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KC Nectar - Feb 12

Real Nonviolence
From the book 'Compassion'
By HH Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
Submitted by Manoj

Ahimsa, nonviolence, means that one should not do anything which will put others into misery or confusion. Material activities that are promised by so many politicians, sociologists, philanthropists, etc., do not produce very good results because the politicians and philanthropists have no transcendental vision; they do not know what is actually beneficial for human society. Ahimsa means that people should be trained in such a way that the full utilization of the human body can be achieved. The human body is meant for spiritual realization, so any movement or any commissions which do not further that end commit violence on the human body. That which furthers the future spiritual happiness of the people in general is called nonviolence.

- Bg. 10.4-5, purport

I have always liked this definition of nonviolence: the failure to give others Krishna consciousness is violence. To practice this degree of nonviolence requires that we learn to see each living entity, regardless of the body it inhabits, as spirit soul no different in quality than ourselves. In one talk, Srila Prabhupada connects our responsibility to be nonviolent to the idea that each living entity has rights. He speaks about abortion-that it has been arranged by karma in which womb a living entity will take birth. If we prevent the soul from accepting the body by aborting the fetus, then that is like denying someone his legal right to occupy an apartment for which he has already paid the rent. Such behavior is criminal. Similarly, to not help a person attain the spirit soul's right to understand God and his own relationship with Him is violent. More than violent, it's criminal.

There's an anecdote I once heard from Prabhupada about when he was still a householder. He said he had been invited to speak at Jhansi on a holiday declared to honor Gandhi. He was assigned the topic of nonviolence. He defined violence as preventing someone from gaining something which rightfully belongs to them. By having taken birth in the land of Rama, Krishn, and Vyasa, he said, the people of India have a right to take to Krsna consciousness. If someone is preventing them in any way, that person is committing violence. He went on to say that the Indian government was violent because it was preventing people from gaining their true birthright.

How can we understand the principle that each living entity is a spirit soul, and feel the urge to give it Krishna consciousness? Prabhupdda uses clear and simple logic to convince us of the soul's presence in each type of body: when we cut an animal, it cries; if we force it into a corner, it will become angry. All living beings, regardless of what body they inhabit, show the symptoms of life that prove that they are souls. In his conversation with Cardinal Danielou, printed in The Science of Self-Realization, Srila Prabhupada considered foolish the idea that because man is made in the image of God, only humans have souls and are therefore sacred:

"That is foolishness. First of all, we have to understand the evidence of the soul's presence within the body. Then we can see whether the human being has a soul and the cow does not. What are the different characteristics of the cow and the man? If we find a difference in characteristics, then we can say that in the animal there is no soul. But if we see that the animal and the human being have the same characteristics, then how can you say that the animal has no soul? The general symptoms are that the animal eats, you eat; the animal sleeps, you sleep; the animal mates, you mate; the animal defends, and you defend. Where is the difference? ...

Our Bagavad-gita says sarva-yonisu, "In all species of life the soul exists." The body is like a suit of clothes. You have black clothes; I am dressed in saffron clothes. But within the dress you are a human being, and I am also a human being. Similarly, the bodies of the different species are just like different types of dress. There are soul, a part and parcel of God.... That difference is due to the development of consciousness. In the human body there is developed consciousness. Even a tree has a soul, but a tree's consciousness is not very developed. If you cut a tree it does not resist. Actually, it does resist, but only to a very small degree. There is a scientist named Jagadish Chandra Bose who has made a machine which shows that trees and plants are able to feel pain when they are cut. And we can see directly that when someone comes to kill an animal, it resists, it cries, it makes a horrible sound. So it is a matter of the development of consciousness. But the soul is there within all living beings."

-SSR, Chapter 4, pp. 123-24

Later in the discussion, the Cardinal insisted that because animals do not have the intelligence to inquire into metaphysics or transcendence, that is the proof that they do not have souls. Srila Prabhupada called that ridiculous. Children do not have that intelligence either. Does that mean that children have no souls?

After understanding that all living entities are souls with the inborn right to know Krsna, a devotee's natural compassion will be awakened when he actually sees these souls suffering in material life rather than living out their birthright. Not only will we refrain from killing other creatures will try in some way to give them Krishna consciousness.

Devotees often wonder how, then, to share Krishna consciousness with those who do not wish to receive it, or those souls who have appeared in lower species. Nonviolence is active, not inactive. It's the action of seeing that people can fulfill their right to practice Krishna consciousness. This returns us to the importance of preaching as an expression of compassion. Prabhupada's statement has such force: unless we preach, we are committing violence.

It also returns us to the point that preaching cannot be done in one single way. We must be creative, especially when approaching persons and other living entities who do not have a natural interest in Krsna consciousness. Of course, prasadam distribution, Prabhupada said, is our greatest weapon. Prasadam and the holy names are all we can offer souls in the lower species, but they are effective on humans who are uninterested in spiritual life too. Srila Prabhupada writes:

The spiritual master encourages distribution of prasadam ... to the public. Ours is not a dry philosophy - simply talk and go away. No. We distribute ... very sumptuous prasadam .... prasadam distribution is another symptom of the genuine spiritual master.

If you eat Bagavat-prasadam, then gradually you become spiritualized; it has this potency. Therefore it is said that realization of God begins with the tongue. . . If you engage your tongue in the service of the Lord, then you realize God.... If you just sincerely engage your tongue in the service of the Lord, you will realize Him. It is so simple. 
-The Journey of Self-Discovery, p. 12 3

Ultimately, we must ourselves be thinking of Krishna in order to always want to give Krishna to others in one form or another. Most people we will find have no natural interest in Krishna consciousness. Because of that, we shouldn't harden our hearts toward such persons and ignore them. Srila Prabhupada took so many risks as a preacher, and we too may take risks, perhaps entering arenas we have never entered before. I think of the scientists at the Bhaktivedanta Institute who have managed to infiltrate a world that is primarily atheistic. Devotees may also align themselves with organizations that promulgate nonviolence-animal protection or nature conservancy groups-not simply to protect the environment, but to help persons interested in the preliminary qualities of spiritual life to go further. Lord Caitanya was indiscriminate when distributing His mercy; He did not stop to think whether someone was a fit candidate or not. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada was willing to give any spirit soul the chance to develop love of God. He recognized the right of each individual soul to live according to his constitutional position as servant of God, and although he also knew that only a rare soul would even be interested (manusyanam sahasresu kascid yatati siddhaye / yatatam api siddhanam kascin mam vetti tattvatah), he always encouraged his disciples to preach as widely as possible.

Prabhupada also recognized the principle of ajnata-sukrti, by which those who even contact a devotee and who render some favorable service, even unknowingly, would receive benefit.

... ajnata-sukrti ... refer[s] to pious activities performed without the actor's knowledge. But these are also planned. For example, Krishna comes like an ordinary human being, He comes as a devotee like Lord Caitanya, or He sends His representative, the spiritual master, or pure devotee. This is also the planned activity of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They come to canvass and educate, and thus a person in the illusory energy of the Supreme Lord gets a chance to mix with them, talk with them and take lessons from them, and somehow or other if a conditioned soul surrenders to such personalities and by intimate association with them chances to become Krishna conscious, he is saved from the material conditions of life.

-Bhag. 4.21.27, purport

Therefore, when we are moving in the world, we should move as devotees, if not always in dress, at least in consciousness. ISKCON is no longer a movement of brahmacaris, but consists primarily of householders, who work to support their families. Although we may not always be able to give Krishna consciousness directly, we can fix our minds on Prabhupada's definition of nonviolence and give Krishna consciousness in whatever way is possible according to time, place, and persons.