Lessons from Gandhi

Arun Gandhi discusses how to apply his grandfather’s lessons of non-violent confrontation.

On October 2, Arun Gandhi, peace activist and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, shared the lasting lessons he learned from his grandfather about living a peaceful life. Speaking to capacity audiences in the Knowles Memorial Chapel and on closed circuit projection in the Tiedtke Concert Hall, Gandhi explained that great leaders like his grandfather were not born special but made the choice to become better human beings. Presented by the Winter Park Institute, Gandhi was at Rollins as a visiting scholar and his residency coincided with the 144th anniversary of his grandfather’s birth and the International Day of Non-Violence.

1.) Understand your anger and channel that energy into constructive action.
“We all get angry,” Gandhi said. “We blow up and say and do things that sometimes change the course of our lives. Prisons are filled with young people who acted in that moment of anger.” Gandhi explained that anger is like electricity—it can be useful but also deadly. “Just like we channel electricity and bring it into our lives for the good of humanity, we must learn to channel anger in the same way so we can use that energy for good rather than death and destruction,” he said.

His grandfather taught him to keep an anger journal and to write with the intention of finding a solution to the problems he recorded.  “It doesn’t help if you just pour your anger into the journal,” he said. “But if you are committed to finding a solution, you can channel your anger into positive action.”

More than 80 percent of the violence we experience is generated by anger. “Learning from anger rather than abusing or denying it can greatly reduce the amount of violence we experience in our lives,” he said.

2.) Every thoughtless action is violence against nature or humanity.
As a student, Gandhi once threw out a pencil that had become too small for him to properly write. “Without a second thought I threw the pencil into the bushes because I was so sure grandfather would give me a new one.” Instead of giving him one, his grandfather subjected him to a series of questions inquiring what happened to the pencil and why it would no longer be useful. Eventually, he had to go out in the dark and look for it. “He sent me out with a flashlight, and I must have spent about two hours looking for that pencil,” he said. When he finally found it, his grandfather sat him down and taught him two important lessons.

“Even in the making of a simple pencil, we use a lot of the world’s natural resources,” he said. “And every time we throw away something like that we throw away some of the world’s natural resources, and that’s violence against nature. When we over-consume the world’s resources, we deprive people elsewhere of these resources and they have to live in poverty. That’s violence against humanity.”

Gandhi’s grandfather taught him to examine and reflect on everything he experiences each day. “Ask yourself, ‘If someone were to do this to me, would I be hurt or helped?’ When you become aware of your impact on others and the world, you can do something to change yourself for the better.”

The next visiting scholar presented by the Winter Park Institute is Itzhak Perlman, world-renowned violinist and conductor, who will speak on Thursday, November 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the Alfond Sports Center. Find more information on Winter Park Institute visiting scholars and free public events.

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