Creating a Culture of Nonviolence
An Interview with Arun Gandhi
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said of Mahatma Gandhi: “Gandhi was
inevitable. If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought and acted, inspired by
the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony...” Arun Gandhi took up the
mantle of spreading his grandfather’s message and in 1991 established the M.K. Gandhi Institute
for Nonviolence. He talks about Gandhian principles and shares some personal experiences with his beloved
Integral Yoga Magazine: Your grandfather was, of course, very
well known for his views on ahimsa, nonviolence. Would you talk about his and your views?
Arun Gandhi: My grandfather would say that the real definition
of ahimsa is love. For generations we have been conditioned by a culture of violence. Everything
gets infused with violence--even the way we bring up our children. We give them subliminal messages--they
have to be successful and get to the top, to not worry about the needs of others, but to get ahead at any
cost. We instill selfish attitudes, and one thing leads to another, and we find ourselves completely
absorbed in negativity: discrimination and suspicions about people different from us. All this negativity
dominates our relationships, our thinking and our reactions and then every aspect of human life begins to
generate violence. We have to root out all this negativity and replace it with positivity: love,
compassion, respect, appreciation, acceptance. We must be dominated by that and then we can begin to
understand and practice nonviolence.
IYM: You seem to really be talking about an “inner”
AG: If we can begin to let all the positive within us emerge,
that is the real inner nonviolence. We all have good and bad aspects of ourselves--which part emerges or
is dominant depends upon what you cultivate. There is a Native American story in which a grandfather is
talking about a good wolf and bad wolf in every one of us. He says that whichever one we nourish becomes
stronger. If we nourish the goodness, then the goodness emerges, becomes stronger, and is reflected in our
relationships. If we nourish the bad, that will flourish. It’s the responsibility of the individual
to determine what they want to cultivate.
IYM: How did your grandfather impart those values to you? Can you
share any personal experiences?
AG: I was 12-years-old and living with my grandfather at the
time. I was going to school and he gave me a notebook and pencil to do my lessons. One day, as I was
walking home from school, I threw away the pencil as there were only three inches of it left. I felt it
was too small and I deserved a better pencil. I was so sure he would give me a new pencil. That evening,
after I asked for the new pencil, he subjected me to a lot questions about the pencil I threw out. How did
it become small? Where did I throw it and why? He finally told me to go out, look for it and bring it back.
I said, “It’s getting dark, how do you expect me to look?” So, he gave me a flashlight
and told me to go and look. I spent two hours searching and thought it was ridiculous to be looking for
that little pencil. I finally found it and brought it to him.
He said, “Now I want you to learn two important lessons.” He explained to me that even in
making a simple thing like a pencil we use a lot of the world’s natural resources. Throwing away
those resources is violence against our natural resources. Because we live in an affluent society we can
afford to buy in bulk. Then we over-consume and deprive others of resources. That is violence against
|read the rest of this article in the Winter 2006 issue of IY Magazine