Tag Archives: Peace

Decoding the Significance of Indian-American Heritage

One of our seven beloved grandchildren asked the other day, “How do you say ‘reception’ in Indian?” She needed the information for her school paper, Growing up in a Multicultural Family.

A few months ago, another granddaughter had asked, “Has anyone in our family invented something?” for her high school paper.

The significance of Indian American heritage can be decoded through an understanding of “reason” and its limitations.

The renowned eighteenth-century philosopher, Immanuel Kant would say, “All knowledge flows from the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.

The world continues to subscribe to the philosophy of Kant.

Science, six sigma, policies, laws & regulations, and the like are products of reason. America excels in the products of reason. Most Nobel prizes go to Americans and America is home to top-notch technologies, products, and services.

In spite of these incredible accomplishments, why then has America not been able to tackle racial disharmony for over a century?

The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery in 1865 and a host of newer laws, policies, rules, and regulations have been adopted since then, including the 1965 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, or national origin.

Racism persists because the nation is limiting its pursuits to the products of reason, but the solution is not to be found there.

Swami Vivekananda was an Indian monk revered in his native land and widely respected in the United States. Asserts Vivekananda, “Indian thought dares to seek, and successfully finds, something higher than reason.”

Swami Vivekananda’s wisdom can be proved.

Intuition is immediate cognition without the benefit of the five senses and the rational mind. Perfect intuition translates into the capacity to discern truth from falsehood. We all have a certain level of intuition, but the accuracy is generally too low to be of any practical value.

How does one discover something higher than reason? Obviously, one cannot use reason itself for such an inquiry.

Seers have left behind clues in the form of discoveries over millennia that couldn’t have been sourced from previous knowledge, and in every case, the process used is meditation, known for thousands of years.

As an example, the four Vedas are the most ancient scriptures of humanity. Their knowledge and wisdom couldn’t have been sourced from previous knowledge as there was none. This is why they are referred to as “revealed” (Shruti).

Another example, physics realizes that the universe came into existence pursuant to a big bang moment 13.8 billion years ago when it was an incredibly small energy phase (10-33 cm in diameter), unbelievably hot and immensely dense. Physics realizes too that on the other side of the big bang, there was absolutely nothing, a void.

How did “nothing” transform into the energy phase of the big bang? No product of reason has an explanation, and the explanation they do have is fraught with inconsistencies and paradoxes.

Inspired by Indian wisdom, my friend and associate physician turned theoretical physicist, Jim Kowall found the answer: “Consciousness of the void created the universe”.

How did seers know that meditation is the route to progress? They cite their Guru as their source, but how did their Guru know it? If you keep going back, you will eventually run out of Gurus, and then the question is, where did the first sage get the knowledge?

This is where the inquiry comes to an end, and the belief in God exponentially increases.

Meditation also brings about a rise in internal excellence, inducing positive changes from within. And this hypothesis can be tested as internal excellence can be measured.

Internal excellence has nothing to do with race, religion, gender, political affiliation, or national origin.

A rise in internal excellence is accompanied by a rise in positive emotions (love, kindness, empathy, compassion) and a fall in negative emotions (anger, hatred, hostility, resentment, frustration, jealousy, anxiety, despair, fear, sorrow, and the like).

So, society needs to do meditation to bring about a rise in racial harmony and a fall in societal discord. Who would have thought? 

Relatedly, the best performance results when the best products of reason are combined with a program to enhance internal excellence

The ancient contributions notwithstanding, science is the appropriate body of knowledge to use when the system fundamentals are well understood. When they are not, but measurements are available, data-driven methodologies such as six sigma are appropriate. When system fundamentals are not well understood and measurements are not available, then enhancing one’s focus of attention as with meditation, remains the only route to new discoveries. Take care though, discoveries made this way must nonetheless meet the rigor of logical scrutiny.

Remember, transcending reason may well produce new knowledge, but once produced, it is subject to all the constraints reason imposes on all knowledge.

This in a nutshell is the significance of Indian American heritage. American heritage provides the best products of reason, while Indian heritage suggests that transcending the bondage of reason is the only route to further progress and teaches how.

Indian American heritage has the capacity to make a substantial contribution toward a better and more peaceful nation and world. These ideas should be front-and-center in the conversations to further strengthen US-India strategic partnership.


Pradeep B. Deshpande is an Indian-American academic in America for fifty-five years. He has interacted with Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi and P. V. Narasimha Rao, a friend and associate of his late father in the freedom struggle.

