Munich American Peace Committee (MAPC)
Radio Lora, 14. Mai 2007
Mahatma Gandhi – ein Vorbild für Gewaltlosigkeit und zivilen Ungehorsam
Der Schriftsteller, Journalist und Aktivist, Arun Gandhi, ist ein Enkel des indischen Apostels der Gewaltlosigkeit, Mohandas, Karamchand „Mahatma“ Gandhi. 1991gründete er gemeinsam mit seiner Frau Sananda, in Memphis, Tennesee das „M.K. Gandhi Institute“
Jedesmal, wenn ich wieder etwas über die amerikanische Friedensaktivistin Rachel Corrie lese, die in Gaza beim Versuch, den Abriß eines palästinensischen Wohnhauses zu verhindern, von einem israelischen Bulldozer überrollt wurde, wird mir bewußt, wie dankbar wir dieser mutigen Frau sein müssen. Sie lebte und handelte nach dem Motto meines Großvaters, dass man bereit sein müsse, für eine Sache zu sterben, aber niemals zu töten.
Während meines Besuches in Israel und Palästina fragte ich mich immer wieder, warum sich nur Rachel Corrie den Abrißfahrzeugen in den Weg gestellt hatte. Lag es vielleicht daran, dass uns der Zusammenhang von Frieden und Gewaltlosigkeit noch immer nicht bewußt ist? Es ist höchste Zeit, dass die Kultur der Gewalt endlich von einer Kultur der Gewaltlosigkeit abgelöst wird. Solange wir immer wieder Öl ins Feuer gießen, solange wird es auf der Welt keinen Frieden geben. Gewaltlosigkeit beginnt bei uns selbst.
Mein Großvater entstammte einer ganz normalen Familie, die sich allerdings durch ihr großes Mitgefühl auszeichnete. Mein Urgroßvater hätte als Ministerpräsident eines kleinen Fürstentums eigentlich ein reicher Mann sein können, weil er aber viele notleidende Menschen unterstützte, blieb für ihn und seine Familie kaum etwas übrig. Gerne lud er Vertreter anderer Kulturen und anderer Religionen zu sich ein, was nicht ohne Wirkung auf das Denken seines Sohnes blieb. Doch besonders prägend war sicherlich das Beispiel gewaltlosen Widerstands, das mein Großvater durch seine Frau am eigenen Leib erlebte. Wie damals üblich, wurden meine Großeltern bereits mit 13 Jahren verheiratet. Als der junge Ehemann meinte, sich nach alter Tradition als strenger Patriarch aufspielen zu müssen, reagierte seine Frau völlig ruhig und unaufgeregt und verhielt sich weiterhin so, wie sie es für richtig hielt. Als er dann 10 Jahre später in Südafrika von weißen Jugendlichen zusammengeschlagen wurde, verzichtete er auf eine Anzeige, um sie durch diese versöhnliche Geste von ihren fremdenfeindlichen Vorurteilen abzubringen. – und tatsächlich sollten aus drei der vier Schläger lebenslange Anhänger werden..
Wir können der alltäglichen Gewalt nur Einhalt gebieten, wenn wir lernen, unseren Ärger und unsere Wut zu kontrollieren. Um das zu erreichen, riet mir Großvater, nicht nur ein „Ärgertagebuch“ zu führen, sondern auch nach Ursachen und Lösungsmöglichkeiten zu suchen.. Von ihm lernte ich, dass es nicht nur körperliche Gewalt gibt. Wer auch nur einen kleinen Bleistiftstummel verächtlich wegwirft mißbraucht die Natur und vergeht sich an der Menschheit; denn was die Reichen wegwerfen, fehlt den Armen. Das ist das berühmte von Menschen gemachte Ungleichgewicht von dem Rachel Corrie immer sprach.. Denn was immer uns die Politiker auch erzählen mögen, alles hängt zusammen.. Kein Staat kann nur sich und seinen Lebensstandard schützen, keine Nation kann allein überleben .Wenn sich die Reichen auf das beschränkten, was sie brauchen, müsste niemand in Not leben und alle wären zufrieden. Neben der physischen, materiellen, sozialen, religiösen und kulturellen Gewalt, gibt auch die passive Gewalt und das Nichtstun, durch die wir Andere so verletzen können, dass sie uns hassen und mit körperlicher Gewalt reagieren. Nur wenn wir uns der Konsequenzen unseres Verhaltens bewußt werden, können wir eine Kultur des Friedens und der Gewaltlosigkeit schaffen.
