FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Arun Gandhi, peace activist and co-founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, explained the lessons he learned from his grandfather, legendary spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi, to a capacity crowd on the campus of Fort Worth’s Texas Wesleyan University Tuesday night.
Gandhi served as the closing speaker of the Texas Wesleyan University College Day, an annual, one-and-a-half-day event featuring more than 100 scholarly paper and poster presentations by students and faculty members.
“Arun Gandhi’s presence made this a truly special day for Texas Wesleyan students,” said Allen Henderson, provost and senior vice president of Texas Wesleyan University. “He not only provided practical insights on peace, nonviolence, and education this evening, but he provided students the opportunity to speak with him individually—he even ate lunch with many students.”
Amid numerous stories about his memories and experiences with his grandfather, Gandhi conveyed two key lessons instilled in him by Mahatma Gandhi. First, the energy emitted by anger must be properly channeled. Second, the breadth and depth of a truly nonviolent perspective are vast.
“Anger is like electricity,” Gandhi said. “It serves a useful and powerful purpose if it is used properly. But it is dangerous if abused and not directed safely.”
Gandhi explained that the key to channeling anger is mental exercise. He said that his grandfather instructed him to sit quietly in a room and dedicate his mind to focusing for a few minutes on an object or image that made him happy, such as a butterfly or tree. Then, per his grandfather’s instructions, he closed his eyes and worked on giving his entire attention and thought to picturing that object and thinking of nothing else. He admitted that he found the task difficult, at first. But, over time, he found he could control and focus his mind for longer periods of time. He explained that he continues to use this technique to control his mind and his emotions.
In relaying the lesson of the breadth and depth of a nonviolent perspective, Gandhi relayed the story of a three-inch pencil he once discarded, believing that his grandfather would buy him another one. When Gandhi asked for a new pencil, his grandfather posed numerous questions about the pencil and why Gandhi tossed it aside on his way home. His grandfather then handed him a flashlight and instructed him to go and find the pencil. Two hours later, Gandhi returned with the short pencil and asked why it was so important that he find it.
“Because even in the making of a pencil, the world’s natural resources are used,” said Gandhi’s grandfather. “And to waste such resources is to commit violence against nature. Humanity over-consumes the world’s resources. And when we waste, throw away, or discard these resources and deprive others of the chance to use them, we commit violence against humanity.”
Gandhi explained that his grandfather taught him the difference between physical violence and passive violence. Physical violence involves kicking, punching, and other physical acts. Passive violence is any act that hurts, rather than helps, another. Gandhi explained that passive violence generates anger in its victim and that the victim often seeks justice by a violent act. Thus, Gandhi said that change to a more peaceful, nonviolent society must begin with each person becoming aware of his acts of passive violence and identifying a solution to stop such acts. One of the foundational solutions is to engage in strong relationships.
“Nonviolence is about building relationships,” Gandhi said. “Poor relationships are built on self-focus and what we can obtain from the relationship. Strong relationships must be built on respect, understanding, acceptance, and appreciation of one another.”
After answering numerous questions from the audience, Gandhi conducted a book signing. Earlier in the day, Fort Worth City Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks presented Gandhi with a key to the city during a ceremony on the Texas Wesleyan campus.