Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and an advocate for nonviolence, is moving his Institute for Nonviolence to the UR campus. Gandhi lived with his grandfather as a child and lives by the same ideals of nonviolence. He has worked all his life to carry on the lessons that his grandfather taught to him and the rest of the world.
Born in Africa in 1934, Gandhi moved to India in 1958 because the South African government would not allow his wife to live there. He worked in India as a journalist until moving to the United States in 1987.
In 1991, he founded his institute in Memphis, Tenn. with the goal of spreading the principles of nonviolence. This week he began the process of moving the institute to the fourth floor of Wilson Commons.
The institute organizes events and programs that promote nonviolence and Gandhi himself has traveled the country, delivering speeches at universities.
He came to UR in September and delivered a speech entitled “Terrorism and Nonviolence: Choices for the Future.” He spoke about how nonviolence can be used to counter terrorism.
Gandhi has been considering UR as a new home for his institute for some time. He moved to Rochester in 2004 so his daughter could take care of his wife, who has since passed away. In that time, he said, professors had been periodically telling him of their interest in hosting his institute.
“The University has been very interested in my program for a while,” he said.
Gandhi has learned much from his grandfather and other social reform leaders.
“All the people who worked for peace are honorable people,” he said, citing Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama and others. “They know what life is about.” He said that his grandfather in particular made him realize the extent of the world’s culture of violence.
“The most important thing was the depth and breadth of his philosophy of nonviolence,” Gandhi said. “I was under the impression that non-violence was only about anti-war, anti-violence… he made me realize that we practice violence in many different ways that we don’t even recognize.”
Gandhi related the story of how his grandfather made him appreciate the amount of violence in the world through introspection. His grandfather made him draw a “family tree of violence” in which the patriarch was “violence,” which branched off into “physical violence” and “passive violence.” Every night he had to examine everything that had happened during the day and place events in the appropriate section.
Gandhi explained the difference between the two types of violence: physical violence includes forceful acts such as murder and rape, whereas passive violence entails actions, such as destruction of environmental resources, that require no physical force but still hurt people.
Gandhi said that passive violence makes people angry, which leads to physical violence.
“It’s actually passive violence that fuels the fire of physical violence,” he said. “If we want to put out the fire, we have to stop the fuel supply.”
Gandhi spoke of himself as a farmer who goes into the field and sows seeds of hope with his teachings.
“My goal is to plant seeds in the hearts of people,” he said. “My hope is that eventually those seeds will germinate.”
Gandhi also hopes that students will embrace and advance his cause. He will not be teaching classes, but he hopes to lecture occasionally and wants students to get involved.
“I expect a lot of cooperation from the student body,” he said. “We have the potential to show the rest of the country that we have an understanding of violence.”
Wrobel is a member of the class of 2010.