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Nach Großvaters Philosophie sind wir lediglich die Treuhänder unserer Fähigkeiten, die wir nicht für unsere eigenen egoistischen Zwecke ausnützen dürfen, sondern zum Wohl der Gemeinschaft einsetzen sollen. Dabei müssen wir deutlich zwischen Mitleid und Mitgefühl unterscheiden. Aus Mitleid greifen wir für Hungernde und Obdachlose schnell in die Tasche damit sie möglichst rasch wieder verschwinden. Der Mitfühlende dagegen erkundigt sich geduldig nach den Gründen für die Notlage und versucht, für die Betroffenen einen menschenwürdigen Ausweg zu finden.
Weil viele Menschen die wahre amerikanische Psyche nicht kennen und – nicht ganz zu unrecht – glauben, dass wir immer nur auf unsere eigenes Wohl bedacht sind, habe ich eine „Gandhi Gedächtnis-Tour“ ins Leben gerufen. Jedes Jahr fahre ich mit 25 bis 30 Amerikanern nach Indien und zeige ihnen, wie die Armen in den Dörfern leben und wie Andere ihnen dabei helfen, ihre Lage zu verbessern. Da wir an einigen dieser Projekte selbst mitarbeiten, kommen wir den Menschen näher und beide Seiten beginnen, einander besser zu verstehen. Vorurteile lassen sich nur korrigieren, wenn wir auf andere Menschen zugehen, uns aufrichtig für ihre Probleme interessieren und versuchen, ihnen zu helfen.
Großvaters Philosophie der Gewaltlosigkeit ist auch für das Justizwesen relevant. Unser Rechtssystem beruht auf dem Prinzip der Rache, statt auf dem Prinzip der Hoffnung auf Besserung. Gefängnisse dürfen keine Kerker sein, in die wir Menschen einsperren und den Schlüssel wegwerfen, sondern Orte der Bildung und Zuwendung, die die Gefangenen als bessere Menschen verlassen. Leider gibt es in unseren Gefängnissen zwei tolle Einrichtungen: einen Turnsaal und eine Bibliothek. Die Insassen verbringen also den halben Tag damit, im Turnsaal ihre Muskeln zu stählen und während der zweiten Tageshälfte suchen sie nach juristischen Schlupflöchern, die sie nach ihrer Entlassung ausnützen können.. So verlassen sie das Gefängnis als gewiefte Kriminelle mit einer Top-Kondition und nicht als charakterlich gestärkte Persönlichkeiten.. Um die Verbrechens- und Gewaltrate effektiv zu verringern, benötigen wir Gefängnisse mit psychiatrischer und psychologischer Betreuung, mit Bildungseinrichtungen und menschlicher Zuwendung.
Es ist uns gelungen, alle Religionen so zu missinterpretierten , dass Gott von uns verlangt, alle zu töten, die anders sind als wir. Keine Religion der Welt verlangt so etwas! Alle Religionen beruhen auf dem Prinzip der Liebe, des Respekts, des Verständnisses und des Mitgefühls. Für Großvater besaß keine Religion die ganze Wahrheit, jede verfügte nur über einen kleinen Teil davon.. Wer also die ganze Wahrheit verstehen will, muss sich unvoreingenommen mit allen Religionen beschäftigen., sonst ergeht es ihm so, wie den sechs Blinden, die einen Elefanten beschreiben sollten. Jeder von ihnen hielt jeweils den Teil den er ertasten konnte, für den ganzen Elefanten. Je mehr wir über andere Religionen Bescheid wissen, um so mehr erfahren wir über unsere eigene Religion.
Weil für ihn alle Religionen gleichberechtigt waren, bestand Großvater darauf, dass er Hindu, Muslim, Christ, Buddhist und Jedermann sei und dass es nicht darauf ankäme, von welcher Seite man einen Berg besteige, solange alle den Gipfel erreichten .
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Wussten Sie, dass Großvaters erste gewaltlose Kampagne in Südafrika am 11. September 1906 begann? Der 11. September 2006 war also der hunderte Jahrestag. Hier in den USA gedachte man dieses Datums aus einem traurigen Grund, es ist der Tag der Terroranschläge. Trotzdem sollten wir nicht vergessen, dass uns vor 100 Jahren eine Alternative zu Gewalt geschenkt wurde .Deshalb sollten wir den 11. September zum Tag des Gebetes für de Opfer von Gewalt und für Frieden und Vergebung machen, zu einem Tag, an dem Hindus, Muslime, Christen, Buddhisten und alle anderen nicht jeder für sich in ihren Kirchen, Tempeln und Moscheen beten, sondern gemeinsam auf den Straßen und Plätzen..
