Osho on Nonviolence and Social Justice : Nonviolence is not social policy and law. If it is social tradition and law, it can never free itself from violence Nonviolence is not social, it is spiritual. If we make nonviolence a social law, then we may, some day, consider violence a necessity. And then it becomes such a disaster that violence will be considered necessary to protect nonviolence. Suppose a man commits violence against somebody, the court will commit violence — punish him because he had committed violence. If a country — a nation commits violence against another country, then the latter will react with violence against the former, because it is considered just to reply violence with violence.
To endure violence is injustice, and it is not proper to endure injustice. And the slogan of nonviolence, of which I am talking about is spiritual. And if we wish to discuss social nonviolence, there will always be a relative law of nonviolence also. It will accommodate both violence and nonviolence. These two will be mixed there, it will be like a Mixed Economy. Violence and nonviolence stand side by side here; only their aspects go on changing. Complete or total nonviolence is not possible on the social level. It is extremely difficult to achieve total nonviolence even on an individual level. It is not proper even to hope when we shall achieve it on a society level and a mass level. It is as improper as to hope for self-realisation on a society mass level .
It is not proper even to hope that all persons will achieve self-knowledge, because it is a matter of choice. If a person wishes to remain without self-knowledge, he cannot be compelled to achieve self-knowledge. There will always be freedom to achieve self-knowledge, there will be choice. We simply hope that gradually more and more persons may get self-knowledge, but there is one danger — fear. I shall tell you about that also. He who achieves self-knowledge, cannot return to this society of ours. He does not return. There is no new birth for him, because desires, hope and wishes are necessary for a new birth. He whose desires have remained unfulfilled returns for a new birth in which he wishes to fulfil them.
If persons like Mahavira or Buddha return to one new birth, their one desire at least has remained unfulfilled and that was to tell others what they had known. That is also a desire in its true sense. If I have got something which I wish to tell others, I shall return. But that is also a desire, the final desire. But when that desire is crossed, how can one return? Those who achieve self-knowledge, disappear into the space. They become one with that great ‘Cosmos’, with that great ‘Consciousness’.
Those who do not achieve self-knowledge, return to the earth. That is why the society at times brings forth some flower of self-knowledge. Such a flower blossoms, fades away and its fragrance is lost in the sky, and then the society goes on as before. The society cannot be the knower of self-knowledge, it shall remain ignorant of that. But the flower of a self-realized person will go on blossoming, can go On blossoming and has been blossoming in the society ignorant of self-knowledge.
Nonviolence can never become a fact on the social level. Therefore those who have advocated nonviolence on the social level, have admitted the presence of violence; they will have to do so. Violence will continue. Then violence and nonviolence will be the two aspects of the society according to its necessity. There will be nonviolence when it is required, and there will be violence when i; is necessary and it will be adopted. When India was fighting for freedom, the freedom fighter was nonviolent. And when he got power, he became violent. It was possible to fight nonviolence for freedom because there was no scope to fight violently. But on achieving authority, the nonviolent fighter did not think of ruling nonviolently.
The English did not use their guns as much as these nonviolent people have done in this country. One who considers nonviolence a matter of policy, or a convenience of the society, will become violent if necessity arises. It will be a matter of convenience for him whether to be violent or nonviolent. But Mahavira can never be made violent under any circumstances. To him nonviolence is not a social policy or principle, it is a spiritual truth. It is not a matter of convenience for him so that he can be whatever he likes. It is the great destiny for him. Everything can be sacrificed for nonviolence; even the self can be sacrificed. But it is possible only for an individual to be such a nonviolent person. And if a society ever commits a mistake of turning nonviolent, it will simply be come cowardly, but cannot be nonviolent.
If a society thinks that it shall follow Mahavira’s nonviolence, then there will emerge a nonviolent society. A nonviolent society is not possible. Only individuals can be The followers of Mahavira’s nonviolence. So the society which tries to be nonviolent thinking that it follows Mahavira’s nonviolence will simply be a cowardly society, and it will proclaim its cowardice as nonviolence. It will go on calling its lack of daring to commit violence as nonviolence. But if we scratch its skin a little, we shall find streams of violence flowing within. A coward is also a great violent person but he is so only mentally. So bear in mind, a society cannot be nonviolent, I do say that it is never possible. It is very difficult, it is impossible. Only an individual can be nonviolent. The nonviolence which I am talking about is not a social truth, it is an individual achievement.
Source: Osho Book “The Perennial Path: The Art of Living”