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Lessons from ‘Grandpa Gandhi’

Arun Gandhi came to the University of South Florida Friday to give students a grain of wheat. But he cautioned them not to store the grain in a gold box for their personal growth or it would perish.He encouraged the audience members to share their answers for cultivating peace with others so they could work together to create a world of peace.

Gandhi’s grains of wheat were not tangible. The tiny hard seeds, which he dispersed to the audience, were lessons he had learned from his famous grandfather, Mohandas Karamchand “Muhatma Gandhi.” Gandhi shared his childhood stories at a lecture to illustrate how people can employ non-violence in every aspect of their lives.

Although Gandhi advocates non-violent means as a solution to potentially violent conflicts, he didn’t always subscribe to that philosophy. In fact, at age 10, he read body-building magazines in order to defend himself against people who had beaten him up because of the color of his skin.

“I wanted an eye for eye in justice,” Gandhi said. However, he never carried out his revenge because his parents realized his intentions and sent him to live with his grandfather in India. It was there, Gandhi said, that he learned how to deal with his anger in healthy ways.

“Anger is like electricity,” Gandhi said. “It is just as powerful and useful, but only if you use it intelligently. You can channel electricity and use it for productive things. (Similarly), you can learn to channel anger in the same way to use it for the good of humanity, rather than abuse.”

Gandhi said although most people do not consider themselves to be violent, aggression can take on different forms other than physical acts. Gandhi said he learned how passive acts of violence can be just as harmful as physical acts of violence.

Gandhi told the audience how one day he was walking home from school and decided he deserved a better pencil, one that was longer. So, he threw away the one he had and asked his grandfather for a new one.

But instead of getting a new pencil, his grandfather asked him questions about why he threw it away. He then handed Gandhi a flashlight and made him look for the pencil in the dark.

Gandhi said he learned two invaluable lessons from this episode in his life.

First, his grandfather told him that throwing the pencil away was the same as throwing away natural resources. And in doing so, he had committed violence against nature.

“Second, you can afford to buy it,” Gandhi said. “By overconsuming the resources of the world, you are depriving other people of these resources. You are committing violence against humanity.”

Gandhi’s grandfather then reinforced this lesson by making him draw a “family tree of violence,” in which he recorded all the acts of passive violence he had committed each day. By the end of the year, his entire bedroom wall was covered with violent acts.Through this exercise in self-reflection, Gandhi said he made a connection between passive violence and physical violence.

“People commit passive violence every day,” Gandhi said. “This generates anger in the victim.” The victim then “explodes” with physical acts of violence because of the injustice done to him or her.

“We have to cut off the fuel supply, which comes from us,” Gandhi said.

Gandhi offered the students a concrete example of how they could impart change by a simple act of generosity.

“Create a fund,” said Gandhi. “All of us spend money every day. You can save 50 cents or 25 cents every day from which this college or university could adopt another university in a Third World country.”

With around 26,000 students each giving 50 cents, Gandhi estimated that USF could raise $30,000 a day.

That money “can go a long way in a Third World country. All we need to do is drink one Coke less every day,” he said.