Schließen möchte ich mit einer Geschichte, die mein Großvater gerne erzählt hat.. Sie handelt von einem indischen König, der wissen wollte, was Frieden bedeutet. Und so lud er alle Gelehrten seines Reiches ein. Doch so sehr sie sich auch bemühten, keine Antwort konnte den König überzeugen. Als eines Tages ein fremder Gelehrter vorüber kam, wurde auch er befragt und er erwiderte, dass nur ein alter Weiser, der außerhalb des Königreiches lebte, diese Frage beantworten könne. Da der Alte jedoch zu schwach sei, um zu reisen, müsse sich der König zu ihm begeben. Als dieser am folgenden Tag den weisen Mann aufsuchte und ihn fragte, was Frieden bedeute, nahm der ein Weizenkorn und legte es dem König in die Hand .“Das ist die Bedeutung von Frieden“, sagte er. Weil aber der König nicht zugeben wollte, dass er diese Antwort nicht verstand, brachte er das Getreidekorn zurück in seinen Palast und legte es in eine kleine goldene Schatulle. Jeden Morgen öffnet er das Schächtelchen und schaute nach.- aber er fand keine Antwort.
Als der fremde Weise auf seinem Rückweg wieder am Königspalast vorüber kam, fragte ihn der König sogleich, was denn das Weizenkorn mit Frieden zu tun habe. „Das ist ganz einfach“ entgegnete der Weise, „nichts wird passieren solange du das Korn in der Schatulle aufbewahrst, dort wird es eines Tages verrotten und verkümmern – und das war es dann. Doch wenn du es einpflanzt und den Elementen aussetzt, dann wird es wachsen und gedeihen und du wirst bald der Besitzer eines großen Weizenfeld sein.“
Das ist die Definition von Frieden. Wenn ein Mensch Frieden gefunden hat und ihn nur in seinem Herzen verschließt, dann .stirbt auch der Frieden, wenn dieser Mensch stirbt. .Doch wenn wir Frieden mit anderen teilen , dann haben wir bald ein großes Feld von Friedensstiftern. Ich komme heute mit dem Weizenkorn meines Großvaters zu Ihnen. Wenn Sie es nicht verkümmern lassen, sondern wachsen und gedeihen, dann können wir eine Welt schaffen, auf die Rachel Corrie sehr stolz gewesen wäre.
Ich danke Ihnen.
Gandhian Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence
Olympia, WA 20 April 2006
Arun Gandhi is the grandson of India's apostle of nonviolence, Mohandas Karamchand " Mahatma" Gandhi. In 1991, Arun Gandhi and his wife Sunanda, founded The M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Memphis, Tennessee. An author, journalist, and activist, he lectures all over the world.
When I read about Rachel Conie in the newspapers, I was stunned that such a thing could have happened, but I was always in a sense elated that she stood for her convictions and was willing to lay down her life for her convictions. That is something that very rarely people can do. It's a very difficult thing to sacrifice one's life for what you believe in. Rachel did this, and I think she earned the gratitude of the whole world for showing what Grandfather said during his lifetime. He said, "I am willing to die, but there is no cause for which I am willing to kill." Rachel proved this through her life and her actions.
Soon after reading about Rachel, I was invited to Palestine and Israel, and I went there and I saw the conditions there. They wouldn't allow me to go to the Gaza Strip, so I didn't go to the place where Rachel was killed. But what really puzzled me during that visit was why was Rachel the only one who stood up to this? Why didn't the other people, the Palestinian young people, also stand along with her?
And I came to the realization that there is still a lot of misunderstanding around the world about nonviolence and peace, and people generally, although they believe in peace and they want to work for peace, don't believe in nonviolence. I feel that this is wrong, because I don't think that we can create peace in the world if we don't first accept the philosophy of nonviolence. To me, what we need to change is the culture of violence that we have created in the world and replace it with a culture of nonviolence. It's only when we are able to do that that we will eventually succeed in working for peace and establishing peace in the world.
I often look at the situation that we face in the world in terms of an imaginary situation. Try to imagine this scenario in your own life. If you saw a building on fire, and if you saw the fire department come there with a tanker full of water and a tanker full of gasoline, and the fire department is pumping gasoline with one hand and water with the other, will they be able to put an end to that fire? I don't think so. I don't think that fire will ever be ended if we keep pumping gas into the fire. Basically that's what we are doing when we are working for peace, because we are working for peace on the one hand and yet we subscribe to the culture of violence on the other hand. The two don't really meet. So we need to take another look at what we are doing in the world and what kind of a culture we have created in the world.
Grandfather came to this conclusion himself, and he believed that we have to change ourselves, that we have to subscribe to the culture of nonviolence in our own lives and through our lives help other people understand and accept this philosophy. That's how he developed this whole idea of nonviolent action.
