Dr King Jr’s philosophy
ADAY after Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, US, a team of doctors and sleuths of FBI found a piece of paper in his wallet. Inscribed on that piece of paper were two quotes. One of Gautam Buddha and the other one was by Mahatma Gandhi: ‘Passivity at any price. Suffer dishonour and disgrace. But never resort to arms. Be bullied. Be outraged. Be killed. But do not kill’ (Buddha) and ‘By degrading others, one only degrades oneself’ (Mahatma Gandhi).
These two gems of thoughts guided the American Gandhi’s thirty-nine years on earth. King was forever indebted to the oriental pacifism of Buddha, Mahavir and M K Gandhi. A student of philosophy and theology, King extensively studied eastern thoughts and pondered over the efficacy of non-violence propounded by Buddha and Mahavir and implemented so successfully by Gandhi.
In one of his letters written in 1957 to Reverend Douglas Martins of the Anglican Church, King wrote, ‘The more I study Gandhian philosophy of non-violence and universal love, the more I get convinced that however stubborn the opponent/s may be, love and non-violence finally have the last laugh.’
King believed that he’d a soul-connexion with India. He repeated the same sentiments on his visit to India in 1959 when he delivered a lecture at Rajghat. He said, ‘Non-violence is not a weapon of the weak. Rather, it’s a moral weapon of the ethically strong individuals. I feel blessed to have come to the country of morally upright humans who didn’t detest even their most avowed enemies. In fact, they never had any enemies because when one knows only the language of love, one has no desire to learn yet another language; the language of hatred.’
It’s worthwhile to mention that among the western thinkers and pacifists, King Jr was remarkable in the sense that he eulogised Mahavir separately and hailed his (Mahavir’s) philosophy of Ahimsa as a beacon to posterity. He said, “Mahavir took non-violence to its extreme logical end and stretched it to its optimum possibility.” The Upanishadic wisdom of egalitarianism influenced him the most. The seamlessness of mankind mentioned in the Upanishads had Dr King Jr thinking profoundly. He was most fascinated by the oriental universalism and the concept of single consciousness residing in all beings, living or nonliving. This shaped up his own ideology and made him morally strong to surge ahead in his mission for equality for all human beings not just for the non-whites and Afro-Americans. It must be mentioned that Dr King turned a pure vegetarian after his visit to India.
Lastly, Dr King was so impressed and influenced by Gandhi, who he called him his ‘soulmaster’ that he’d a premonition of the same fate befalling him. Just like the Indian apostle of peace, Dr King was also assassinated on April 4, 1968.