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An interview with Arun Gandhi*


What was the most important thing you learned from your grandfather Mohandas K. Gandhi?

The most important lesson I learned from him was to recognize anger and deal with it positively. I was a very angry young man because of racial beatings and humiliations that I suffered in South Africa. He taught me to write an anger journal to provide a harmless receptacle into which I could pour my anger without injuring anyone and give me a written record of my emotions to study. He also taught me that anger is a very good and powerful source of energy. If we did not have anger, we would not be motivated to do anything. However, we often misuse that energy for negative purposes.

What do you feel is his most important teaching?

Gandhi: The most important teaching of Mahatma Gandhi is the comprehensive philosophy of nonviolence. Grandfather would explain his philosophy by making us learn what is “violence.” Unless we know what is wrong, we will not recognize what is right. We must recognize passive (nonphysical) violence, such as hate, prejudice, oppression, intolerance, discrimination. To taunt or oppress someone is also violence. In fact it is passive violence that fuels physical violence because it generates anger, and we generally translate that anger into violence. Grandfather believed we will never create peace and harmony as long as we ignore the passive violence. Grandfather taught us that “an eye for an eye” justice was not justice. That was revenge. Justice is when you are able to change people from their wrong ways through love and dialogue.

Which programs of the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence do you feel have made the greatest impact in the lives of the participants?

Gandhi: I think working with children and youth and teaching them anger-management and the theory and practice of nonviolence has been the most effective work the Institute has done so far.

How can young people in the world today help to promote nonviolence in themselves and among their peers?

Gandhi: I believe the young people understand that they are the future leaders and that what happens with the world depends on how responsible they feel towards it. They must learn to channel their anger into positive action and work toward reducing the violence. Above all they must remember two points: 1) that no one person has the capacity to change the whole world and, therefore, it is futile to even try. We must set ourselves attainable goals and go up the ladder one rung at a time. And, 2) we must appreciate that we cannot eliminate all violence, but we can certainly reduce violence that we practice individually and collectively.

Do you have any closing thoughts?

Gandhi: All of us, young and old, relatives and strangers, must learn to respect each other and each other’s beliefs. We must appreciate diversity. Our minds, grandfather used to say, must be like a room with many open windows. Let the breezes blow in from all directions, but refuse to be blown away by any of them. Imagine a room that is airtight. There will soon be no oxygen and the room will be unlivable. This is what happens to a mind that is closed. When we open the windows of our room [our mind], we let in a lot of lifesaving oxygen and some impurities along with it. The good that the air does is so great that the bad is inconsequential.

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Copyright © 1996 M.K.Gandhi Institute

* This interview with Arun Gandhi by Alison Jerris is reprinted from the Spring/Early Summer issue of How on Earth Magazine, a journal dedicated to supporting young vegetarians and promoting compassionate, ecologically sound living.


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