But how did he come to that conclusion? He wasn't born a special person. In his autobiography he has often written about how he came from a very ordinary family, that there was nothing special about his family or his upbringing that enabled him to understand the philosophy of nonviolence. Yet I think he was wrong in one sense, and that is that although the Gandhi family is an ordinary, regular family, there is nothing exceptional about us, there was one thing very exceptional about his parents. That was that they had an enormous amount of compassion. And that reflected in their relationships and their attitudes towards people.
They had so much compassion that when my greatgrandfather was the prime minister of a state in India - and ordinarily a prime minister is next to the ruler and therefore ought to be very rich because he would be paid very well and have a lot of perks and all that - he was never very rich, because he always gave his wealth away to people in need. Often his friends asked him, "What are you doing? You are giving everything away. What about your future? Are you thinking about your future or not?" His reply to them was, "My need in the future is less important than the need of the people right now. I want to help them now, and I'm not concerned about the future." So he gave all his wealth and his possessions to people who needed it.
But he was also very interested in learning about other cultures and other religions. They would periodically invite leaders from all the different religions represented in that state to come home and have dinner with them and have a friendly discussion so that they could learn about each other's religion.
Grandfather was exposed to all of these happenings at home, and that influenced him substantially in understanding, eventually, the philosophy of nonviolence.
What really brought awareness to him occurred at the age of 13. You are perhaps aware of this fact, I am not sure, but Grandfather was married at the age of 13. In those days it was quite common for Indian people to get married at that young age. So both of them were 13 years old when they got married.
Grandfather said that at that age he didn't know what the role of the husband should be, who should lay down the roles and who should enforce the rules. So he went to the library and started reading books on the subject. Obviously, all these books were written by male chauvinists, because they all talked about how the husband should lay down the rules and enforce them strictly. So after reading this, he came home and he told Grandmother, "From tomorrow on, you are not going to step out of the house without my permission. That is the law, and you're going to obey it, and I want no arguments about it." And Grandmother didn't say anything, didn't retort or reply to him. She just quietly went to bed, got up the next day, and continued to do what she always did, continued to go out and visit, and never bothered to get Grandfather's permission.
After a few days, when he realized that she was not obeying him, he confronted her again and said, "How dare you disobey me? Haven't I told you that you should not stir out of the house without my permission?" And at that point Grandmother very quietly, without losing her temper, asked him, "I was brought up to believe that we must always obey the elders in the house, and I believe the elders in this house are your parents. If you're trying to tell me that I should not obey your mother but obey you instead, let me know so that I can go and tell your mother I'm not going to obey her." And, of course, he couldn't tell her to do that, so the whole matter was settled, without anybody losing their temper or losing their relationship.
If we think about this, if somebody were to tell us something like that, we would explode. We would get angry and say, " How dare you tell me that? Who do you think you are?" and so on. Before we know it, the conflict has escalated to a level that' sometimes breaks the relationship. That's when Grandfather came to the conclusion that learning to control one's anger is the first step in understanding the philosophy of nonviolence.
This, belief was enforced when he went to South Africa. a the age of 23. Within a week of his arrival in that country, he became a victim of prejudices and he was beaten up by four white youths, who were arrested by the police. The police invited Grandfather to come to the police station and file charges against them so that action could be taken. And Grandfather went to the police station, but on his way to there he began to think about this, and he thought, will filing charges and punishing them make them realize that what they did was wrong? Will that teach them any lessons? He concluded that that would never teach them any lesson that he wanted them to learn, and that the only way they would learn that lesson was if he forgave them and allowed them to go free.
So at the police station he told the police, "I'm not filing charges against them." The police were aghast, and they said, "If you don't file charges, these people are going to walk out of the police station free." He said, "That's what I want them to do. I want them to walk out from here, and I hope that they will learn this lesson, that I am forgiving them for what they have done to me. But I hope that they will learn that this kind of behavior is wrong and that we don't need to have hate and prejudice against other people." Those people walked out from there, and three of the four people became his lifelong followers. That's when he realized how important it is for us to understand what we mean by justice and what we mean by anger.
Today experts tell us that almost 80% of the violence that we experience in our lives is generated by anger. We get angry and we just explode and do things that sometimes we regret later on. Our prison systems are filled with young people who acted in a moment of madness. If you went and asked them, they would all want to take that moment back again. But once you have done it, you can't do anything to take it back again. So it's important that we learn how to understand our anger and be able to channel that energy positively.
