“It may be asked whether history at any time records such a change in human nature. Such changes have certainly taken place in individuals. One may not perhaps be able to point to them in a whole society. But this only means that up till now there has never been an experiment on a large scale in nonviolence… In this age of wonders no one will say that a thing or idea is worthless because it is new. To say it is impossible because it is difficult is again not in consonance with the spirit of the age. Things undreamed of are daily seen; the impossible is ever becoming possible. We are constantly being astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of violence. But I maintain that far more undreamed-of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of nonviolence.”— M.K. Gandhi
Our Mission. The mission of the Metta Center is to promote the transition to a nonviolent future by making the logic, history, and yet-unexplored potential of nonviolence available to activists and agents of cultural change (which ultimately includes all of us). We help practitioners use nonviolence more safely and effectively, and anyone interested to understand and articulate it more fully.
Our Story. The Metta Center was founded in 1982 by UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus Michael Nagler and some friends and has been through various incarnations throughout his teaching career at UC Berkeley, acting as a ‘think-tank’ for nonviolence practice and theory. Its current incarnation began in 2007 when Nagler retired from the university. Its mission has always been to make the world more aware of the power that Mahatma Gandhi confidently, on the basis of his personal experience, declared “the greatest power humanity has been endowed with.” Today we are a small group with a physical location in a semi-rural area of Petaluma, California, near some beautiful horses and connected, partly through this website, with seekers of nonviolence around the world.
Our Vision. Humanity is slowly but steadily awakening to the underlying truth of our existence, which is our fundamental unity with one another and all of life. In this “new” vision, supported alike by the ancient wisdom traditions of virtually all cultures and by breakthroughs in very modern science, nonviolence is the norm for all relationships just as violence was acceptable and all but normalized in the vision of the world as separate, material, and without overall meaning. Nonviolence is, as Gandhi said, “not the inanity it has been taken for down the ages.” It is thus both a consequence and an enabling factor in this great awakening. It is no coincidence that nonviolence is increasing both quantitatively — with more than one-half of the world’s population experiencing a major manifestation in their home country — and qualitatively — with new forms of experimentation and learning across cultures increasingly practiced. Metta is proud to play a key role in developing this central part of the “great turning” to a more humane world.
In fulfillment of this vision, we offer five propositions:
- Life is an interconnected whole of inestimable worth
- We cannot be fulfilled by an indefinite consumption of things, but by a potentially infinite expansion of our relationships
- We can never injure others without injuring ourselves, so:
- Security does not come from locking up “criminals” or defeating “enemies”; it can only come from rehabilitating offenders and turning enemies into friends
- Human evolution may be complete as far as the body is concerned, but it has only begun in terms of the potentialities of our consciousness.
Core Values. Nonviolence embodies within itself the highest values toward which we could aspire: compassion, tolerance, respect for all life, honesty, and others. We try to reflect in our own lives and our interaction with our many friends this priceless science of living. “Heart Unity” (the desire for others’ welfare regardless of surface differences), localism (svadeshi: dealing with our own strengths and weaknesses before reaching past our present capacities), and of course eliminating ill-will toward others even where we might disagree with their ideas or actions, are among these values.