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Our Five Guiding Principles

Lokashakti Corporate SealAfter explaining the meaning of lokashakti we thought it would be helpful to elaborate the five principles we use to guide its application, along with how they relate to what our nonprofit organization does:


1. Ahiṃsā (nonviolence)

Ahimsa (nonviolence) in the Devanagari scriptAs it is with the great Indian religions, the most important principle of lokashakti. The classic Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, states it best. "Ahiṃsā Paramo Dharmaḥ," it says: nonviolence is the highest law - a position also adopted by Buddhists and Jains. It comprises the interrelatedness of all life, the inherent equality of all humankind, and what's come to be known as the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. True lokashakti is in its very nature completely nonviolent. As Vinoba Bhave stated in 1953,[1] and political theorist Hannah Arendt later noted, violence is the polar opposite of people's power: where one rules absolutely, the other ceases to exist.[2]

This nonprofit organization was created first and foremost to promote positive social change through peaceful means. We hold nonviolence as the ultimate ideal to work towards, which is why most of the resources we make available are designed to increase understanding of nonviolence both as a philosophy and as a practical means for transforming the world. Ever since Mohandas Gandhi first demonstrated that through deliberately nonviolent collective action people could achieve social and political ends, the goal of a global society based on peace and justice has been brought into view. He based his methods on ahiṃsā, which we've learned is where the key lies to the true effectiveness of lokashakti. Accordingly, the principle permeates the entire site, from the Lokashakti Network and its raison d'être all the way down to the quotes you'll find across the bottom of each page. Its influence is also strongly felt throughout our library and encyclopedia projects as well.

2. Satya (truth)

Satya (truth) in the Devanagari scriptAn ancient concept, revitalized by Gandhi, which in the context of lokashakti encourages openness, good faith, and an honest effort to strive for justice on every issue. Of utmost importance is to understand how easily the power of the people can cease to be a force for good if the people are not well informed. As we've seen throughout the course of history, action without awareness can be a very dangerous thing, however well-intentioned the people may be. Satya therefore becomes an indispensable component to lokashakti, and reminds us to always go after the truth on every issue before committing to act.

At Lokashakti this concept of truth and openness takes the form of a commitment to honesty in all the content we feature and create. While we strive to be free from partiality, if a bias does exist it will always be against violence and injustice, no matter which side of the political spectrum may be more at fault. The idea of satya also shows up in certain policies of the site. For instance, we ask that if at all possible you use your real name when creating your account. We also have you record your current city, which in addition to allowing us the possibility of tailoring search results, also lets people get inspired by just how many of us there are in a given place. Although at times too much openness can put the safety of activists at risk, more often than not there's strength in taking a public stand. While we do indeed take people's privacy very seriously, there's no reason that privacy and a commitment to truth cannot peacefully coexist.

3. Dayā (compassion)

Daya (compassion) in the Devanagari scriptA pan-Indian notion that challenges us to cultivate sympathy for the suffering of others and a sense of universal responsibility for people's well-being. In Sikhism, for instance, scripture holds that from dayā is born the moral law permeating the entire Sikh faith.[3] It also serves as guide to lokashakti's principal concept of ahiṃsā, ensuring that instead of merely refraining from violence we stay focused on the need for action when faced with injustice. Perhaps no one in recent years has spoken so well on the need for compassion as the Dalai Lama, who hails it as "the true expression of nonviolence."[4]

Dayā helps us know what kinds of organizations and events to promote on the site. While satya informs our action, dayā gives it a conscience. And although nonviolence is nowhere near synonymous with inaction, sometimes compassion better leads us to create the conditions in which nonviolence can eventually be effective. Many people think that nonviolence is powerless to stop evils such as terrorism and genocide. It is less often noted, however, that most of the time violence doesn't work any better, and at times even exacerbates the problem. It's in these types of situations where it's vitally important to think ahead and act swiftly, guided by compassion, in order to prevent things from ever reaching the stage at which these kinds of evils take root.  Dayā should really be our first line of defense against violence and injustice, either setting the stage for nonviolence to work, or else rendering it entirely unnecessary.  It is, in fact, the perfect complement to ahiṃsā.

