Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Harmlessness

I once witnessed a shy two-year old child enter a room in a city he had never before visited. In the corner of the room sat a little old man whom the boy did not know. Immediately upon seeing the old man, with no words spoken, the toddler ran over and jumped into the old man’s lap. The little old man was Suleyman “Dede” Loras, chief Sheikh of the Mevlevi Sufi Order, the Whirling Dervishes. Dede had so steeped himself in love and kindness, that he exuded harmlessness. The child understood this intuitively.

The attitude of non-harming arises out of a humble approach to living: life is not about me, but about what lies beyond me, other people and the spirit. If I do not sit like a king or a beggar in the center of my personality, if I realize the illusory nature of my egoism and thus have no ego to defend, my heart rests in profound peace, letting others be themselves, letting others grow in their own time and manner, letting others flower in the atmosphere of love, letting others rest in the safety of our mutual presence. If I do not seek to take, then others need not defend themselves from me.

Harmlessness, in word and in deed, need not imply weakness. In the public sphere outstanding examples include the civil disobedience of the Indian independence movement under Mahatma Gandhi and the American civil rights movement under Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Of course civil disobedience only worked in those cases because their opponents had not completely lost touch with conscience. One doubts, for example, that Jewish civil disobedience would have proven effective against the Nazis. But while exceptional circumstances can and do militate against harmlessness, such cases thankfully remain very rare and do not impinge upon our ordinary daily life. Responding to rudeness with civility signifies strength of spirit, not weakness: “the last shall be first.”

The work of non-harming highlights our attachments, shows us where ego still holds sway. “I want that. Get out of my way.” “If I am harmless, won’t I appear weak?” Non-harming can serve as a mirror guiding us toward liberation and away from such self-centered views, melting the bars of our prison. The practice of non-harming illumines areas and occasions where we consider ourselves to be separate from others, for only then can harmful impulses engulf us. In aspiring to harmlessness, one consciously descends from the “lofty” throne of egoism.

Most profoundly, perhaps, the harmless person enables others to love. Everyone loved Dede.

Blessed are the meek…”(Matthew 5:5)


        

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