Nonviolence is the practice of being harmless to self and others under every condition. It comes from the belief that hurting people, animals or the environment is unnecessary to achieve an outcome and refers to a general philosophy of abstention from violence based on moral, religious or spiritual principles.
For some, the philosophy of nonviolence is rooted in the simple belief that God is harmless. Therefore, to more strongly connect with God, one must likewise be harmless. Nonviolence also has 'active' or 'activist' elements, in that believers accept the need for nonviolence as a means to achieve political and social change. Thus, for example, the Gandhian ahimsa is a philosophy and strategy for social change that rejects the use of violence, but at the same time sees nonviolent action (also called civil resistance) as an alternative to passive acceptance of oppression or armed struggle against it. In general, advocates of an activist philosophy of nonviolence use diverse methods in their campaigns for social change, including critical forms of education and persuasion, mass noncooperation civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action and social, political, cultural and economic forms of intervention.
In modern times, nonviolent methods of action have been a powerful tool for social protest and revolutionary social and political change. There are many examples of their use. Fuller surveys may be found in the entries on civil resistance, nonviolent resistance and nonviolent revolution. Here certain movements particularly influenced by a philosophy of nonviolence should be mentioned, including Mahatma Gandhi leading a decades-long nonviolent struggle against British rule in India, which eventually helped India win its independence in 1947, Martin Luther King's and James Bevel's adoption of Gandhi's nonviolent methods in the struggle to win civil rights for African Americans, and César Chávez's campaigns of nonviolence in the 1960s to protest the treatment of farm workers in California. The 1989 "Velvet Revolution" in Czechoslovakia that saw the overthrow of the Communist government is considered one of the most important of the largely nonviolent Revolutions of 1989. Most recently the nonviolent campaigns of Leymah Gbowee and the women of Liberia were able to achieve peace after a 14-year civil war. This story is captured in a 2008 documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell. In an essay, "To Abolish War," evolutionary biologist Judith Hand advocated the use of nonviolent direct action to dismantle the global war machine.
The Dhammayietra is an annual peace walk in Cambodia that originated during the historic repatratiation of refugees along the Thai border camps during the United Nations monitored transition to democracy in 1992. The peace walk takes place in early May and usually involves an assemblage of Buddhist monks and lay persons who travel various routes in Cambodia. The assemblage is often greeted by villagers along the route who expect a blessing (tuk mon or blessing with lustral water). The founder of the Dhammayietra was Maha Ghosananda, a Buddhist monk who ranked among the higher echelons of the Cambodian sangha; he led the first Dhammayietra as he returned from exile following the war.
In 1995, the Dhammayietra consisted of almost 500 Cambodian Buddhist monks, nuns and precept-taking lay people. They were joined by The Interfaith Pilgrimage for Peace and Life. Together the two groups crossed Cambodia from the Thai border all the way to Vietnam, spending several days walking through Khmer Rouge controlled territory along the way.
Dhammayietra is often translated as "pilgrimage of truth."
Preah Maha Ghosananda