I used to preach that violence could only be stopped with greater violence.
For a time, I really believed this.
Until I placed the truth to testing.
Then I didn’t believe it.
In the cauldron of pragmatic jurisprudence my old truth did not fare well.
Now, today, I know that violence only begets more violence.
I am certain of this. I have the proof.
Violence is futile, even if it is well intended it always rebounds on itself.
This is my current truth.
I am very aware that many people in the world still believe (and still practice), in a very literal sense that an eye should be taken for an eye.
For them, revenge – the bloodier the better – is the truth.
And it will be their truth.
Until it is not.
Personally, I deeply and intimately contemplated my belief in violence and found it vacuous.
This is the essence of my hard learning.
I did not take this information from a tutorial or from a conversation or from a book.
I am ashamed to say that I had to stamp on heads and kick out teeth before I earned this knowledge (‘we do not receive knowledge, we achieve knowledge: Iman Al-Thawri).
Crushed heads and broken teeth: it sounds hideous, I know.
Please forgive my visceral recalling.
But, if I gave you the Hollywood version I would more likely excite you into violence than I would repel you against it.
If I am going to offer you my truth, it is important that you know where it comes from, it is important that you know my truth has roots.
On the pavement arena, where hard drinkers turn to hard fighting and the losers (sometimes the winners too) are taken to the A&E Department of the local hospital (or the morgue), you learn very quickly what works in a real fight.
You also learn quick-smart that no one escapes the thick, blood-red trail of reciprocity.
Karma always keeps score for the Master of the Scales, be in no doubt, and when the time comes to repay, denial and rationalisation die in the air like a dead thing.
Even your own skin will speak a testimony against you.
I can bear witness to this truth.
For a long time I was in hell, a dweller of the flames.
I suffered hideous and prolonged atonements for my years of violent folly.
In an angry affray – in the microcosm or the macrocosm – there can be no winners.
I am aware that my view may not curry favour in the present climate of war and terror: the tabloids like to peddle fear – the opiate of the masses – and the clarion-call of revenge and blood-lust is never far from the front pages.
Yes, clearly there are many with the polar-opposite view to mine.
They believe that violence should be met with still greater violence.
I understand this view, and even if I disagree with it I do not judge it.
I am the wrong man to judge; I have been too much of a hypocrite in my own life to magistrate over others.
I cannot concern myself with the reformation of others until I have reformed myself.
As I said, I used to hold the very same opinion on violence; I practiced it … until I didn’t.
Everyone is at their own stage of knowing.
I try to understand others; I try to understand their truth, even if it differs radically from my own.
I do this because even the wrong belief can eventually lead to a better truth, if it is used as a bridge.
The great Iman AL-Ghazali would call this an interim truth; it is not the true truth, but it is a belief that might take a soul one step closer to it.
The controversial Guru, Osho once wrote: ‘everyone should own a Rolls Royce. You can see God better from a Rolls Royce.’
His words agitated and angered a lot of people because they read him literally.
What he was really saying was this: if you believe that material wealth (in this case a car) was going to make you happy – if the car was your god – then the best thing to do was buy a Rolls Royce, then you will know whether it’s true or not. You will sit in the car and you will know that it is just a piece of moving metal.
It will not make you happy.
It will not solve your problems.
It will not even cure the common cold, let alone offer a solution to the human condition.
What it will do is act as an interim truth, a bridge.
It won’t show you God, but it will allow you to eliminate it from the list of contenders.
When I had my first very fast car I was disappointed … then I was exhilarated.
I was disappointed because, when I sat in the designer seat and pressed my foot against the chromed accelerator my heart sank: I immediately knew that there are not enough fast cars on this spinning planet to connect me to Truth.
Then I was exhilarated because…I knew that there are not enough fast cars on this spinning planet to connect me to Truth.
I was able to tick the very fast car off my list.
The best way to find out who you really are, is to first find out who you really are not.
Trace through all the false personalities until you locate the Authentic you.
The false personalities can be seen as interim steps to the Real You.
My belief in material possessions was not the truth.
But exploring the belief that it was, took me one step closer.
Similarly, believing in violence as a younger man was an interim truth for me.
It was not the true truth, but it got me closer to it, because when I warred with people on the nightclub doors of Coventry (exercising my interim belief) I saw first-hand that violence is not only futile, it is also obscene: the arcana I earned from my sojourn as a club bouncer was that it is impossible to enact violence on others without at the very same time enacting violence on our self.
Whatever you do to others you automatically do to yourself, because hate and anger and violence have to be processed through every cell of your body before you can project those demons onto others.
The karma is not only instant; it is also very long lasting.
There is no spirit; there is no Intelligence, there no joy in harming others.
I tried it. There is no joy here.
And of course, when we offer subjective anger to something we become immediately bound – one might say imprisoned – by the object of our hate.
Hate is a human fly trap.
The moment I saw this Truth, I was able to drop my interim belief (like a hot brick) and move to a higher truth.
Everyone is where they are, and while they are there, that truth is (a discomforting but) vital bridge (and interim step) to a better place.
Of course, it impacts on us all, but this has been the way throughout the history of human ascension. With this in mind, I try to honour other people’s views, I try to honour other people and if I am asked for an opinion I will proffer my truth, always aware that truth is a moving feast, and tomorrow I may know something better than what I know today.
I will do this without being cynical or judgmental of their truth.
Cynicism and judgment are just subtle forms of violence.
Their truth is their truth.
It is where they are.
And where they are is an important stage in getting to where they want to go.
Certainly it was an important stage in where I wanted to go.
I will leave you with words from the great Tibetan Yogi (‘murderer turned saint’) Jestsun Milerepa:
“The sages show no interest in analysing the material foundation of injustice, or of trying to alter these foundations at the level material reality.”
The Jestsun knew what we all know deep down: we can’t change the material world, because the material world is but a shadow-play of the mind.
It is not possible to change the material world.
But we can change ourselves.
And when we change ourselves, the material world will miraculously change.