1 had that opportunity because I grew up in South Africa and, like Grandfather, I became a victim of prejudices, too. At a very young age I was beaten up by some white youths because they thought I was too black, and then a few months later by black people because they thought I was too white. It filled me with a lot of rage, and I wanted eye-for-an-eye justice. That's when my parents decided to take me to India and give me the opportunity to live with Grandfather and learn some valuable lessons from him.
One of the first lessons that I learned from him was about understanding that anger and being able to channel that energy into positive action. He told me, "Anger is like electricity: It's just as powerful and just as useful as electricity is, but only if we use it intelligently. It can be just as deadly and destructive if we abuse it. "So just as we channel electricity and bring it into our lives and use it for the good of humanity, we must learn to channel anger in the same way so that we can use that energy for the good of humanity rather than abuse the energy."
He suggested that I should write an anger journal. He said, "Every time you feel anger coming up for whatever reason, don't pour it on somebody or something, but pour it all out in your journal. But write the journal with the intention of finding a solution to the problem, and then commit yourself to finding a solution." That's really important, because a lot of people today tell me today that they have been writing an anger journal for a long time, but it hasn't really helped them because every time they read the journal they are reminded of the incident and they become angry all over again.
But he also taught me how profound his philosophy is. We tend to look at violence only in physical terms, and we think that the moment we put an end to war or fighting somewhere, that we have attained peace. That's not true at all. We commit violence in so many different ways. He explained this to me through a little pencil. A little, 3-inch butt of a pencil became a major subject for a lesson in nonviolence.
When I was coming back from school one day and I had this little pencil in my hand, I looked at it and I thought I deserved a better pencil, this is too small for me to use. So without a second thought, I just threw it away, because I was so sure that Grandfather would give me a new pencil when I asked him for one. But that evening, instead of giving me a new pencil, he subjected me to a lot of questions. He wanted to know how the pencil became small and where did I throw it away and why did I throw it away, and on and on and on. I couldn't understand why he was making such a fuss over a little pencil until he told me to go out and look for it. I said, "You must be joking. You don't expect me to look for this little pencil in the dark." He said, "Oh, yes, I do. Here's a flashlight. Go out and look for it"
I must have spent about two hours searching for that pencil When I finally found it and brought it to him, he said, "Now I want you to sit here and learn two very important lessons. The first lesson is that even in the making of a simple thing like a pencil, we use a lot of the world's natural resources, and when we throw them away, we are throwing away the world's natural resources. And that is violence against nature. And the second lesson is that because in an affluent society we can afford to buy all these things in bulk, we overconsume the resources of the world, and because we overconsume them, we are depriving people elsewhere of these resources. And that is violence against humanity.
" That's when I became aware that all of these little things that we do every day, consciously and unconsciously, every time we throw things away that are perfectly good, we are contributing to violence in society. That's how the imbalance in the world takes place, where some people are really rich and some people have to live in poverty. And it's that kind of imbalance that Rachel was talking about in all her writings, that she was so concerned about the poor people. And when she said "We are them and they are us," what she was saying is that we are all interrelated, that we cannot think of ourselves as independent individuals.
Today a lot of us think that we are independent, we can protect our nation. Politicians tell us, "Don't worry. We'll protect our nation. We'll build a security network around us so that nobody can disturb our lifestyle," that we can continue to live as we do now and we don't have to worry about the rest of the world. No nation can survive on its own. We can survive only if all the others survive also. So the only security that we have in the world is to ensure that everybody else in the world has a better standard of living, which means that we may have to sacrifice a little bit ourselves. But look at the pleasure it will give to people allover the world and how we can all live together instead of being so greedy and concerned only about ourselves.
Unfortunately, this kind of materialistic, capitalistic world that we are creating has the tendency to make each one of us selfish and self-centered and greedy and wanting to take the bigger share of the pie, as big a share of the pie as we can. And that is what is causing all the havoc in the world today. The imbalance and the lack of concern for other people and things that are happening in every nation of the world are causing this kind of violence. So we have to understand that violence is not just physical violence; it is all the religious violence, the material violence, the social violence, the cultural violence, all of these things that we do to one another.
Grandfather made me draw a family tree of violence on the same principles as a genealogical tree, with violence as the grandparent and physical violence and passive violence as the two offspring. Every day before I went to bed, I had to analyze everything that I had experienced during the day and put them on that tree. If it was the kind of violence where I used physical violence against another, then it would go on the physical violence. All the murders and killings and beatings and rapes and all of these wars and all of these actions where we use physical force is physical violence. But we commit a lot of passive violence, the kind of violence where we don't use any physical force but nevertheless our actions or inactions hurt somebody some way or the other. Sometimes we do this unconsciously. We are not aware that our actions here are hurting somebody else, because we have not learned about thinking about other people. But when he made me do this exercise every day, it was a way for me to do self-introspection, to find out how I was contributing to violence in society all the time. And when I began to do this, within a few months I was able to fill up a whole wall in my room with acts of passive violence.
