Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, will be visiting Lane’s main campus for a talk on nonviolence — sharing the lessons he has learned from his grandfather and throughout his own life as an activist. “Gandhi and Nonviolence: Relevance in the 21st Century,” will be held Thursday, Feb. 16 from 7 – 9 p.m. in the Center for Meeting & Learning.
This event, free to all, is a part of the ongoing “Peace Through Compassion” series, co-sponsored by the Lane Peace Center and the Palmo Peace Center.
Gandhi will also be featured in a Q & A session led by Stan Taylor, Chair of the Lane Peace Center. Students are welcome to come and ask their questions from 1 – 2:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 14 in the Longhouse, Building 31, on Lane’s main campus.
The Peace Center talk will focus on “nonviolence as a means of personal transformation,” Gandhi said. Nonviolence can be used to enact change externally, but it also fosters change within individuals. Introspection is a key aspect of nonviolence and personal growth. Analyzing personal prejudices, relationships and weaknesses is necessary.
“An attitude and behavior can only be changed when we, personally, make an effort to bring about that change,” Gandhi said.
Nonviolence is an important conflict resolution tool, but that is only one application of the philosophy. Gandhi said that the heart of the philosophy is learning how to avoid conflict.
“It’s one thing to learn about resolving conflicts peacefully, but if we don’t learn how to avoid it, then we continue to have conflicts all the time, and eventually we get tired of resolving them peacefully, and we seek other means to resolve them. So, it’s important that we understand both aspects of the philosophy, that the only way we can avoid conflicts is to have better relationships between people,” Gandhi said.
Born in South Africa in 1934, Gandhi grew up facing violent oppression under apartheid laws, a system of racial segregation. He was beaten for his skin being too light, and he was beaten for his skin being too dark. He has witnessed, firsthand, various forms of oppression and resistance through the course of his life.
“So far people have used nonviolence for political freedom, but not to get rid of all these oppressive things in society. Unfortunately, where we have used it for civil rights in the United States and for rights in India, we have only depended on the law to bring about that change.”
Yet, the law has not created equality and integration in all facets of society. Racial, religious and economic oppression are still present issues in social discourse.
“There is no law on Earth that can make one respect the other if they don’t want to,” Gandhi said. “That change can come about only when we, individually, decide that we want to be better human beings.”
Growing up in a violent and oppressive society, Gandhi wanted vengeance. He quickly learned that justice does not equate to revenge. He lived with his grandfather from ages 12 – 14. These were the final two years of Mahatma Gandhi’s life. During this time, he learned about channeling anger.
“One of the things he taught me was understanding anger, and being able to channel that anger constructively. Today we don’t talk about anger, we don’t learn about it, we don’t teach it. We are ashamed of it and we try to suppress it. Grandfather said that there’s nothing wrong with anger. It’s a beautiful, powerful emotion. The only thing is that we, instead of using it intelligently, abuse it and cause all the grief. So, we need to learn how to channel that energy constructively and use it effectively.”
Gandhi has many other lessons to share from his life and instructions on how to utilize nonviolence in the modern world.
“I’m looking forward to interacting with all the students, and I hope that the students will come with an open mind,” Gandhi said.