I recall quite well the first time I encountered Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence (Ahimsa) and his approach to non-violent action (Satyagraha). I was a young college student, studying philosophy and history. Gandhi’s words, for me, leapt from the page like a thunderbolt:
“My optimism rests on the belief in the infinite possibilities of the individual to develop nonviolence. The more you develop it in your own being, the more infectious it becomes till it overwhelms your surroundings and by and by might oversweep the world.”
These were not mere words; they were a call to action. Through this philosophy and, also, acute social and political strategy, Gandhi inspired and led a movement in India to overthrow British colonial rule, a task that many deemed impossible without the use of violence and an eye for an eye. It wasn’t easy. It didn’t happen overnight. But it happened, driven by a core philosophy of nonviolence as a healing and constructive force, as a way of transforming relationships – enemy to friend, combatant to collaborator – that cannot be achieved through violent means.
Few will reach Gandhi’s heights of influence. But this makes our work to improve our world and local communities no less vital. On the contrary, it was Gandhi’s own conviction that to complete positive change in the world we must – each one of us – start with our own selves and be that positive change in our interactions with others. This conviction has had many ripples, including in the work of Dr. King, Cesar Chavez and several other contemporary activists.
To see and consider these issues more deeply, I encourage you to join me and the Kegley Institute of Ethics at Cal State Bakersfield for the 15th annual KIE Fall Lecture at 10 a.m. Sept. 28 (CSUB Dore Theatre) featuring Arun Gandhi and Nipun Mehta.
Both of these speakers – Arun Gandhi, Gandhi’s fifth grandson, published author and founder of the Gandhi Institute for Non-Violence, and Nipun Mehta, the founder of ServiceSpace.org and a pioneering activist for the introduction of Gandhian principles in our world and economy – will offer insights into the history of Gandhian non-violence and intimate reflections on the contemporary importance of nonviolence, today, in our lives, communities and in a world still riddled with violence.
The 15th KIE Fall Lecture is free and open to the public thanks to our sponsors: the Ravi and Naina Patel Foundation, the Kegley Family, Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, Valley Public Radio, Kaiser Permanente and Adventist Health Bakersfield.
For information about the event, contact KIE at (661) 654-6263.
Michael D. Burroughs, Ph.D., is the director of the Kegley Institute of Ethics at CSUB. More information on the Kegley Institute of Ethics can be found on the Institute web site: www.csub.edu/kie.