• Manoj Jain is a physician and founder of the Gandhi King Conference www.gandhiking.org in Memphis
  • Akhil Shah is an aerospace engineer based in Boston.

On Tuesday April 4, I watched on TV as President Trump was indicted on 34 felony counts. I hoped  the prosecutors would treat him with respect and dignity.

Two days later, on Thursday April 6, I watched the Tennessee House expel two Black legislators who had joined  a public protest in the Capitol.

How the prosecutors handle Trump and how  the super-majority Republican legislators handled the Democrats got me thinking about the ancient Indian philosophy of Anekantavada, and how we should treat those we oppose.

I have learned the following. First, we must treat our opposition with respect. Second, we must treat them fairly, especially when we are more powerful than them. Lastly, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Respecting everyone’s truth

Anekantavada is a  philosophical construct built on the idea that the Truth to most of us is elusive, relative, and has many perspectives. Only to an “enlightened soul” is the complete Truth evident.

Remember the allegory of six blind men and the elephant? Each  is touching a different part of the elephant’s body, and each is convinced he  possesses the whole  elephant. Likewise, we are convinced that the entire Truth is that one part we hold. As a result of  this limited perspective, we have conflicts: wars among nations, disputes among politicians, and arguments among couples.

The ancient scriptures say we must absolve ourselves of the “absolutist” or fundamentalist view that we possess the whole truth. We must begin to have a tolerant  and  open-minded view toward others, work to understand how they may have reached their views. and not be dogmatic in our view.  

Anekantavada philosophy does not suggest  that  Republican lawmakers need to agree with  Democrats, or vice versa. It says  all views, within the realms of reason, must receive fair and equal weight.

Holding ourselves to a higher standard

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi were followers of the Anekantavada principle.  Though they did not agree with their opponents, they treated them nonviolently and with respect. They helped their followers and their adversaries better understand each other’s perspectives through nonviolent means.

In our society today, bias, prejudice, and discrimination are as prevalent but even more visible. Social media captures every word and action.  We must take caution when we deal with those with whom  we disagree, especially if we have greater power or authority over them. In such situations, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. We must ask ourselves if we had done the same action, would we deliver the same judgment and retribution.

I  hope the prosecutors dealing with Trump will treat him with respect, fairness, and a higher standard of respect and open-mindedness. If the Republican supermajority in the Tennessee legislature  had done the same, there would have been  a less contentious, more respectful  outcome for all. And there would have been  one less conflict in our world.

Source : Commercial Appeal