“You must be the change you wish to see in the world” is a phrase often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi.
His fifth grandson, Arun Gandhi, now 82, has taken that mandate to heart and following in his grandfather’s footsteps is spreading the word of peace and nonviolence to a new generation.
Arun Gandhi was 14 when his grandfather was assassinated on Jan. 30, 1948 at age 78.
On Oct. 2, the 147th birthday of his grandfather, Arun Gandhi will speak at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton on “Lessons of my Grandfather” about the dangers of anger and the meaning of social justice.
“My grandfather made a great difference in my life and I believe his ideas can certainly make a difference in the lives of others,” he said. “What I learned most and found most important is that nonviolence is not just about anti-war. It’s a way of life; how we live and incorporate and how we relate to each other.”
The event is sponsored by Auroras Voice, a Delray Beach nonprofit devoted to furthering the work of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.; Gandhi Square in Davie, which boasts a 7-foot-tall statue of Gandhi; and Sea Star School, a Waldorf Education School, in Boca Raton. FAU’s Peace, Justice and Human Rights Initiative is an event partner and sponsor.
Mahatma Gandhi, who brought India to independence from British rule and inspired nonviolent civil disobedience in his nation and elsewhere, has also inspired his grandson, who lived with his grandfather in India as a preteen.
Now a U.S. resident, Arun Gandhi describes himself as a peace-farmer: “I go out into the field and plant seeds and hope and pray that I get a good crop,” using farming as a metaphor for planting the seeds of peace.
Among those lessons of nonviolence he learned, one of the most important is violence toward ourselves, the natural world and others, he said.
He talks about violence against nature created by our consumer society and wastefulness of natural resources. The result is a disparity in society where some benefit and some don’t, he said.
Those that don’t, become angry which fuels the fire of physical violence.
“The only way to put out the fire of physical violence is to cut off the fuel supply,” he said, “and that comes from each one of us.”
Arun Gandhi said passive violence, or the way in which we hurt other people by our actions or inactions, such as discrimination, looking down on others, calling them names, belittling others or by bullying, is just as evil as forceful violence.
He was the victim of bullying as a child when he was beaten by both blacks and whites for being “colored” when he lived in apartheid South Africa as a child.
Colleen Paul-Hus, a board member at the Sea Star School, said, “Despite the hate and discrimination that Arun experienced, he took the lessons and teachings from his grandfather and shifted that energy into something helpful and productive.”
“I hope that my children see the good and true in the world and imitate that rather than the abuse of humans, earth and animals that we see reflected in our society today,” she said.
Locally, Arun Gandhi is on the board of the All People’s Day Festival, a diversity festival that takes place every March, founded by Delray Beach resident Susan Berkowitz-Schwartz.
She begins each meeting with a peace poem and symbolism created by Arun Gandhi.
“I was so inspired by his insightful, entertaining and truly loving remarks when I heard him speak at a conference in Miami, I invited him to join our board,” she said. “And, we’re so proud that Arun graciously accepted our offer.”
With violence all around us, what can one person do?
Arun Gandhi advises introspection and mediation. “Examine your own life, see how many things we waste and destroy each day,” he said. “Expand your consciousness; become more aware.”
Once we get caught in the cycle of money and consumerism, relationships suffer, he said.
As for himself, does he see a light at the end of the tunnel?
“One has to have faith and optimism is a part of this,” he said. “Have faith in humanity; if shown the right path, people will follow it.”
“We need more understanding and respect for all people,” he said. “I hope my talk will inspire people to live in harmony. We need to learn to live as human beings. We are all interconnected.”
Arun Gandhi will be the guest at an intimate dinner to benefit Auroras Voice, Gandhi Square and Sea Star School from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 2 at Farmer’s Table, 1901 N. Military Trail, in Boca Raton. Tickets were $100.
He will speak at FAU’s University Theatre, 777 Glades Road, from 5 to 6 p.m. Oct. 2. The event is free and open to everyone. Visit fau.edu.
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