Bloomsburg University had the pleasure of being blessed with the knowledge and presence of Arun Gandhi, grandson of the non-violent activist Mohandas Gandhi. Arun Gandhi shared the many lessons he learned from his grandfather and assured the audience that the philosophy of nonviolence enables individuals to become better human beings.
While growing up in South Africa, Arun was beaten up by both whites and blacks. He stated that he was “too black for the whites and too white for the blacks.” At the young age of 10, he let this anger push him to the gym to become stronger, searching for “eye for an eye” justice. In doing so, his parents felt it was best for him to move to India and live with his grandparents.
When Arun moved to India he learned various lessons from his grandfather. The first lesson he learned was how to understand anger and channel its negative energy into a positive energy. His grandfather taught him that anger was like electricity, useful when channeled the right way but destructive and harmful when used wrong. Arun challenged the audience to learn how turn negatives into positives and use them towards the good of humanity.
The second lesson he learned from his grandfather was how to have control over our minds. He pointed out that even though we were sitting in the audience attempting to focus on his speech, we probably had dozens of thoughts running through our brains. Arun advised that the best way to strengthen our minds was by doing mental exercises. While he was living in India, his grandfather would sit him in a room and tell him to look at something that gave him pleasure for one minute. After the minute was up, he was told to close his eyes and see how long he could keep that image in his mind.
Arun went on to tell personal and unique stories that taught him multiple lessons. When he was a teenager, Arun threw out a three-inch pencil and asked his grandfather for a new one. He thought that his grandfather would give him one with no problem but instead he was giving a flash light and was told to retrieve the three- inch pencil in the middle of the night. That three- inch pencil soon taught him two major lessons. “In the making of a pencil we use a lot of natural resources, so throwing the pencil away before its time is an act of violence against Mother Nature. And because we are wasting resources, we are depriving people of resources who are in need, so it was also an act of violence against humanity.”
Before he concluded, Arun shared a story that his grandfather always told about an Ancient Indian King looking for peace. The King asked all the intellectuals of the area but no one could give him an answer. One intellectual said that the only one who can give you an answer is an old sage. The King went to the old sage, asked him for the meaning of peace and the sage simply gave him a grain of wheat. Still unsure of the answer the King, when back to his palace and put the grain of wheat in a box. Every morning he would open the box to gain an answer but he still couldn’t find it. Until finally he called the intellectual back and asked him to explain. He was told, as long you keep the grain of wheat in this box, it will stay here peacefully and rot. But if you plant it you can grow a large wheat crop and possibly share it with others. If you find peace and keep it locked up in your heart it will simply be with you and go with you when you die. But if you plant it, you are able to spread that peace with others and possible help others find their own peace.
Arun Gandhi challenged everyone sitting in the Gross Auditorium to plant their seed of peace and be the positive change that this world needs. From the standing ovation and thunderous round of applause, it seems as though those in attendance will take the lessons Arun’s grandfather taught him and apply it to their own lives to become better human beings and make a change.