One of the hallmarks of the modern world is impatience. "Power grows from the barrel of a gun" said Mao. It remains to be seen if Mao's empire will last as long as Gautama Buddha's has; it certainly has not made people as happy, and it certainly has squandered far more lives.
The problem with non-violence is it takes time. Changing hearts one at a time is slow, and simply grabbing power and enforcing one's ideas seems so much more attractive. The arguments for force and violence are obvious and sometimes strangely beguiling, whilst the arguments for non-violence and dialog are subtle and sometimes hard to accept.
Mohandas (Mahatma - great soul) Gandhi, a Hindu, based his personal philosophy of non-violence upon the teachings of three religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity. Deep down, the wisest and noblest of our great teachers have tended to converge upon the same message.
Is refusing to do violence absolute? Personally I do not think so. Sitting by while violence is done to the innocent seems to me to be selfish: I can feel good for being non-violent, but someone else pays for it. One of the paradoxes here is that sometimes we fail, sometimes life forces us to do what we abhor. This is one of the breakthrough insights of the Principle of Goodness as an ethical guide for living: it tells us what we must try to do, not what we have to succeed in doing: never attempt to hurt the innocent, always try to benefit everyone. But a policeman faced with a murderer might be forced to kill the murderer. He has failed to benefit everyone: but that was not what he ethically had to do: he had to try, not to succeed. If he had even a slight chance to do so, he should reason with the murderer before pulling the trigger; but in the end, he might have to pull that trigger.
One thing I wish to show as this website develops is exactly how and why we can escape the slippery slope that starts with admitting that the policeman might be justified in killing the murderer, and ends with agreeing that terrorists are justified in murdering innocents in the name of 'liberation', 'freedom from oppression', and so on.
Let us uphold the best and finest ideals our species has produced - and non-violence is one of them. But let us also ask the hardest possible questions about our beliefs, subject them to the test of fire and see how they cope.