The legacy of Mahatma Gandhi is coming alive on campus through the voice of his grandson. Arun Gandhi will be appearing at Central Oregon Community College Feb. 20 to discuss his grandfather’s teachings, as part of the campus’ fifth annual Season of Nonviolence.
“I will be sharing with the students my understanding of the philosophy of nonviolence,” said Gandhi, “and my experience with my grandfather, living with him as a little boy.”
Gandhi was born in 1934 in Durban, South Africa. At age 12 he was sent by his parents to India to stay with his grandfather, in hopes that he would be influenced by his grandfather’s teachings.
“I used to be a very angry young boy because I suffered a lot of prejudice in South Africa when growing up. I wanted eye for an eye justice, and wanted to be violent with the people who abused me,” said Gandhi. “Grandfather taught me that this is not a very useful attitude. He said that anger is like electricity. It can be just as useful and just as powerful, if only we use it intelligently.”
Throughout his adult life, Gandhi has used this “electricity” to push forward his grandfather’s teachings, working as a journalist, activist and organizer for the poor and oppressed in India. Now he is hoping that his message can be carried on by the students at COCC.
“I am going to be coming there as a peace farmer. I am going to plant seeds in the mind of the young people,” said Gandhi. “And eventually we can all have a good crop of peacemakers.”
Gandhi’s grandfather was a leader of movements for social justice in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Through his campaigns of nonviolent resistance, Mahatma Gandhi was able to advance the cause of equality for the Indian population in South Africa. In his motherland of India, his influence culminated, gaining independence from British rule in 1947. He was assassinated the following year.
“Nonviolence is about becoming the change you wish to see in the world,” said Gandhi. “Change will not come from the the top down. Change will only come from the bottom up.”
In 1998 Gandhi and his wife Sunanda Gandhi began the Season of Nonviolence to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of his grandfather, as well as the 30th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. This will be Gandhi’s first appearance at COCC.
“The purpose of the Season of Nonviolence is for people to focus on [nonviolent] philosophy,” said Gandhi, “and to live that philosophy in their own way.”
Working with sponsors, the COCC Foundation’s Nancy R. Chandler Visiting Scholars Program, headed by Director Karen Aylward, is presenting the event.
“[When Arun Gandhi speaks], the personal stories between grandfather and grandson are brought to life,” said Aylward. “Even if you are not a proponent of nonviolence, this is a piece of history.”
Gandhi now travels around the world working with the likes of the Dalai Lama, voicing his concerns about the current course of the planet. It is his hope that his message will resonate with the younger generation.
“You are the leaders of the world; you are going to inherit this world,” said Gandhi. “It will be up to you to make a change, and make it a better world.”