Acknowledgments. This article is written with the blessings of H. H. Gurumahan, Founder, Universal Peace Foundation, Thirumoorthy Hills, Tamil Nadu, India.


 

Iconoclasm Is an Expression of Fanaticism

This article is part of the opinion column – Beyond Occident – where we explore a native perspective on the Indian diaspora.

After he was killed by an assassin’s bullets almost 73 years ago on a cold January day in Delhi, the locals found a decapitated statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Davis, California’s Central Park. The 6’3” tall, 950-pound bronze statue that once stood in the same park was mutilated and disfigured on January 27, 2021. The statute of Gandhiji “appeared to have been sawed off at the ankles, and half its face was severed and missing,” reports said. The statue was installed in 2016, a gift from the Indian Council of Cultural Relations.

It wasn’t the first time a statue of one of the greatest proponents of ahimsā (Sanskrit, non-violence) in modern times was desecrated and disfigured in the Land of the Free. Barely a month ago, in December 2010, in Washington, DC, another Mahatma Gandhi statue was vandalized. Khalistani groups defaced Gandhiji’s statue that stands in front of the Indian Embassy. BLM Protestors also defaced Gandhiji’s statue in London’s Parliament Square. in June 2020, and wrote “racist” on it.

Iconoclasm is an expression of fanaticism and intolerance, and images are often destroyed for religious and political purposes. The destruction is a crude reminder of a weaponized intolerant ideology currently sweeping through the American landscape and elsewhere. However, the ideology of such brutality has its antecedents in history, which is replete with examples of iconoclastic destructions. Catherine Nixey’s ‘The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World describes in eye-popping graphic details the destruction and gore of the ancient temples of Serapeum in Alexandria and the Parthenon in Athens. 

Chairman Mao Zedong of China ordered the destruction of countless historical monuments and works of art during what is known as the Cultural Revolution. In 2001, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban leader, ordered the Bamiyan Buddha’s blowing up in Afghanistan. Initially sculpted in 507 CE, this ancient sandstone carving was once the world’s tallest Buddha. Taliban fighters fired at the Buddha with tanks and artillery shells. When that failed, they ordered the planting of explosives to destroy it. Taliban fighters drilled holes into the statue to plant the dynamite. The process of drilling holes blowing up the Buddha image took 25 days to complete. The Islamic State did the same to the temples of Palmyra.

For Indians, Hindus specifically, the massive destruction of temples and the desecration and dismemberment of their deities throughout the past millennia have been an acute source of transgenerational trauma. Among thousands of silent yet an in-your-face reminder of that trauma is the ruins of 26 Jain-Hindu temples in Mehrauli, near Delhi. The Muslim ruler destroyed the temple complex to erect a victory tower and the Dome of Islam Mosque. Meenakshi Jain’s book ‘Flight of Deities and Rebirth of Temples – Episodes from Indian History details Hindu deities’ desecration, destruction, and preservation at significant risks by the faithful.

Iconoclasm is, primarily, an instrument of power. Its gore intends to instill an element of fear among the masses. Those who desecrated the Gandhi statues had every intention to terrorize the members of the Indian diaspora (and beyond) and exert political pressure. They did just that. Some of these terrorism techniques manifest themselves into blatant Hinduphobia. 

Members of the diaspora across North America and Europe have also received physical and sexual violence threats from the groups behind the desecrations. A Hindu doctor in California received threats for her strong opposition to the Khalistanis. 

“I am increasingly alarmed by the bloodcurdling sectarianism against India. Particularly against Hindus, for whom empirically the VAST majority support pluralism, progress, and peace,” tweeted Shuvaloy Majumdar, a Senior Fellow with MacDonald-Laurier Institute, the Ottawa, Canada-based think tank.

Suhag Shukla, the Executive Director and Co-founder of the Hindu advocacy group Hindu American Foundation (HAF), also tweeted that HAF “had to shut down offices in DC in 2019 after multiple threats when Sikhs for Justice rallied there. “Leave this country or we’ll take care of you,” they said.” Another member of the diaspora was reported in a newspaper saying: “Hinduphobics now have political shelter. Our safety is in jeopardy.”

Beyond some half-hearted press releases and Twitter statements, some very late, most Western leaders, including many high-profile US politicians, including those from the Indian-American community, have remained mute spectators to this barbaric onslaught on Western values of democracy. 


Avatans Kumar is a columnist, public speaker, and activist. He frequently writes on the topics of language & linguistics, culture, religion, Indic knowledge, and current affairs in several media outlets.

