About Enemies and Debates

This was originally requested by and posted to the Council for a Parliament of the World Religions website:  CPWR About Enemies and Debates by Arun Gandhi

About Enemies and Debates

By Arun Gandhi

Arun Gandhi NamasteLately there has been a lot of talk about “enemies” and how to deal with them. Inevitably, this leads to a heated “debate” and I find both these concepts repugnant since they form the foundation of what I call the Culture of Violence.

If there is anything I have learned from Gandhi’s writings and the lessons he taught me as a young boy entering his teens is that humankind is inexorably dominated by a Culture of Violence.  Over generations the roots of this culture have run deep dominating every aspect of human life — from parenting at home to governing nations.  The salvation, according to Gandhi, lies in each of us “becoming the change we wish to see in the world.”

During the struggle for India’s freedom from British Colonialism one rule that was observed strictly was never to dehumanize the British as “enemies”.  Even when someone made a joke Grandfather would admonish the person and insist that we root out all words from our vocabulary that dehumanize people.  Dehumanization is the first step in justifying violence and war.  When we learn to respect everyone as human beings — even those with whom we may have differences of opinion — we will reduce violence. 

Whenever possible Gandhi entered into a “discussion” with the British, never a “debate”.  A discussion implies an openness to understand the other’s point of view and arrive at an amicable understanding whereas a debate implies there is only one Truth and the person with the gift of the gab can overwhelm the other. 

A very potent example of this is religion.  There are endless debates about which religion is the best and everyone claims they have the whole Truth.  This attitude has led to wars, violence, massacres and genocides in the name of God.  Yet, unfortunately, we are unwilling to accept that there are many aspects to one Truth.  If we continue to debate this point we will never arrive at any understanding. 

Religion, my Grandfather used to say, is the spiritual Mount Everest.  All of us are trying to scale this peak and we choose different paths to get to the top.  Since all the paths are equal why should it be a matter of contention which path one chooses to take?  The important objective is for every individual to get to the top by making a sincere and committed effort.  It needs no organization — just individual commitment and dedication. Incidentally, I am offering these thoughts for a discussion, not a debate!

Avoiding the Storm Clouds of Syria

We should be supporting the Syrian Non-Violence Movement rather than supplying the rebels in their quest for a violent takeover. That would truly send a message that we have a genuine regard for all the Syrian people and would be a form of humanitarian intervention worth supporting. Rochester U professor-emeritus Robert Holmes makes an impassioned and eloquent case in this guest post that originally appeared in the Rochester University Campus Times.  – Arun


Robert Holmes of Rochester University on Syria

Robert Holmes PhD

     The storm clouds of a major Middle Eastern war have been gathering for years. A U.S. attack on Syria would bring that war closer, further destabilizing a region already reeling from violence. 

It would also have global consequences.  Central to the world order that emerged with the evolution of the modern nation state is the idea of sovereignty, the right of states to noninterference in their internal affairs. That concept has been at the heart of international law since World War I and is central to the UN Charter. That world order is now crumbling.  An attack on Syria could finalize its downfall. 

The idea has gained ground recently that states lose their legitimacy – and sovereignty – if they violate the human rights of their citizens.  Other states can then intervene to prevent such violations.  But as there is no grand moral tribunal to make these judgments, it is left to governments to make them. Kosovo provided the model, and so-called “humanitarian intervention” the rationale.  As human rights violations abound in the world, the door is open for nations to pursue their own interests behind the fig-leaf of humanitarian intervention.

The U.S. clearly seeks not only to punish the gassing of the Syrian people but also to bring about the downfall of the Assad regime.  Its ally, Israel, reportedly supports an attack that will contribute to a stalemate in the war, thereby weakening Syria’s ally, Iran.  Both are national interest concerns, not humanitarian. [Read more…]

What’s with our obsession with terrorism?

Arun Gandhi on the obsession with terrorism

Our obsession with terrorism has driven many of us into such a frenzy of fear that it often borders on the ridiculous.  Last year Lynnea Bylund posted to her Catalyst blog Time To Toss The Terrorist Fear Blather, wherein she correctly pointed out that, “… peanuts and bathtub drownings are by far more dangerous to Americans at home than terrorists,” statistically speaking. But the other day I encountered an even more fundamental variety of this fear.

