of the socioeconomic challenges of fellow human beings.
Maybe this is why this insightful musing from Roberto Calasso on the Sanskrit word ahiṃsa, usually translated as “non-violence”, came for a return visit.
“Ahiṃsa, Gandhi`s nonviolence, was already there in the writings of the ritualists, some three thousand years before him. Literally, it means “not to wound”, from the root hiṃs-, “to wound.” Ahiṃsa doesn`t mean to refrain from violence. But to exercise violence—which is there in any event and involves everyone—in a certain way; without wounding. To wound is more serious than to kill. Violence cannot be eliminated, because it is a part of life`s pulse. But wounding . . . A wound can be inflicted in a thousand different ways. There may even be cases where it is not perceived to be a wound.”
~ Robert Calasso [Ka: Stories of The Mind & Gods of India, p.151]
When I first read this book years ago this part caught my attention. Especially the last line.
“There may even be cases where it is not perceived to be a wound.”
Evolution takes place when we get better at perceiving the wounding that we may be committing. At first this is usually after-the-fact. We cause harm to another being then recognize the damage that has already been done. The time gap between that wounding and the recognition of having wounded can be very immense. A hurtful thing is said. An unskillful action is performed. Time flows by. Days. Weeks. Months. Decades. And then, we catch a shadow flickering at the corner of our peripheral vision. We see the lack of recognition in what we have done or said.
Then we have choices. We can make amends.
But until that uncomfortable flicker of our shadowed self is noticed, we are operating in unconscious mode. Where there is no recognition there is no opportunity for choice. There is just a trail of damage scattered behind us along the path.
When we take up a practice and/or study of any kind of system or information that is supposed to improve our ability to more clearly perceive the potential outcome of our actions, we begin to create the possibility for recognition to take place.
Over time that gap shortens. From years to months. Months to weeks. Weeks to minutes. Eventually there is the awareness, “I am about to say or do something that will wound.” And we then have the choice to eradicate it before it is done or said. Or to not eradicate it. But we have the choice.
This is the building of freedom through skillful action. The freedom to consciously make choices.
It requires intention, will, determination and discernment. But it is possible for every one of us to do. If we feel it is important enough.