Few names can be immediately recognized as people who have made a difference in the world. The name Gandhi is widely associated with peace, and his grandson, Arun Gandhi, delivered just that message to the John Carroll community.
As a part of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on campus, Mohandas Gandhi’s grandson came to speak on Tuesday, Jan. 26 in the Donahue Auditorium. Gandhi is the founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence and has led successful economic and social reforms in India. After returning from India, he brought the institute to the United States to further the study of nonviolence and provide information about Mohandas Gandhi.
Director of the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, Danielle Carter, explained the committee that plans the cultural awareness series contacted a booking agency to help us with the request for the possibility of bringing Arun to campus. “I think the message of peace and non-violence that Arun brings is related to everything that is happening in the U.S. related to the use of force by police officers and the response of the African-American community,” said Carter.
Gandhi began by explaining the connections between his grandfather and Martin Luther King Jr. “King and I were influenced by the same person,” said Gandhi. 1998 was the memorial of the 50th year of Gandhi’s passing and the thirtieth year of the passing of King. It was because of this coincidence that Gandhi decided to declare Jan. 30 until April 4 “The Season of Nonviolence.” Many communities have taken this season seriously and Gandhi has taken groups on legacy tours to see how people use nonviolence in other countries.
While living in South Africa as a child, Gandhi was beaten for his skin color. When he felt he wanted to retaliate, his parents decided to send him to his grandfather. At 12 years old, Arun Gandhi went to India to spend two years with his grandfather, Mohandas Gandhi, to learn the lessons of nonviolence.
Gandhi emphasized the importance of parenting and the influence parents have over their children’s understanding of violence and what it can do. “I don’t believe we are born violent. It is a learned experience and through parenting we plant the seeds of violence.” As a child, his parents did not punish him for misbehaving. Instead, they believed it was their mistake as parents and would do penance to reflect on what they had done wrong in raising their children. They even fasted while their children ate and Gandhi said, “Since our relationship was based on love and respect, I felt awful.”
“As a parent, I enjoyed his perspective on parenting. I am a nonviolence practitioner myself and I enjoyed seeing the legacy of Gandhi’s grandson,” said Mike Nicholson.
During his time with his grandfather, Gandhi told the audience of several lessons he had learned. “I was made aware of the importance of my grandfather’s philosophy,” said Gandhi.
The first lesson was to use anger constructively. Gandhi explained that anger is not evil and can motivate us to do things. Gandhi’s grandfather used the analogy of electricity. “Anger, like electricity is powerful and useful, but deadly and destructive if we abuse it,” said Arun. Gandhi was told to keep an anger journal and write down all of the things that angered him. But he had to write with the intention of finding a solution. The goal was to, “Channel anger for the good of humanity,” said Gandhi.
Another lesson he learned was two-fold. After returning from school with a short worn down pencil, he threw it away expecting that his grandfather would give him a new one. His grandfather questioned him about it and told him to go out and find the pencil that he had thrown away.
The lessons were that even the simple making a pencil uses Earth’s natural resources, and that is violence against nature. The second lesson was that people over consume resources and deprive others, which is violence against humanity.
Gandhi said that his grandfather had him write down what he did throughout the day that was physical violence and passive violence. He said that passive violence was more emotional and that, “passive violence happens more often and generates anger in its victim.” In turn, this victim seeks revenge through physical violence. Gandhi explained that passive violence is the fuel for physical violence.
The program ended with a question and answer session where audience members asked such questions as his thoughts on the black lives matter campaign and why there is so much conflict between black and white. To which he responded with, “There needs to be conversation and a consciousness on both sides.”
His message for the audience was to be the change you wish to see in the world. “We must do what is good for the world, not just the United States,” said Gandhi.
Junior Rachel Vadaj said, “One of the things I love about John Carroll is the opportunity to expand our knowledge and opinions with peers and people as influential as Arun Gandhi.”