Tag Archives: quaker

Quakers, Ahimsa and Pennsylvania

I am reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi”, and in it he relates a discussion with Mahatma Ghandi. Ghandi discusses the virtues and effectiveness of ahimsa and non violence.

Ghandi told the Paramahansa that an early example of the effectiveness of non violence was in the settling of the state of Pennsylvania, where the settlers had no soldiers or forts but did not suffer from attacks by the (Native American) Indians that other settlers did. I had not heard of this and decided to look up and see if it was a historical fact. A small amount of research shows that it is basically true.

Pennsylvania was formed by William Penn, who was a Quaker, as were the first colonists. As a Quaker they believed in non violence and fairness. He allowed complete freedom of religion for people of all faiths, and insisted on fairness in dealing with Native Americans. Land was purchased from them at a fair price rather than been taken by force as happened elsewhere. Penn introduced laws saying that if a European did an Indian wrong, there would be a fair trial, with an equal number of people from both groups deciding the matter. Eventually under a perceived threat from the Spanish and the French the people of Pennsylvania (who were no longer mostly Quakers) did vote to form a militia, but for a time Pennsylvania was a model of peaceful cooperation.

Quakers, or the “Religious Society of Friends” were formed by George Fox, who believed that “everyone can see God directly”, and that it is possible to see God in everyone. This was referred to as “the inner light” or “truth” or “the pure principle”. He believed that the message from God within was more important than creeds or the bible.

Quakers have a history of being persecuted by the main Christian denominations. It seems to me that George Fox was one of those people who have had no contact with Hinduism but through spiritual awareness have come to know some of the truth of Sanatana Dharma (the eternal truth of Hinduism).