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March 1998
The Legacy of Non-Violence

By Arun Gandhi



On Friday, January 30 this year, the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence & the Association for Global New Thought, in partnership with the Interfaith Center of New York-Temple of Understanding, presented "A Season For Nonviolence: A Commencement Celebration of Gandhi and King." This symposium began a 64-day "season of nonviolence" designed to coincide with the fiftieth and thirtieth anniversaries of the assassinations of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The goal is to showcase the profound importance of nonviolence in solving current global, local, and personal conflict. One of the speakers was Arun Gandhi, the Mahatma's grandson.

I recall one day walking through the sugar cane plantations. Someone from the community told me to run home because my mother wanted me but wouldn't tell me why. I ran home and saw my mom on the phone, tears streaming down her cheeks. She told me that my grandfather had been assassinated. I couldn't believe that anyone could do such a thing. I knew I had to forgive the person for what he had done and not hate him. I learned the power of forgiveness that day.

Today brings back memories of my grandfather 51 years ago, when I had the opportunity as a young boy of 12 to live with him for 18 months and learn from him. He laid the foundation of my understanding of this philosophy of nonviolence then. [My wife] Sunanda and I have devoted our time to sewing the seeds of nonviolence to young people. Grandfather used to tell me that you can't change the whole world but, like a farmer who goes out into the fields and plants seeds, plant these seeds with faith. They will germinate and eventually you will have a bumper crop. We see quite a bumper crop today in all of you who have come here to make this event a tremendous success. I hope this event is not the end and when you walk out of this auditorium, you go with hope and the commitment that we can make a change in bringing about a world of peace and harmony.

King In India

In 1959 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his wife Coretta and a small delegation came on a visit to India as guests of the government. They came to study the philosophy of nonviolence firsthand. He was registered to stay at one of the most luxurious and fanciest hotels in Bombay, the Taj Mahal--a hotel where you and I cannot stay because the rates are so prohibitive. He checked in, left his baggage and went out on a tour to see the city. They came to the modest little house that was occupied by grandfather between 1915 and 1934. After grandfather's assassination, that house was converted into a museum.

Dr. King went inside to grandfather's old room and was so moved by the vibes he felt, he refused to leave. When it was time for the museum to close, the people asked him with folded hands, "When are you going to leave? We need to close the museum." Dr. King said, "I'm not going. I'm staying right here." The people were aghast and said, "How can you stay here when you were given luxurious accommodations from the government? We don't have any accommodations here in the museum." And Dr. King said, "If Gandhi could stay here and sleep on the floor, I'm going to stay here and sleep on the floor." Spending two nights without budging from that room, absorbing the vibes and feelings, it transformed him, bringing him closer to the philosophy of nonviolence.

It is therefore appropriate we decided to link grandfather's fiftieth anniversary to Martin Luther King's thirtieth. Although they never met, they had a spiritual link. They both had the same dream--that if we try, a world of peace and harmony will prevail. They dreamed of a time when we would not look at skin color or race for identity but upon ourselves as human beings--brothers and sisters--and respect each other. We need to forget differences. Grandfather said relationships can be built on four principles: respect, understanding, acceptance and appreciation. We need to take the world a few steps closer to the realization of the dream that Dr. King and Grandfather shared.

A Great Divide

When India got independence 50 years ago, it was divided into India for Hindus and Pakistan for Muslims. Grandfather was very unhappy with that division. He accepted it only because the rest of the [Congress] party did. When violence broke out because millions of people had to transfer from one country to another, he decided to go to East Pakistan [New Bangladesh] to try and bring peace between Hindus and Muslims. By walking from village to village, talking to the people, he single-handedly brought peace to that region. A few days before August 15th [1947, when power was going to be transferred from Britain to India], the government sent an emissary with a note pleading with grandfather to come to New Delhi to participate in celebrations. The letter said, "You are the father of the nation. You should be here in New Delhi to bless us, the nation, at the time of its birth."

Grandfather was concerned first about the welfare of the emissary who had arrived after midnight, feeding and housing him properly before opening the letter. Shocked by the invitation, he exclaimed, "How can they expect me in New Delhi when my brothers and sisters are killing each other because of all this? How can I celebrate this occasion and rejoice? That is not for me." The next day, bidding farewell to grandfather, the emissary asked, "Isn't there anything I can take from you to New Delhi on this occasion of the birth of India?" Just then, a dried leaf fell from a tree at grandfather's feet. Picking it up he said, "I may be the father of the nation but I am a poor man with nothing to give except this dried leaf. Take it as my gift to the people of India and take these tears along with it." Today, I give you my tears also. I hope that we can all work and pray so that we can create a world of peace and harmony

Some Additional Notes

Satya asked some of the attendees at the Season of Nonviolence conference what non-violence meant to them.

Jesse Jackson
It's the will, dignity and respect to one's self and all life on the planet.

Dr. Michael Beckwith from the Association for Global New Thought
To me, nonviolence is not against violence. It is a proactive way of life that sets forth compassion, harmlessness and unconditional love to be active in our awareness. We begin to think from those particular realms and allow those ideas to guide our actions. With that we not only dissolve violence but begin to create a climate for creativity and a realization to build a society that is inherent within all of us.

The Hon. Bob Clement on behalf of Vice President Al Gore
This memorial service is a unique opportunity to honor the life-long efforts of Mahatma Gandhi, for he was a true champion of nonviolence and social reform. All of us should remember the honorable sacrifices he made through nonviolent means to live in a peaceful and united country. His program of tolerance to all creeds and religions is an enduring example all citizens of the world should continue to follow. God bless America but God bless India and the world. Let us all work for world peace.


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