That's when Grandfather explained to me the connection between the two. He said, "We commit passive violence all the time, consciously and unconsciously, and that generates anger in the victim. The victim then resorts to physical violence to get justice. It is passive violence that fuels the fire of physical violence. So logically, if we want to put out the fire of physical violence, we have to cut off the fuel supply. And since the fuel supply comes from each one of us, unless we become the change that we wish to see in the world, we can't really create peace in the world. So we have to look at ourselves, look at our actions, look at our behaviors, look at our relationships with each other and correct them so that we can create the culture of nonviolence and peace that we want. We can attain peace only through nonviolence. We will never be able to attain peace through any other means. So we have to be conscious of that culture of nonviolence."
Grandfather, in his philosophy, had also evolved what he called trusteeship and constructive action, two aspects of his philosophy, things that each one of us, individually or collectively, can do to bring about a change in the world. What he meant by this was that all of us have a talent that we have either acquired through our education or inherited. But we think that we own the talent, and therefore we exploit that talent for our own personal gain as much as possible, to achieve whatever our ambition may be. Grandfather said that we don't own the talent, we are trustees of the talent. As trustees of the talent, we should be willing to use talent for other people as much as we use it for ourselves. That means helping other people in sharing with other people. But there again, it has to be done constructively.
When we give to people today, most of the time we give in charity. And often charity is something that comes out of pity instead of coming out of compassion. Let me explain the difference between the two. When we go out into the marketplace and we see a hungry, homeless person, our immediate reaction is to dip our hands in the pocket and give the person a dollar or two dollars and say, "Here, take this. Go and get something to eat." What we are actually telling that person, not through our language but through our action, is, "Take this money and get out of my face, and I hope that I don't see you again. You are an embarrassment and I don't want to see you again." That is acting out of pity. But if we were to act out of compassion, then we would stop to find out, why is this person incapable of taking care of himself or herself and what are the strengths that this person possesses which can be exploited so that they can stand on their own feet and feed themselves, and then help them realize those strengths. That is acting out of compassion.
But it means getting involved more deeply than we would like to, because we are so concerned about ourselves and our own lives and our own things that we don't want to spend too much time for other people. That's a mistake that we make. Because if we spend a little time for other people, we can do wonders, we can achieve great things. There are numerous stories of such actions taking place everywhere, where one person or a few people have made a tremendous difference in the lives of many people. That's what we need more and more.
Today a lot of people in the world misunderstand us, because they think that we don't care about the rest of the world, that we care only about ourselves and our own lives and doing everything for ourselves here. For the most part, that's what really happens. So there is that kind of misunderstanding between peoples of the world and ourselves: they don't understand us and the true American psyche. And we need to change that.
A little step that I've taken in trying to bring about that understanding and change is I have organized a Gandhi legacy tour. Every year I take about 25 to 30 people to India, and we go out into the villages and see the people who live in poverty and how other people have made sacrifices of their lives to go and help these poor people and transform them. We go and see those projects and get inspired by those projects and try to help them in whatever little way we can to speed up the process of transformation. That's how people come close to us and understand us and don't have these wrong impressions of us.
I would like to share with you a story. Some years ago, I was traveling from South Africa to India by ship. On board the ship there was a senior American lady. The two of us got on very well together, and we used to sit and talk and dine together. But as we came close to Bombay, now Mumbai, she began to stay more and more in the cabin, until the day before we reached Bombay, she locked herself in the cabin and she refused to come out. I thought that she was not well, so I went and knocked at the door, and said, "Can I bring something to you? Can I help you in some way? Do you need any medical help or whatever? Why aren't you coming out of the cabin?" And then she tells me through the door, "I've decided I'm not going to step out of this cabin until the ship leaves Bombay. I'm scared of Bombay." I said, " What are you scared of?" She said, "I've been told that Bombay is teeming with snakes, that you find snakes everywhere - in your hotel room, under the beds and in the cupboards and everywhere. There are snakes all over the place." I told her, "I've lived here for 20 years here in Bombay, and I haven't seen snakes anywhere. If at all, Bombay is teeming with people, not snakes."
But, you see, these kinds of wrong impressions that we have about each other is wrong. We need to change those impressions. And the only way we can change that is when we have interactions with each other and go out, and with compassion and understanding we meet people and talk to them about this.
