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.

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