Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, Bernice A. King, is the CEO of the King Center. And, on this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, she weighed in on a polarized America. In MLK’s absence, is there anyone better to inquire about how he might react to our current issues than his own daughter? Bernice A. King said: “In this critical hour and contentious climate, not only in the United States but in the world, I believe that we need to pay attention to these words from my father . . . We cannot spiritually, relationally or globally afford to ignore the injustice and inhumanity and must work fervently to build the beloved community.” Ms. King emphasized that we are at an important juncture where we must address issues immediately. As far as what we need to address, she paraphrased her father:
“Humanity engaging each other as a human family in our World House greatly depends on us understanding our interrelatedness and interconnectedness.”
Bernice King further noted, “As Daddy said, ‘We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.’ Our very survival hinges on us, recognizing this.”
We are fortunate indeed that Bernice A. King is with us to pass on MLK’s wisdom to us just as she had heard it. That the people of the world are all of one family and are interconnected is a concept that coincides with Buddhism. Regardless of whether one is Christian or Buddhist, this notion is pertinent to our present situation. We are all dependent on one another for our existence. One area where this is apparent is how we depend on each other for solutions.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister, but he was open-minded enough to be inspired and then adopt the teaching of nonviolence as expressed by Mahatma Gandhi who was a believer of Hinduism. Mahatma Gandhi has many teachings to his credit. However, two concern us here.
The first is that truth stands by itself. Gandhi said, “An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self sustained.” As though Gandhi had prophesied what is happening in our society today where people are easily distracted by false news that flood social media, Gandhi’s wisdom is quiescent and stands relevant today as it did when he helped to gain India’s independence in August 1947. It behooves us to embrace Gandhi’s teaching that truth is a fact that stands on its own, whose substantive value cannot be transformed by some other entity that repeats untruths. On the other hand, something that is false cannot be made into fact simply because it is repeated over and over or is placed together with other facts.
Gandhi’s most important teaching was nonviolence. Gandhi once said, “Nonviolence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed.” MLK completely absorbed and strictly adhered to Gandhi’s way of protest, without encouraging or engaging in violence. Gandhi’s nonviolence had five pillars: respect, understanding, acceptance, appreciation, and compassion. When we are met with defiance, we must try to the best of our ability to maintain these five pillars of nonviolence. This involves expressing our own views clearly based on reason and convincing those who oppose us in a peaceful manner. Nonviolence is the ultimate affirmation of one’s respect for another. Approaching someone with an opposing agenda or opinion in a dignified manner, without aggression, is simpler said than accomplished. But, if one can accept the other as though they were members of one’s own family, then there is a chance for constructive exchange.
This all returns to MLK’s quotation mentioned earlier, that we are all actually interconnected. We are all part of a great family. Until people can realize this, contention and discord would prevail. We must continue to promote the teachings of Gandhi and MLK to seek truth and equality. Until then, peace will always escape us.
One final observation. Mahatma Gandhi died on Jan. 30, 1948, and Martin Luther King Jr. on Apr. 4, 1968. Both were assassinated by gunfire. Why must all the great ones be silenced so? Both were advocates of truth. There is great pushback on truth, so much so that some will kill to smother it. Truth transcends categories like Christianity or Buddhism, one’s nationality, whether one is black or white, or whether you are a man or woman. Because Gandhi and King spoke out, they changed the norms from which we all now benefit every day. We must always stand for truth to protect and nurture those who come after us. (Eisei Ikenaga)