There are endless aspects of his philosophy of nonviolence. I will go into a couple of them very briefly. One of them is our justice system. Our justice system today is based on revenge. We are constantly told that unless we make somebody pay for what has happened to us, we can never put an end to that episode. So we are all seeking justice through revenge: make somebody pay for this. Justice ideally should not be revenge. Justice should mean reformation. Justice should mean recognizing the fact that somebody who has done something wrong has done it out of ignorance or out of some compulsion, and that person needs specialized attention to correct that impression of him. Grandfather said that prisons should not be places where we lock people up and throw the keys away. Prisons should be places where we educate people and give them specialized attention, so that they come out better human beings.
Today in our prison system, unfortunately we have two wonderful things: we have a wonderful gymnasium and a wonderful law library. The prisoners spend half the time in the gymnasium pumping iron and building muscles and the other half of the time in the law library trying to find loopholes that they can exploit when they come out again. So they come out stronger criminals instead of coming out stronger human beings. If we make prisons places of specialized education and specialized attention, psychiatric and psychological attention for these prisoners, that would be a much better way of dealing with crime and reducing all the violence that we experience today.
The other thing that we do is very painful today, because we kill in the name of God. We have misinterpreted all the religions to such an extent that we believe God wants us to kill those who are not like us. No religion in the world ever talks about this at all. All the religions of the world are based on the four principles of love, respect, understanding, and compassion. These are the foundations of all the religions of the world Grandfather said, through his learning and his experiences when he came to the conclusion, "No religion of the world has the whole truth, all of them have a little bit of the truth. And the only way we can come to understand the whole truth is by sharing and learning about each other."
He used. to explain this to us in terms of the six blind people who were once asked to describe an elephant by feeling it. Each one of them was placed at a different part of the elephant, and each one was feeling a different part of the elephant. The one who was feeling the legs of the elephant, said, "This feels like a huge pole." The one who was feeling the body of the elephant said, "This feels like a huge wall." The one who had the trunk of the elephant said, "This feels like a huge snake." None of them were right, but none of them were wrong either. It was just that they didn't know what the whole elephant looked like, so they had that very little bit of the truth there. Grandfather said that that is our state in terms of our religious understanding: We have that little bit of the truth, and we think that that is the whole truth. Therefore, we hold on to that as being the ultimate truth, and it is a very distorted truth that we have..
So it's a question between those who believe that they possess the truth and those who believe that we can only pursue the truth. If you believe that you possess the truth, then you have a closed mind and you're not willing to look at anything else and you think that you have the truth and that's it, finished. But if you believe that you pursue the truth, then you have an open mind and you are willing to look at other religions and accept the truth from them also and enhance your own understanding of your religion. Learning about other religions does not mean that you give up your own. You enhance your own understanding of your own religion by learnin g about others.
And that's what he did in his lifetime. Whenever anybody asked him, he said, "I am a Hindu, I am a Muslim, I am a Christian, I am a Buddhist, I am everybody. Because I believe in the equality of all the beliefs." He used to say that religion is like climbing a mountain. We are all going up to the same peak, so why should it matter to anybody which side of the mountain we choose to climb up from. So if we have that kind of an attitude towards religion, an open attitude, where we are willing to learn about each other, it would make a tremendous difference in understanding each other and bridging the gaps that exist between us.
I don't know whether you're all aware of this, but Grandfather started his first nonviolent campaign in South Africa on September 11, 1906. So September 11, 2006 is the centenary year of that occasion. In this country it is significant, obviously, for a negative reason. It was the day the terrorists attacked us. But let's look at the positive side of it. It's also the day that we were given an alternative to violence. So let us pray for those who died in violence and let us pray for peace and forgiveness on that day. If all of us can come out into the town square. We pray in our places of worship, in churches, in mosques, in temples. That's okay. What I want is that we come out into the town square, all the Hindus and the Muslims and the Christians and the Buddhists, everybody comes out into the town square, holds hands, and prays together in each other's religious beliefs.
Let us all do this together, as Gandhi did it during his lifetime. His daily prayers every day consisted of hymns from all the major religions of the world. We grew up on that kind of religious belief that every morning and evening our prayers at home and even outside in public included hymns from all these different religions. That is a way to show respect for each other.
