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” ((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?

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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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

So, like, when did being bitchy become a good thing?

“Rudeness is merely the expression of fear. People fear they won’t get what they want. The most dreadful and unattractive person only needs to be loved, and they will open up like a flower.” – M. Gustave in The Grand Budapest Hotel

So, like, when did being bitchy become a good thing – a thing to be proud of? I posed that question to a young friend the other day. I’d seen someone wearing one of those “Proud to be a Bitch” tee-shirts or something, and I found myself wondering about it – wondering when rudeness became something to brag about. My young friend gave me an answer that I thought was kind of profound. My friend said that young people get their cues about what it means to be an adult from older people – they hear older people cussing and swearing, see “grown-ups” driving aggressively, observe their frustration with work, and their impatience with life – and, because they want to look like “grown-ups”, too, they copy what they see and hear. The only difference, my young friend said, was that young people don’t have the life experience and history, yet, to go along with their cussing, frustration, and impatience – they haven’t really “earned” the right, yet, to swear and be bitchy.

My friend’s thoughts about bitchiness sent me all kinds of directions. I had to wonder, for instance, what kind of example I’d been for young folks. How many youngsters had learned how to be rude and impatient and frustrated by watching me? Now THERE was a humbling thought. Ahem. I quickly moved on from that one to other ones…

What is it that makes us, as human beings, proud of our anger – proud to have “told someone off”? I decided that was all about ego, really – wanting to prove we are somehow better, braver, stronger than other people. And THEN I thought about that and came to the conclusion that a) in my own experience, yelling at other people has never seemed to convince them I was right, or changed their ideas about stuff, and b) it doesn’t take a whole lot of courage, really, to spout off one’s opinions and beliefs, and cuss and swear and be rude.

It is my belief that it takes a lot more chutzpah to love – it takes a lot more courage to trust in  each other’s good will and humanity, than it does to scream obscenities at each other. In fact, when I think about it – the times when I’ve been the rudest are the times when I’ve been the most scared that I wasn’t going to “get my share” or I was going to be left out somehow, or forgotten or over-looked or harmed in some way.

And something in that last paragraph just made me think of a time when I found myself trying to break up a fight in a parking lot – one guy sitting on top of another punching his face bloody, banging his head into the concrete, and a ring of other guys around them – I found myself in the middle of the circle trying to yank the one guy off the other one, screaming, “Stop it! You’re going to kill him! Stop it!” Instinct (and, in retrospect, a kind of foolishness) had put me in the middle of that circle – there’d been no thought given to what I was doing, and so I can’t claim any special kind of courage there. But – and here’s the part that still gives me a kind of awe when I think about it – after security guards had hauled away the brawlers I stepped back and found that another woman – the parent of one of my former students – had stepped into the circle with me. I remember saying to her, in a kind of wonder, “You’re here, too!” And she said, “I wasn’t going to let you stand here all alone.” She HAD thought about what she was doing – she HAD made a conscious choice to put herself in harm’s way for another human being. She hadn’t screamed. She hadn’t yelled. She’d just stood there beside me. Now THAT was courage. Oh gosh. I’m tearing up right now as I think about it.

“There is too much animal courage in society and not sufficient moral courage.” – Mary Baker Eddy

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Gandhi
“Anger is the enemy of non-violence and pride is a monster that swallows it up.” – Gandhi
“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.” – Gandhi 

yelling

The Real and Ideal

“And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good”. – Genesis

“The Bible declares: ‘All things were made by Him [the divine Word]; and without Him was not anything, made that was made.’  This is the eternal verity of divine Science. If sin, sickness, and death were understood as nothingness, they would disappear.  As vapor melts before the sun, so evil would vanish before the reality of good. One must hide the other. How important, then, to choose good as the reality!” – Mary Baker Eddy

“Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts.” – Mary Baker Eddy

***

One of the things that people just learning about Christian Science sometimes have a problem cogitating is the Christian Scientist’s belief that all of creation is perfect and good and flawless, without disease, death, or sin.  And I can understand, for sure, the perception that the way Christian Scientists look at the world is just wacky. I mean, if you turn on the news or connect to the internet, we seem surrounded by chaos, cruelty, wars, dishonesty, cheating, betrayals, greed, destruction, disease, death.  To deny there’s evil in the world must seem really naïve, if not totally delusional, to most people.