I met a middle-aged gentleman from the upper middle class economic.  He was very curious about my frequent travels and questioned me at length about a variety of places I had journeyed to.  So I asked him: “Tell me about your travels?”

“Oh, I haven’t been anywhere outside the United States,” he said quite firmly.

“Why not?  Don’t you like to travel?”

“Yes,” he said and added. “But I am afraid. All these terrorists stalking us Americans and I don’t want to die yet.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.  “Where are these terrorists?”

“Oh, all over the world,” he replied.  And they are just waiting for Americans to leave the country so they can kill them.”

I was so shocked by this bald statement that I blurted out: “That is unadulterated BS!   I think there are far more terrorists in our cities and our own American streets than in the rest of the world.”

“What do you mean?,” he asked quite shocked.

[Read more…]

Arun Gandhi and his Grandfather’s Legacy – Part 1

A recent interview I gave to Cameron Conaway at the Good Men Project.

Man-to-Man with Arun Gandhi, Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi – Part 1


Arun Gandhi became his own man despite and thanks to shouldering his grandfather’s legacy.

I dialed Arun’s cell from Skype on my laptop. The first ring reinforced how different the times of today must Arun Gandhibe compared to 67 years ago when he was living in India with his grandfather Mahatma Gandhi. The second ring reinforced the similarities: the wars, the conflicts and the ongoing need for peace. He answered on the third; his voice a bridge.

Arun Gandhi was born in 1934 and is the fifth grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. For over thirty years he worked as a journalist for the Times of India and in recent years he’s had a regular blog for The Washington Post. He is the co-founder of The M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence and in recent years has become one of the world’s most sought-after speakers on practical peacebuilding and the original teachings of his grandfather. In 2008 he founded the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute. As noble as his work has been, it hasn’t been without controversy. In 2008 he came under harsh scrutiny and later apologized for a Washington Post article in which he was accused of insinuating that the Jews and Israel are “the biggest players” in a global culture of violence.

Still, Arun is a man who has managed to become his own man, who has experienced his own traumas in childhood and as an adult, who continues to use his grandfather’s teachings and the time they spent together as a personal compass. He now works daily to combat the multifaceted scourge of poverty in India. [Read more…]

“Lessons Learned from my Grandfather: Non-Violence in a Violent World” Arun Gandhi

Arun Gandhi Pacific University Oregon in Forest Grove.   


Arun Gandhi – “Lessons Learned from my Grandfather: Non-Violence in a Violent World” from Berglund Center on Vimeo.


Arun Gandhi inspires crowded gym at Pacific University with stories, lessons, and hugs 

By Deborah Bloom, The Oregonian 


Why Is Peace Elusive?

Why Is Peace Elusive?

By Arun Gandhi

President: Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute

arun gandhiFor generations human beings around the world worked hard to attain peace but their efforts ended mostly in heart-breaking futility leading to pessimism and worse. There is a wide-spread belief now that peace is unattainable and that civilization is doomed to perish by violence. When peace appears to be won through violence it is very temporary because violence subjugates the opponent. When we seek to control someone through fear of punishment or violence or superior force that control remains only as long as the dominant force is able to exert fear. Since human beings realized in pre-historic times that they could survive in jungles only by using force they developed a whole “culture of violence” that gradually came to dominate every aspect of human life. Our language, our behavior, our relationships, our attitudes, in short almost everything about the human being is now conditioned by the “culture of violence.” Generations have now come to believe that violence is human nature and one just has to live with it. I hope by the time you finish reading this chapter you will be convinced that violence is not human nature.

The question that most people ask is why then is peace so illusive?   Are humans incapable of living in peace?   [Read more…]

BRIEF: Gandhi’s grandson returning to Chattanooga to push nonviolence

arun gandhiDr. Arun Gandhi will be in Chattanooga for a week in September to participate in activities designed to highlight the legacy of nonviolence left by his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi.

Mahatma Gandhi led India to independence through nonviolence. He was assassinated in 1948.

Dr. Gandhi will share how to take “Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence into our lives and onto our streets,” Missy Crutchfield, administrator of Chattanooga’s Department of Education, Arts and Culture, said in a news release.