I would like to conclude with one more story , a story that my Grandfather used to be very fond of telling us over and over again. It's the story of an ancient Indian king who once became very Curious about the meaning of peace. He invited all the intellectuals in his kingdom to come and explain the meaning of peace, and everybody came and did their best, but nobody could satisfy the king. Then one day there was an intellectual from another town who came on a visit, and the king asked him to explain the meaning of peace. This person said, "The only person who can give you a satisfactory answer is an old sage who lives outside your kingdom. He is so old that he cannot come to you. You will have to go to him and ask him this question." So the next day the king went to the sage and asked him the meaning of peace. And the sage quietly went to the back of the house and came back with a grain of wheat and placed that grain of wheat on the king's palm and said, "Here is the meaning of peace." And, of course, the king didn't know what a grain of wheat had to do with peace. And he wasn't about to show his ignorance, so he quietly clutched that grain of wheat and went back to the palace. He found a little gold box, and he placed that grain of wheat in the box. Every morning he would get up and open the box to look for an answer, but he couldn't find any answers there.
A few days later this intellectual came back on a return visit, and the king asked him to explain. He said, "You sent me to the sage, and he's given me this grain of wheat. I don't know what a grain of wheat has to do with peace." So this intellectual said, " It's very simple. As long as you keep this grain of wheat in the box, nothing is going to happen. It will eventually rot and perish, and that will be the end of the story. But if you allowed this grain of wheat to interact with all the elements, if you planted this outside in the soil, it would sprout and grow, and very soon you could have a whole field of wheat."
That is the meaning of peace, that if one person has found peace and if that person keeps it locked up in his heart for his own personal gain, it will perish with him. But if we allowed to it interact with all the elements, we could spread it and it would sprout and grow, and very soon we would have a whole world of peacemakers. So I have come to you today with that grain of wheat that I got from my Grandfather, and I am giving you that grain of wheat today. I hope that you won't let it perish but let it interact with all the elements so that all of us together can create a world of peace that Rachel would be proud of. Thank you very much.
The question was about Grandfather and why he named his movement satyagraha. When he started the movement in South Africa, he first used the term ""passive resistance." Then after a while he realized that there is nothing passive about the movement. So he changed it and used a phrase of Tolstoy , but that didn't suit his taste either. So he then devised a term in Hindi which means the force of truth, or the pursuit of truth. Then he came to the conclusion that this is not a strategy. There are those of us who believe that nonviolence is a strategy that we can use when it is convenient and discard it when it is not. It is not a strategy. It is something that has to become a way of life. When he used the term satyagraha to describe his movement, he said, "This not only describes the movement but it describes life itself, that life itself must be a constant pursuit of truth for each one of us. And if we do that honestly and with understanding and compassion, then we will ultimately reach some understanding of the truth."
There's one thing I don't understand completely. In reference to the extreme of this nonviolent perspective, What about physically defending someone in need of it, a child that's being hurt by someone next to you and the only way you can prevent that is by stepping in and blocking the punch and hurting that person back? What is your perspective in that situation?
Oh, yes, I do believe that in such situations some violence is absolutely necessary and we have to take that. We cannot create an absolutely nonviolent society. That would be impossible, because in the very act of walking around we are crushing little life forms, and that's violence also. So some violence is inevitable, and we should be ready to use that. But we must reduce the level of violence to the bare minimum. We should not make violence the first option, but the absolute last option.
I am very interested in the subject of reaching out to people that you disagree with. Oftentimes within a movement like this, even a well-organized event like this, we end up gathering together people who share common values. And yet it seems that the front line of the peace movement is talking to people whom we disagree with and from whom we have a different perspective. This somehow seems to relate to the question of personalizing evil also. I'm just curious what your suggestions are for how to conduct that work on the front lines of actually reaching out to people who do not share the same values that we do.
I think we have to remember that nonviolence is something that enables us to work at all times and create an atmosphere and create better relationships. Unfortunately, we take note of situations only when they become a crisis. And when they blow up into a crisis, then we want to intervene and find a solution to it. Often, tempers are so high at that time that finding a nonviolent solution becomes very difficult, so it makes everything difficult. But if we continuously work, all the time, to create better relationships between people, to be active, to be a true community.
We think that we have a community today, but we don't have a community anywhere, because a community ideally must be interconnected, interrelated. It has to be cohesive. The community has to be cohesive. Unfortunately, today we live in neighborhoods, but we don't even know who is living next door to us and we don't care about that either. So that is not a community. So we need to work at all of these different things and create that kind of cohesiveness between us so that we can iron out the differences before they blow up and become big issues.
My name is Julia, and I'm 11 years old. What age did you realize that your grandfather's methods of peace were working for you?
I wasn't a very bright boy. It took me some time to understand the importance of his philosophy. All these stories that I shared with you and many more stories that you will read in my book, took place when I was between 12 and 14 years of age. And I won’t say that they really made an impact on me at that time, but as I grew older and I began to reflect on all of these things, I began to understand how important they were. So I can’t pinpoint an age and tell you that at this age it happened. I think it was just a process that took place gradually over my life. And every day I see new things and new things are revealed to me.