Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: His Pilgrimage to Nonviolence

I share these writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in hopes they will inspire you as they have inspired me towards greater compassion and justice.

In This Article

The Past Inspires Our Future 

mlk march racism

I have always been a believer of ahimsa (nonviolence) and have made the study of yoga and Ayurvedic philosophy my life’s work. In these challenging times, I personally look for inspiration in two inspirational leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi, who pioneered the power of nonviolence. I understand that many take issue with Gandhi and do not credit him for India’s independence, but I respect him for popularizing the Vedic principle of ahimsa (nonviolence) and inspiring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For those two things, I am grateful.

In these challenging times, however, we all must follow our own hearts and beat to our own drum. As long as we relentlessly act and get involved to right the wrongs of this world and not stand by idly, we can change the consciousness of racism, greed, and bigotry around the world. 

My personal beliefs in nonviolence do not stop me from wholeheartedly condemning police brutality, racial injustice, unconscious racial bias, or allow me to accept the current criminal justice system, where police have immunity from criminal actions. Along with the Black Lives Matter movement, I pray that we will finally right the wrongs of thousands of years of racial injustice around the world and, in particular, the 400 years of our country’s attempts to destroy the honor, integrity and dignity of black men, women, and children.

I share these writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in hopes they will inspire you as they have inspired me towards greater compassion and justice.

Dr. King’s Philosophy 

Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of America’s greatest leaders. He had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and unrelenting desire for truth. He read, studied, and critiqued the great philosophers from Kant and Heidegger to Nietzsche and Rauschenbusch. Rauschenbusch’s Christianity and the Social Crisis left an indelible imprint on his thinking.1

Old key on antique book

He devoured books on liberalism, existentialism, and of course, Christianity. However, he felt the “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemies” philosophy was only valid for individual conflicts, whereas conflicts between racial groups and nations necessitated a different approach.1 

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The Influence of Gandhi on Dr. King  

After Rauschenbusch, he came upon the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. He quickly became fascinated by his successful campaigns of nonviolence. About India’s successful push for independence, MLK wrote, “The aftermath of hatred and bitterness that usually follows a violent campaign is found nowhere in India. Today a mutual friendship based on complete equality exists between the Indian and British people within the commonwealth.”1 

Gandhi’s nonviolent movement was called satyagraha (satya is truth which equals love, and graha is force; satyagraha thus means truth-force or love-force). Dr. King wrote, “As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time that the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”1 

Transforming Belief into Action 

In 1954, Rev. Dr. King was a pastor in Montgomery, Alabama, and drew on his Christian faith and Gandhi’s nonviolent method to lead his followers. He hoped to attain freedom and dignity for black people in the epicenter of the racist south.  

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He writes, “The Negro people of Montgomery, exhausted by the humiliating experiences that they had constantly faced on the buses, expressed in a massive act of noncooperation their determination to be free. At the beginning of the protest the people called on me to serve as their spokesman. In accepting this responsibility my mind, consciously or unconsciously, was driven back to the Sermon on the Mount and the Gandhian method of nonviolent resistance. This principle became the guiding light of our movement. Christ furnished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi furnished the method.” 1 

After the Montgomery bus boycott, he became fully aware that the journey was going to be a marathon, not a sprint. As both Jesus and Gandhi taught, a nonviolent campaign can transform and unmask an unfound strength, courage, and self-respect, while transforming the heart and mind of the oppressed and oppressor. 

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Making Change Slowly 

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Dr. King writes, “I do not want to give the impression that nonviolence will work miracles overnight. Men are not easily moved from their mental ruts or purged of their prejudiced and irrational feelings. When the underprivileged demand freedom, the privileged first react with bitterness and resistance. Even when the demands are couched in nonviolent terms, the initial response is the same. I am sure that many of our white brothers in Montgomery and across the south are still bitter toward Negro leaders, even though these leaders have sought to follow a way of love and nonviolence. So the nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally, it reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality.”1 

Dr. King’s journey and struggles only strengthened his relationship with God. He said that while surrounded by outer dangers he felt an inner calm and strength that only God could give. 

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When you read the words of Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., it becomes clear that the practice of nonviolence is a spiritual technique designed to open our hearts and the hearts of others. Nonviolence surprises the oppressors with love and they stand in awe of the self-respect, faith, and fearlessness that could only come from the “Love Force” or “Truth Force.”  

We must all find our own way to participate in change. Today, we stand on the cusp of a global transformation and we all must participate. Find your way! Write to your senators, mayors, police chiefs; strike; boycott; protest; donate; or pray. If we all take action and don’t stop, we can achieve the dream!  

Inspiring Quotes from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.3 

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”   —Stride Toward Freedom, 1958 

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  —Strength to Love, 1963 

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.”  —”Letter From Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963 

“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” —”I Have A Dream” speech, Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963 

Inspiring Quotes from Mahatma Gandhi2 

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” 

“The greatness of humanity is not in being human, but in being humane.” 

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” 

“Change yourself—you are in control.” 

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” 

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” 

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” 

How will you express your Love Force? 

