Satyagraha, Ahimsa, and a Rule for Motives and Acts

Creeds, doctrines, and human hypotheses do not express Christian Science; much less can they demonstrate it. – Mary Baker Eddy

To seek Truth through belief in a human doctrine is not to understand the infinite. We must not seek the immutable and immortal through the finite, mutable, and mortal, and so depend upon belief instead of demonstration… – Mary Baker Eddy

        The way to extract error from mortal mind is to pour in truth through flood-tides of Love. – Mary Baker Eddy

***

Mahatma Gandhi, that great leader of non-violent resistance, said, “I have discovered in the earliest stages that pursuit of truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one’s opponent but that he must be weaned from error by patience and compassion. For what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent, but on oneself.”

According to Wikipedia “Satyagraha” ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyagraha) means “soul force” or “truth force” and can be loosely translated as “insistence on truth.”  “Satyagraha” was a term created and used by Mahatma Gandhi in his non-violent struggle against foreign control of India.  “Ahimsa” – the Hindu belief that all living things are connected and that we should treat all life with kindness and non-violence – is fundamental to Satyagraha.  Gandhi believed we are all morally interdependent on each other – we depend on each other to do the “right thing” – that it is imperative for us to cultivate what is decent in each other.

Recently, as I was pondering A Rule for Motives and Acts for members of the Christian Science Mother Church, it struck me how similar it is to the idea of “Satyagraha” –

A Rule for Motives and Acts (Article VIII, Section 1 of the Manual for the Mother Church): “Neither animosity nor mere personal attachment should impel the motives or acts of the members of The Mother Church. In Science, divine Love alone governs man; and a Christian Scientists reflects the sweet amenities of Love, in rebuking sin, in true brotherliness, charitableness, and forgiveness. The members of the Church should daily watch and pray to be delivered from all evil, from prophesying, judging, condemning, counseling, influencing, or being influenced erroneously.”

First Readers of the Christian Science branch churches read this rule from the podium the first Sunday of every month.  When I’ve served as First Reader in our branch church, and read this rule out loud to the congregation, there’s been a part of me that cringes inside a little. I’m a little embarrassed.  A little awkward. And hugely humbled.  I mean… well, who am I to be reading this rule to the congregation? I know with certainty that there have been times when I have not lived up to this rule.  Have I always been loyal to God, Love, Truth – the Principle of Christian Science – rather than to persons? Have I always had the courage and humility to “rebuke sin” – not in a way that personalizes it – but in the manner of Gandhi, weaning “from error by patience and compassion” and with self-suffering, or – as Mary Baker Eddy puts it – extracting error from mortal mind and pouring in truth “through flood-tides of Love“? Have I always been charitable and forgiving? Have I always refrained from “judging, condemning, counseling, influencing, or being influenced erroneously”?

Yowza.

We don’t have a lot of doctrine, dogma, or creed in the Christian Science church.  There are not a whole lot of detailed rules, really, about how we should eat, dress, stand, sit, wear our hair, or address one another, and there are no rules that separate men and women in any way, or create a church class system and hierarchy.  We are pretty much free agents when it comes to that stuff – free to follow our own conscience and understanding.

In the textbook for Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes, “The time for thinkers has come. Truth, independent of doctrines and time-honored systems, knocks at the portal of humanity.” A little later she writes, “Our Master (Jesus) taught no mere theory, doctrine, or belief. It was the divine Principle of all real being which he taught and practised. His proof of Christianity was no form or system of religion and worship, but Christian Science, working out the harmony of Life and Love.” Eddy writes, “Surely it is not enough to cleave to barren and desultory dogmas, derived from the traditions of the elders…”

So. Yeah. Which brings us back to A Rule for Motives and Acts. All the other stuff that one sometimes finds in humanly-organized religion – the dress codes, the class system, the distinction between genders, the rules about food – all of that pretty much seems meaningless when put next to the idea that “divine Love alone governs man,” doesn’t it?

Do Christian Scientists have a doctrine at all? Well, there is this: “This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind nor life result in death. The perfect man – governed by God, his perfect Principle – is sinless and eternal.” (from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy)

Perfect Principle and perfect man.  Perpetual, uninterrupted joy.  Unconditional, unending Love – shining on everyone, without distinction. Endless Life. That’s a goal worthy of our time and energies, yes?

The hour has struck when proof and demonstration, instead of opinion and dogma, are summoned to the support of Christianity, “making wise the simple.” – Mary Baker Eddy

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4 thoughts on “Satyagraha, Ahimsa, and a Rule for Motives and Acts

  1. I love the Rule for Motives and Acts! It comes to mind almost every time I’m playing tennis or pickleball, or any activity that is competitive with another person. I try to get out of my thought any motive of “striking back” or “revenge” or any other motive that has a hint of animosity behind it. It brings a calmness to the activity.
    Whenever I’m asking myself “why am I doing this” I’m doing it in the light of the Rule. It is even useful driving down the road, to avoid road rage!
    Thanks for your sharing this with the world!

  2. Creeds, doctrines, and human hypotheses do not express Christian Science; much less can they demonstrate it. – Mary Baker Eddy

    I am amused by MBE’s choice of words as Christian Science (and all religion) is exactly that: human hypotheses, creed and doctrine. The religion, the founder, and the followers are all very, very human, as they regularly demonstrate by invoking “diving inspiration” about things like Sunday School carpet colors, and petty squabbles over things as important as hand soap in the ladies room.

  3. Pingback: Satyagraha, Ahimsa, and a Rule for Motives and Acts | Adventures of the Madcap Christian Scientist

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