#28 February 26,2006.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday, February 26, 2006 from 3pm-4:30pm in the small chapel in St. Paul's Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we pray for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

One of the key understandings of the Badaliya prayer is its grounding in the spirit of nonviolent action. Massignon was profoundly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi as a model and he called him "the last of the saints".

I invite you to use the following writings of Gandhi and Massignon as a means of entering into the Badaliya prayer this month and by sharing significant writings on nonviolence found in the Gospels, the Qur'an or in the writings of others such as Martin Luther King or Dorothy Day, the witness of Rosa Parks, and your own thoughts or experiences of nonviolence as a powerful means to social change and peaceful reconciliation.

When Mahatma Gandhi came to Paris in December 1931, Louis Massignon had the opportunity to meet with him twice. He recognized in Gandhi's life and mission a kindred spirit immersed in promoting the reconciliation of all religions, and nonviolent resistance as the only way to achieve his goals for social and political freedom. His path was profoundly spiritual. Massignon became a founder of the Friends of Gandhi in Paris and speaks of them often in his letters to the Badaliya over the years.

In a talk presented to the Ministry of Education in New Delhi on January 7, 1953, Massignon describes the key words, and their deeper meanings, that he felt grounded Gandhi's path and were shared as values in world religions. Gandhi was a man who contemplated deeply the meaning of religious words such as vow, vrata, that led him to a deep commitment to the sacredness of life and the need to ground one's social action in prayer, a careful meditation before every act.

In his talk Massignon states: "We must understand that it is impossible to perform a social action without a kind of vow.,,,It is the determination to suffer any consequences, good or bad, in the performance of that action. Gandhi said that a hunger-strike "is not a technique to coerce others to your way of action. It is a desire coming from God that obliges me to hunger-strike". It was distasteful for him to make fasting a weapon.

This question of understanding the true meaning of certain Sanskrit words that Gandhi chose is very important in order to understand his actions. He found social compassion for the masses through his personal practice of atonement. ...Gandhi had realized the meaning of his utterances and that mantras were meant to be practiced. He was a believer in the universal brotherhood of man. He had equal respect for pure faith in all religions and cultures.... Gandhi believed in the potential power of satyagraha (nonviolent resistance) so much that he employed it right through the fight against foreign rule in India.
(Mason. 1989. "Testimonies and Reflections: Essays of Louis Massignon" p.148)

Massignon continues by exploring the words in Arabic such as Haqq (truth) and the Muslim worship of the truth as God, and its parallel satya in Sanskrit. Massignon states, "Those who believe that life is to be sacrificed for truth's sake, whether Hindu or Muslim, live by truth. In the true meaning, his life becomes the fullfilment of an oath, for it is a vow, a vrata".

"Another aspect of Satyagraha is pilgrimage....It is a kind of sacrifice to leave your familiar goods and go to Banaras. It is in a pilgrimage toward Truth that Gandhi went to all such places, wherever they exist....Sacrifice is still the meaning of pilgrimage for the person who has a vow of satya. Among the Hindus there is a common belief of going to moksha in the way in which the Muslims think of going to Mecca, which is not something material, but rather spiritual. Gandhiji never failed to keep in touch with the people by going on a pilgrimage with others, and that was as a realization of his vow...... I realized that if he made a Muslim pilgrimage to Mehrauli, he did it for the sake of compassion towards Muslims, as he understood that Muslims were truly Indians". (Mason.p.149)

"The last two years of Gandhi's life are very important. In these two years one can see horrible happenings taking place, people killing one another, and doing all sorts of heinous things. Gandhiji took the blame on himself and said,'I have been a bad workman'. He did not use words lightly like so many of us, but realized their full meaning and resorted to satyagraha to atone for other's sins". (Mason.p.150)

"Throughout his life Gandhi identified himself as a Hindu, but he remained remarkably open to Truth wherever he found it. He believed all religions led to Truth. He wrote:

"I believe in the fundamental truth of all the great religions of the world. I believe that they are all God-given, and I beleive that they were necessary for the people to whom these religions were revealed. And I beleive that, if only we could all of us read the scriptures of different faiths from the standpoint of the followers of those faiths, we should find that they were at bottom all one and were all helpful to one another". (Hajiran, (child of God, a name given by Gandhi to the outcasts, untouchables) February 16,1934. In Deats, R. "Mahatma Gandhi, nonviolent liberator" 2005.New City Press. p.37)

In India in 1919 Gandhi "expressed his horror at the Indian violence that contradicted the call to satyagraha (nonviolent resistance). He undertook a penitential three-day fast, taking the suffering onto himself. He had over-estimated the people's readiness and commitment to adhere to means that were compatible with the end being sought. A goal such as freedom, no matter how noble, cannot be achieved through unworthy means".

"Suffering in one's own person is...the essence of nonviolence and is the chosen substitute for violence to others. It is not because I give little value to life that I countenance with joy thousands voluntarily losing their lives for Satyagraha, but because I know that it results in the long run in the least loss of life, and what is more it ennobles those who lose their lives". (In "Young India" October 8,1925. Deats p.114).

Peace to you.