Davis California Rallies to Reinstate Vandalized Gandhi Statue

On January 26, 2021, someone vandalized the Mahatma Gandhi statue in the City of Davis, California USA. The statue in Davis’ Central Park of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the independence leader and father of India, was found vandalized on the grass next to its plinth. It was a tragic act to destroy the Gandhi statue in Davis. Gandhi stands for love and nonviolence and justice for all. The world needs Gandhi’s message now more than ever with wars raging in so many parts of the world.

A large number of peace-loving community members choose peace over violence, love over hatred, and rallied at Central Park at City of Davis California on Sunday, Jan 31st, 2021 in support of Reinstating the Gandhi Statue & condemning the hatred. This car rally and peace vigil was co-hosted by Gandhi Statue for Peace Committee Davis, India Association of Davis (IAD), Indian Association of Sacramento (IAS) & the peace-loving community at large. Hundreds of people urged the City of Davis Administration to find the culprits and bring them to justice and call upon the entire world to rise as one entity and destroy the nefarious designs of these hate mongers. They also urged the City of Davis Administration to reinstate the statue at the earliest and provide adequate protection in the future.

The Government of India and the City of Davis have both denounced the vandalism of the Mahatma Gandhi statue. A statement released by the Indian government’s Ministry of External Affairs said “it strongly condemns this malicious and despicable act against a universally respected icon of peace and justice” and has called upon the U.S. Department of State to investigate the incident.

The White House condemns the recent vandalism of a Mahatma Gandhi statue in California’s Davis, said Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday. “We would certainly have concerns about the desecration of monuments of (Mahatma) Gandhi. We would condemn the desecration and watch it closely,” Psaki said during a briefing on Monday.

Davis mayor Gloria Partida attended the Gandhi Statue vigil along with vice-mayor Lucas Frerichs and city council members Dan Carson and Will Arnold. The City of Davis issued a statement on the matter that “The City of Davis condemns the vandalism that destroyed the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Central Park. We do not support any actions that include the destruction of property. We sympathize with those who are grieving the destruction of the statue and promise a thorough investigation and full accountability for those who committed this crime.”

If we have learned nothing from the tragic events of recent weeks it is that senseless acts of hatred and violence are never the answer, which Gandhi and my father affirmed through fasting and their lifetimes of struggle. The statue that was desecrated in Davis symbolizes the truth Gandhi expressed: “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” Let us reject this act of intolerance and vandalism, said Paul F. Chavez, President, Cesar Chavez Foundation & Son of Cesar Chavez.

“In California, Davis is a mega college-town dominated by bright students and scholars. Such sudden insurrection and the vandalizing statue of national importance is quite disturbing, highly unacceptable, especially during these unprecedented times. We want perpetrators of this criminal act to be brought to justice”, said Vikram Rao, President of Student Association at UC Davis.

It is shocking and disappointing to read of the vandalization of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi by unknown assailants in Davis, California. Gandhi was a man of peace and goodwill who inspired millions of people around the world — including Martin Luther King Jr. — to practice nonviolence. For a gifted monument to his memory to be violently debased and destroyed is a cowardly act of ignorant people. It is a shameful mark against the good name of the community of Davis and the perpetrators should be found and punished. The Mahatma was cut down by a violent man in 1948, and now once more he suffers the ignominy of a mindless and irresponsible attack, noted Professor Robert Sellers, former Chair of World Parliament of Religions (the same organization that was addressed by Swami Vivekananda in 1893).

“I am shocked and deeply saddened to hear about the desecration of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Davis, California. Gandhiji is universally known and revered as one of the great icons of peace and harmony, and the fine statue erected with the help of the Government of India and the city of Davis was a civic reminder of his timeless importance and relevance. It is not just the Indian community in the USA and the world who feel violated by this senseless act of hate and of violence. All lovers of peace and civic order have also been attacked. It is my fervent hope and prayer, as a longtime student and admirer of Gandhi, that the perpetrators of this crime will be apprehended and brought to justice. But beyond that, I hope that this vandalism will serve as an occasion for making his universal message of peace and love better known. As he himself famously said: ‘When I despair, I remember that all through history, the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall’ ”, said Joseph Prabhu Professor of Philosophy (Emeritus) at California State University, also Los Angeles Trustee Emeritus – Parliament of the World’s Religions.

At the peaceful rally and vigil in Davis.

Sham Goyal, a retired UC Davis professor who has lived in Davis for 52 years, is the man behind the installation of the Gandhi statue. At the vigil event, several aggressive young members appeared arguing with 70 plus-year-old Goyal. A police complaint has been logged with Davis Police Department, citing an aggressor from the opposing group for behaving inappropriately with event organizers.