4. Abhaya (fearlessness)

Abhaya (fearlessness) in the Devanagari scriptAnother necessary component stressed again by Gandhi, expounded upon and exemplified more recently by Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi. From them we learn that once people have struck fear from their own hearts there is no amount of repression they cannot withstand, and no goal that remains out of reach. In the Western context, Martin Luther King, Jr. became the very embodiment of abhaya, campaigning tirelessly against injustice knowing that in all likelihood it would eventually cost him his life. As this freedom from fear permeated the Civil Rights movement, it accomplished in less than ten years through lokashakti what prior generations had been fighting for since the introduction of slavery to America.

Fast forward to 2011, and we see how in three weeks the dictatorship that had ruled Egypt unbroken for thirty years came tumbling down, unable to withstand the newfound fearlessness of the Egyptian people. And so the world was given the best example it could ever want for how lokashakti, supported by the power of the Internet, can yield incredible results. This is exactly why the site encourages real-life interaction, planning real-life events, and getting out there into the real world and making things happen. The feeling of power and the erosion of fear brought on by the physical presence and solidarity of fellow activists is something the Internet can never replace. The Lokashakti Network is merely a tool, designed to facilitate real-world action and break us out of the mindset that we're alone in this struggle; that there's nothing one person can do. No substitute exists, nor should it, for banding together with others in solidarity and abhaya, taking a public stand, and refusing to stand down "until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."[5]

5. Sevā (service)

Seva (service) in the Devanagari scriptCommon to the many faith traditions, the concept of service for the uplift of society, without concern for reward. In concrete terms, sevā takes the form of action for the benefit of one's community, be it local, regional, national, or global. And while oftentimes action undertaken in the spirit of sevā can be very direct, tangible work, it can also include efforts to strike at the root of long-standing social problems such as the triple evils of poverty, racism, and war. Either way, this essential final component is the key that allows lokashakti to go beyond merely positive guiding principles. Without service, none of them can ever have a chance to make a difference in society at large. All the good intentions in the world mean nothing if you never let them compel you to act, and it's through sevā that we translate lokashakti into action.

We advocate a two-pronged approach. This means engaging in activism and agitation, raising awareness, taking direct action when necessary; while simultaneously never neglecting the work to be done in our community, from the local level on up. No matter what happens, sevā will always have a role to play, either in working to solve social problems, or in safeguarding the gains that have been made. When thinking big, one's community is often the first place to build support for anything you're trying to do. The basis of that support, however, comes from thinking small - relationships that over time have been nurtured by a commitment to giving back. In addition to promoting activism on the site, we can just as easily use it to promote volunteerism as well, taking advantage of features like projects and events. Whether it takes the form of Gandhi's Constructive Programme, the later Sarvodaya movement, or Martin Luther King, Jr.'s vision of how to attain his Beloved Community,[6] the recurring theme of sevā is essential to any sound method for systematic social change.

The five principles enumerated here serve to guide not only the practical application of lokashakti, but also the operation of our organization. By following them we ensure that the adoption of lokashakti the concept will always be in the direction of doing the most good, and that the influence of Lokashakti the organization will always be positively focused. Thanks for reading.

Lokashakti in the Devanagari script

[1] See Bhoodan Yajna, page 86.

[2] From Arendt's On Violence, page 56.

[3] From the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, page 3.

[4] See The Spirit of Tibet: Universal Heritage, page 252.

[5] From the Book of Amos, 5:24, quoted by King during his speech at the 1963 March on Washington. See A Testament of Hope, page 219.

[6] See the website of the King Center in Atlanta for an excellent elaboration of Dr. King's vision.

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