Satyagraha, Ahimsa, and A Rule for Motives and Acts

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” (( 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”?


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?

Adventures of the Madcap Christian Scientist

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…

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3 thoughts on “Satyagraha, Ahimsa, and A Rule for Motives and Acts

  1. Hey Karen, I have a friend that I have known since high school who is a minister and former missionary for the Southern Baptist Church. He is a nice guy with a wonderful family , but He has always tried to make me see the faults in Christian Science. He believes it is a cult. He has given me many books and pamphlets on the subject over the years. He told me that Christian Science is closer to a particular form of Hindiusim that I can’t remember the name of right now than it is to Christianity. He says it is a form of Gnosticism. Back in my 20’s I went through a phase where I searched and studied the different religions. I went to every
    house of worship except for a Mosque. It was not due to any particular prejudice against Islam or anything, but at that time the only mosque in my area was for the Nation Of Islam and I was told that white people were not allowed inside. I don’t know if that is true so forgive me if it is not. My search led me to believe that Christian Science seems closer to the truth than anything out there. The whole thing in the orthodox religions , whith all the rules and regulations on what you can eat, wear and even think just did not add up to me. Especially since they all had their own version of it. I cannot believe that one day is more holy than another day ,or that one buliding or city is somehow special . Plus none of their doctrines made any sense to me. To me , even the Bible would not make sense without the explanations we get in Science And Health with Key to the Scriptures. Now, I am no way a super gung-ho Christian Scientist. I don’t feel like I have enough faith to follow it to a tee. Plus I also feel like it is really ahead of its time. I think there should be more emphasis on Emerging Gently into it as it says in Science and Health. I believe if that approach was followed the Church might be growing again. Well, that is just my opinion and I mean no disrepect to any other faith as I believe that all people should have the right to worship or not to worship, as they please. Rick

    • Rick, I always really enjoy reading your comments! What I’ve come to realize about myself is that I am not really a very religious person. I’m not much of a joiner, I guess. I am wary of anything that feels like group-think. I don’t so much follow people – as I do ideas. And the ideas that I read in Science and Health are ideas that are useful to me, help me become a better human being, help me make the world a better place. The Christian Science God – Love, literally – is the God that makes sense to me. Love is God.

      There was a time when I thought God was leading me to atheism. Which. Yeah. Here’s a link to that experience:


      Emerge gently. Yes. I think people run into problems with Christian Science when they try to force things. Our growth should be natural – letting go of things in a natural way, when we’re ready.

      I’ve been thinking about “Church” a lot lately – thinking about Mary Baker Eddy’s definition of Church as “the structure of Truth and Love…” I really love that. She doesn’t describe Church as a material structure or organization at all, does she?

      • You are right. She does not describe Church as a material structure or organization. I have always loved having physical buildings known as the Church of Christ Scientist, but from what I have read , she did not mean for that to happen at all. Maybe someone who knows much more than me can explain it.

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