The 6-foot-tall, 950-pound bronze Gandhi’s statue was gifted in 2016 to the City of Davis by the Government of India. After a public comment period, the Davis City Council voted 3-2 to move ahead and install the statue. “It’s a symbol of peace,” Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson said at that time. An unveiling ceremony was held on Oct. 2, 2016, Gandhi’s birthday, which is commemorated each year as an International Day of Nonviolence. Since then, the statue has been a target of repeated protests and vandalism.

Many local volunteers and supporters have helped in conducting Gandhi’s Statue Reinstatement Rally & Vigil event successfully at Davis. Organizers thank all who have come to rally and visit for reinstating Gandhi Statue rally and vigil. Organizers appreciated the participants for maintaining peace, calmness & professionalism despite aggression by violent forces.

Gandhi is our national figure, world figure. He was for peace, he was for non-violence, and he is the father figure for India. We ask for the denouncement of the vandalism against our Patriarch.


IAS started a petition denouncing the Gandhi Statue vandalism and urged Davis City Council, Davis Police Department, and FBI to take action. IAS encourage readers to check out and sign the petition here: http://chng.it/BQFKW9HfwT or https://tinyurl.com/GandhiPetitionIAS

Shift Summit & Music Festival

The Shift Network has announced The Shift Summit & Music Festival, set to begin on September 18th and lead up to the International Day of Peace, September 21st, 2020.

The 4-day event combines top-tier musicians and renowned thought leaders throughout society, focused on building a better future, including Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Jane Goodall, Rep. Tim Ryan, Bill McKibben, Michael Franti, Rising Appalachia, Deva Premal and Miten, Nattali Rize, and many more.  The Shift Summit & Music Festival will be available globally across multiple stages via streaming platform PORTL.

2020 has required adaptability across nearly all sectors of society and industry, notably pushing large scale conferences and major festivals into uncharted territories. Creative solutions have allowed room for innovation and a chance to reevaluate the status quo. The Shift Network CEO, Stephen Dinan notes, “We saw the need for an event that brought together as many visionaries as possible who can light the way forward and uplift people to make the major changes we need – The Shift. It’s an upgrade to the human operating system to one that is peaceful, sustainable, healthy, and prosperous. Out of the breakdowns of this year can emerge a breakthrough.”

Sticking to the theme of global uplift and planning for a transformed future, the annual Shift Summit has added a concurrent music festival featuring an impressive lineup of artists to the summit’s slate of trendsetting thought leaders. Bringing the event online adds accessibility to visionary, groundbreaking ideas – a reimagining of what global conferences can be during the era of COVID. Practical gameplans for positive change over the next decade will be presented on Monday, September 21st.

The Shift Summit & Music Festival will integrate spirituality, healing, positive impacts, yoga, music, and visionary keynote speakers into an immersive and interactive online experience. Registration for the live event is free, with upgrade packages available. Be sure to keep up to date on all future announcements at the links below.

DATES AND TIMES: 

Friday 9/18 – Sunday 9/20:

Main Stage 8AM PT – 10:30 PM PT

Breakout Stages: 10:30 AM PT – 1:30 PM PT

Music, Yoga, and Healing Stages: 1:30 PM PT – 5:15 PM PT

Monday 9/21:

Global Mala – 7 AM PT

Main Stage 8AM PT – 10:30 PM PT

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: TheShiftSummit.com

REGISTRATION LINK: Portl.com/TheShiftSummit/Tickets/


 

Purple Socks and Plums

Saturday mornings are such a thrill, as I resumed teaching my dance class on Zoom. It’s amazing what some music and movement can do for your soul. Treating yourself to the magic of it can catapult you from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Just that little “extra!”

As I was dancing, instructing and chatting, I stopped to share something with my class.

I was pushing through my sit-ups, I looked at my feet and saw my purple socks and it just…made me happy!  The color purple makes me happy. And there it was, on my feet, saying a hello, as I was doing what I cherish so deeply—dancing and sharing that passion with others.  It was a colorful flash of comfort and a reassurance that I’m not only capable of getting through this day but I’m capable of making this day awesome.

My 10-year-old son Indra and I have been running every other morning – waking at 6 am and then out the door at 6:30 am for our 5-mile adventure. I treasure that time with every bit of my soul. We talk, we share, we laugh, we wonder.  And then, right when we start the running portion, we diverge.