Gandhi’s visit to Chattanooga will include visits to local schools, a social justice and cultural tour, a Connecting the Dots summit and blessing of the Eastgate Library.   [Read more…]

Arun Gandhi in London promoting Total Nonviolence September 1, 2012

Arun Gandhi Transformation UK 2012For Immediate Release, London, UK – Jul 26, 2012 – Gandhi to speak about Total Non Violence and his Charity, Gandhi For Children.

Arun Gandhi, fifth Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi is following in his famous Grandfather’s footsteps as he continues to deliver the message of Total Non-Violence around the World.  Author of several books, Mr Gandhi wrote The Forgotten Woman: The Untold Story of Kastur, the Wife of Mahatma Gandhi, jointly with his late wife Sunanda.  The book was published by fellow author and Founding President of Ozark Mountain’s Publishing Company, Dolores Cannon, in 2011.

Since then, Mr Gandhi has spoken about both his book, his work as a peace emissary as well as the work he does with his charities, The Gandhi Institute and Gandhi for Children at many organisations and events, including The United Nations.

This September, Mr Gandhi will speak in London on Sunday September 2 at Ozark Mountain Publishing’s Transformation Conference at the Shaw Theatre, The Novotel Hotel, St Pancras.  [Read more…]

Gandhi’s Grandson Shares Lessons for Nonviolent Life

Arun Gandhi Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi

How would your parents or caregivers had responded if you had, on multiple occasions, disruptively, and for no good reason, burst into a room where they were either working, or conducting important meetings?

For many, the resounding answer would be punishment, or at least a stern talking to. Arun Gandhi recalled during an assembly Tuesday morning at Hatboro-Horsham High School, that his grandfather, Mohandas Gandhi, did neither.

Instead, the late leader of India, whose penchant for righting social and political injustices through peaceful and non-violent actions, paused from his “high-level political discussions” – which in the mid-1940s were aiming to tackle weighty issues including the independence of his country and the emancipation of women – and simply placed his hand over his grandson’s mouth. With the then 12-year-old Arun Gandhi quieted, the elder Gandhi continued talking.   [Read more…]

Palestine and Nonviolence by Arun Gandhi

                                                  Palestine and Nonviolence

                                                            By Arun Gandhigandhi-21-e1306570250124-300x300

Since it is important that we look at nonviolence from all the different perspectives this paper may appear to be dealing with issues that are not directly relevant to the question of Palestinian peace. For this I apologize at the outset with a humble request to give me a little latitude so that I can tie up all the seemingly different issues in a cogent manner. When my grandfather Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (better known as Mahatma Gandhi) proposed nonviolence as the method for India’s struggle for independence from British dominance, it was not only for moral reasons. It was also for practical reasons. In 1857 India witnessed a violent revolution that swept over much of northern India but was quickly crushed by the superior weapons and training of the British army. The status of Indians had not changed since then and Gandhi realized that Indians still had virtually no military training and absolutely no means to acquire new and sophisticated weapons to match the power of the British. Thus, a violent revolution was considered suicidal. Besides, violence not only demands the sacrifice of human life but, in the long run, violence destroys human values and human dignity. Even where violence may appear to have resolved a conflict the solution usually is either temporary or exacts a very heavy cost. Often violence creates more problems than it solves. [Read more…]

Terrorism and Nonviolence

Terrorism and Nonviolence 

By Arun Gandhi

MK Gandhi SpinningUnderstandably, after the tragedy in New York and Washington DC on September 11 many have written or called the office to find out what would be an appropriate nonviolent response to such an unbelievably inhuman act of violence.

First, we must understand that nonviolence is not a strategy that we can use in times of peace and discard in a moment of crisis. Nonviolence is about personal attitudes, about becoming the change we wish to see in the world.
Because, a nation’s collective attitude is based on the attitude of the individual. Nonviolence is about building positive relationships with all human beings – relationships that are based on love, compassion, respect, understanding and appreciation.

Nonviolence is also about not judging people as we perceive them to be – that is, a murderer is not born a murderer; a terrorist is not born a terrorist. People become murderers, robbers and terrorists because of circumstances and experiences in life. Killing or confining murders, robbers, terrorists, or the like is not going to rid this world of them. For every one we kill or confine we create another hundred to take their place. What we need to do is dispassionately analyze both the circumstances that create such monsters and how we can help eliminate those circumstances. Focusing our efforts on the monsters, rather than what creates the monsters, will not solve the problems of violence. Justice should mean reformation and not revenge.

[Read more…]