And I have to admit that there have been times in my life when this way of looking at the world – with an intentional and conscious expectancy of good – has seemed sort of delusional to me, too.

But several years ago I went through an experience with depression that taught me a lot about what’s “real” and what’s not, and the power that lies in purposely and purposefully aligning myself to the good surrounding me.  There was a moment when I had a sort of epiphany – when I realized that right where there appeared to be pain and darkness and gloom – in that very same place there was incredible beauty and goodness and love.  It occurred to me that there are sort of parallel universes filling the same place and space – one that’s full of despair and discouragement, and one that’s full of hope and incredible generosity – and I could choose which one I wanted to live in, and accept as real.

Up until the time of the depression, I’d always been a naturally happy person – joy was not something I’d had to work at. But when I was in the grips of the depression it sometimes seemed like a Herculean task to put myself in a place of joy. I was sometimes overwhelmed by the sadness and hopelessness of “life.”

At the time, the depression seemed like the worst thing I’d ever gone through. In retrospect, though, I see it was one of the best.  It was, in fact, an incredible time of growth for me.

In the moment when I stood in a ray of sun bursting through the clouds, in that moment when I saw that, right where there appeared to be overwhelming darkness, there was spectacular light and joy – in that moment when I began to wake up from the depression – I made a commitment to myself to always try to keep my thoughts and being in harmony with the universe of joy, love, and beauty.

In her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes: “We are sometimes led to believe that darkness is as real as light; but Science affirms darkness to be only a mortal sense of the absence of light, at the coming of which darkness loses the appearance of reality. So sin and sorrow, disease and death, are the suppositional absence of Life, God, and flee as phantoms of error before truth and love.”

I know what Eddy writes here might sound kind of strange on the surface of it, but I have actually proven her words to be true in my own life. I have experienced those moments where I felt overwhelmed by sorrow and sickness, and, with a simple change of thought – by filling my thoughts up with love and knowing I was loved – have experienced healing.

In fact, the analogy of light and darkness that Eddy brings us has been really useful to me in understanding the power in Good.  When I think about the properties of light and darkness I recognize that Light has a source – it comes from somewhere – the sun or a lightbulb or reflected off water; Darkness, on the other hand, has no source – there’s no darkbulb we can turn on to create darkness, and there’s nothing I know of in the physical world that reflects darkness.  Darkness is nothing, comes from nowhere, has no cause or source – it’s simply the absence of light.  I picture the way light fills the darkness – light curving around dark corners, gliding into crevices, bouncing off the Moon – and wherever it touches, darkness disappears. Isn’t that cool?!  And I believe the power of good – the power of Love and Truth and Life – are like the light in that respect – everything that love and truth touch is transformed.

I don’t believe we can transform our world into its ideal by letting ourselves get pulled into the anger and hate and confusion and ugliness that seem to be trying really hard to overwhelm us.  I believe we transform our lives and our world by transforming our thoughts – by lifting our thoughts up to the ideal, and making that our reality.  I don’t mean to suggest that we ignore the sickness and misery that challenges humanity and pretend it’s not “there” – we need to recognize and expose the bad stuff, for sure – bring it out into the light and then let love and truth do to evil the same thing that light does to the mold and fungus that thrive in dark, dank places – put an end to it.

Mohatma Gandhi said, “A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”  I think we need to have the courage to deny power to evil in whatever form it takes. And yes, I think we need to deny it reality, too – not with rose-colored glasses obstinately placed on our noses, but resolutely, with the courage of our ideals, knowing that the ideal of good will win in the end. As Gandhi said, “When I despair I remember that all through history there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it. Always.”

***

 “The good you do and embody gives you the only power obtainable. Evil is not power. It is a mockery of strength, which erelong betrays its weakenss and falls, never to rise.” – Mary Baker Eddy

“Beloved Christian Scientists, keep your minds so filled with Truth and Love, that sin, disease, and death cannot enter them.” – Mary Baker Eddy

“The time to be happy is now; The place to be happy is here.” – Robert Ingersoll