As human beings, generally we are pleasure seekers and pain avoiders. As such, it should come as no surprise that most of us do not enjoy being physically beaten, abused or even killed. In fact, avoiding these outcomes are the top priorities in our lives. If you look at various codes of ethical conduct, not killing generally ranks first. Not harming someone physically is a lesser form of killing. Not stealing is often chosen second to killing, primarily for its proximity to supporting life. In particular, one should not steal the resources most essential to supporting the life of its owner.
However, to be happy, simply not being beaten up or killed at the moment is a start…but it is not sufficient. On a more subtle level, we must contend with the possibility that violence could erupt at any moment. To be realistic, there is no way we can have certainty of our safety in the next moment. How can we relax and enjoy our lives when we know the good times are not guaranteed?
Then we need to look at an even more subtle level. If we inspect our minds, we can often see a dualism that separates ourselves from others, particularly when we define ourselves as our own physical bodies. As long as there is an “us and a them,” there is a tendency to think of “mine and theirs.” This line of reasoning leads to separation, with an inherent potential for conflict. For example, “I want what they have” and vice versa, or “they had no right to do that to me.” Conflict is what ultimately leads to violence. The seeds for violence exist in our minds through this dualistic perspective on a moment to moment basis. It is this violence we know that can erupt at any moment and destroy the little peace we have managed to find. So we should know that it is the very lens through which we view the world on a daily basis has built within it the same violence we desperately wish to avoid.