Looking for an action to take right now? Join us in donating to Black Lives Matter.

References

  1. https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/pilgrimage-nonviolence 
  2. https://www.biography.com/news/gandhi-quotes?li_source=LI&li_medium=bio-mid-article&li_pl=208&li_tr=bio-mid-article 
  3. https://www.biography.com/news/martin-luther-king-famous-quotes 

10 thoughts on “Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: His Pilgrimage to Nonviolence”

  1. I am not interested in your opinion on current events. It is unfortunate when businesses forget the purpose of their relationship with the consumer. I am unsubscribing.

    Reply
    • In America, you should not discuss politics, religion, foods….?? Machoism, greed, control, Imperialism In 2020 AD? Not much friends left.
      I personally think, British learned in India in period of over 90 years, how to “slowly” cook the frog in the pot?

      Reply
  2. Firstly, id like to say Dr John you are one of my heroes in the Ayurveda and health world. By far one of the best in this field. Your books, studies and website have had a tremendous positive impact on my self and the family and friends i share your work with. I have a lot appreciation for you and gratitude for your effort and your work.

    However i feel you are way off with all this stuff you are posting about non-violence in the face of brutal oppression, disrespect and violence.

    The white majority loves to talk about Martin and his tactics to make change. The white majority want their blacks quite and humble. They don’t want us to stand up for ourselves they want us to just take it and turn the other cheek.

    Thats a lot more convieient for the powers that be. Martin Luther King Jr. I love him. I would never disrespect my black leaders. He has played a massive part in my education and my ability to be proud of my skin colour. However we can’t just keep glorifying a tactic that basically didn’t work. Martin was shot and killed in the end.

    Where are the articles about Malcolm X?
    He talked about self defence.

    What is wrong with defending ourselves. Think carefully Dr john why Martin is so popular. Why Martin is taught to our kids and Malcolm X is left out of our history books. Why is X not glorified by whites? Can you answer this question?

    Dr John, If someone hits you, your kids or loved ones i’d expect you to hit back or at least defend yourself right?

    Please don’t say i’m promoting violence. I am in no way promoting violence. That is the whole point of these protests. We all want the senseless violence to stop.

    Defending ones self is a natural thing. Am i wrong?

    Every single creature on this planet has a defense mechanism. Animals do. Plants do. Humans do. Our own bodies have defense systems. You have articles talking about this.

    Why should Black people be relegated to singing and marching only? All the hate, violence and disrespect we get and we have to just take it. its un-natural. Its not the answer. its not even ever proven to be the answer.

    martial arts were introduced to China by an Indian Buddhist monk known as Bodhidharma. The early Chinese Buddhist monks went far and wide to propagate Buddhism. They often had to travel treacherous paths which were roamed by waiting bandits. The Buddhist monks had to protect themselves against these bandits but there was a problem. The monks were pacifists so they could not carry weapons. Instead, they learned to defend themselves with their fists and legs.

    Imagine Buddism the most beautifully peaceful philosophy was unable to sweep the world because the were unable to defend themselves.

    Please Dr John don’t be so narrowed minded. Think carefully.

    Reply
    • Let talk on a celluilar level.
      What if when a viral disease came into our body and all immune system and our natural defense systems did was “sing and march” practice Ahimsa. We end up sadly like Martin did.

      Look i’m tired off this. We the people are tired of this. I really should have to spend my time fight. i should be drinking my Golden milk and getting ready for bed. its hard. its doesn’t need to be. i don’t have the answers but we need to discuss the way towards peace.
      Right mow we all might think this a black and white thing, but really its a class thing,
      its a Natural Medicine vs Western Synthetic Medicine. its bigger than we think. we all need to stand and fight weather it be with knowledge, caring for each other, defending our families and communities or with spiritual growth.

      Peace and Love to all.

      Reply
  3. Thanks John for remind us all! It’s easy to get frustrated and angry even if you deep inside know it’s wrong and leads nowhere.
    If anyone wants to know more about living from the heart, I highly recommend to checking out HeartMath.com.

    Reply
  4. Dr John

    Keep up the great work, you have done wonders for my health and knowledge. Crazy that people are on YOUR website speaking their mind and telling you not to!

    In order to change their needs to be discussion, that is both sides listening and both side having an opportunity to speak about how they feel. Unfortunately that is not happening here. I am a white male and have a black wife and three beautiful children. If I speak a word of wisdom that both sides might have things they might need to change I am considered Racist, my wife she is a sell out. I will therefore leave you with two articles written by to prominent black men who I greatly respect for their willingness to look also look within.

    I submit these because I truly love my brothers and sisters of any color and believe open, honest and peaceful discussion is the only way to make change. I FULLY agree that change is needed. I am heart broken over Mr Floyd’s death and the current state of our country.

    https://www.joplinglobe.com/opinion/columns/larry-elder-wheres-black-lives-matter-when-you-need-them/article_dae98758-d8e7-5339-9b4a-f34b6ba77ed8.html

    https://nationalcenter.org/project21/2015/01/01/the-black-lives-matter-slogan-ignores-self-destructive-behavior-by-derryck-green/

    Reply

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