He needs to rest; I need to run. And we let it be. I started to think that I should be challenging him to keep it up with me, to be the drill sergeant I know I can be.  And then as I came around my third loop I saw him peacefully sitting there, waiting for me to do the next round. He was enjoying eating a plum off of a tree nearby. Plums off of a tree.

There it is. Notice your purple socks and find your plums. Relish them. Don’t diminish the significance they hold.

Life is so full of complexities from the chaos all around us. The peace is in the simplicities that will save us. The little things. If we search for them, connect with them, let them fill us with joy, then we will flourish in that day. And then each day will flourish into the next until we find ourselves on the other side of this mess, better and more cognizant than ever before. We are empowered with the most simple intricacies inside this great big complicated world. Purple socks and plums. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.


Sangini Majmudar Bedner is a former Miss India USA, Stanford University graduate and professional performer and choreographer.  She enjoys life in Portola Valley, CA with her husband, two sons, and a crazy farm of beloved animals. She also offers an ongoing Saturday morning Zoom aerobic dance class, which can be taken live at 9 am or with a recorded link. Email her for info!  

I Went to Take Photos, I Left Empowered

It is a disheartening reality we live in where people won’t attend protests in their community due to misinformation. The reporting and headlines have highlighted the few instances of violence, instances that may have nothing to do with the protest itself. I was also very hesitant about going to the protests in my community. I saw news channels, YouTube videos, and articles all over the internet explaining how violent these protests are.

I wanted to take photos, so against my better judgment, I attended my first protest. Quickly I realized that protests can be very peaceful and that a majority of them are.

At the protest, I was astonished to see so many members of my community come together in solidarity to fight racial injustices in our nation. I had expected to see students, young adults, and the black people in my community show up to the protest, but to my surprise, I saw Indians and Asians in my community show up as allies as well. I have never seen these many Indians and Asians in my community actively speak out about the racial injustices within the black community. It was really empowering to see older members of my community come together in solidarity. 

My photo journey began as we marched around the city. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to capture. I took shots of people marching peacefully around our community and different protest signs.

Image taken by Ashwin Desai

One picture stood out to me as I went through my camera roll. It was of a speaker, carrying an Indian flag and advocating for Indians to help their black brothers and sisters. 

The theme of Indian allyship continued.

One speaker was a middle-aged, first-generation Indian man who helped black men and women out of the judicial system in Oakland. He talked about how the Indian community needs to be there for their black brothers and sisters because, without them, many immigrants wouldn’t be here today.

The Immigration Act of 1965, the law that allowed many of our own parents to come to the United States, was made possible because of The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Without black people fighting for their rights in the Civil Rights Movement, there would be no Asian-Americans in the United States.

He then spoke about the model minority myth. The model minority myth is the notion that since Asian-Americans are doing well in the United States, all minorities should be able to achieve the same level of success, perpetuating that racism does not exist. But as the name states, this is just a myth.

He concluded by talking about the biases within the Indian community. There is a stigma within the Indian community about dark-colored skin. Since the time that India was occupied by the British, Indians have continued to adopt the same beauty standards as the British, i.e lighter skin is more beautiful. Indians actively oppress and chastise those with darker skin. The problem still persists as many celebrities endorse skin bleaching products. This innate bias towards people with lighter complexions has caused a divide between Indians and black people, keeping Indians at an arm’s distance from black people – never allowing us to truly understand them or their struggles. 

At the end of his speech, he told us to self-reflect. He asked us, “What can you personally do, with what you have, to make a difference? What type of member do you want to be in this community?”

In this process of self-reflection, I knew that I couldn’t just attend this one protest to fight racial injustice. At that moment, I finally had a purpose for my photos. I can spread awareness about racial injustices by using my current photography platform, Desai Photography, and use it to show others how peaceful protests are and capture the Indian-Americans in my community who are doing their part in supporting the cause.

I will try to influence others that think protesting is inherently dangerous and change their minds, and I want to inspire other Indian-Americans in my community to be allies. I want to make a change and I can start by using my photography as a means to do so.

This is just the beginning…

Ashwin Desai is currently a Junior at Monta Vista High School. He has a passion for photography and business.  He also operates as a pro-bono marketing consultant for businesses suffering from COVID and is the marketing lead for a climate change newspaper called theincentive.

Gandhi’s Grandson visits Fresno State

Professor Rajmohan Gandhi, the grandson of historic peace leader Mahatma Gandhi, took a stroll through the Fresno State Peace Garden on Feb. 21 while on campus for a special luncheon in his honor.

Rajmohan Gandhi, who is a research professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was in Fresno for the Interfaith Scholar Weekend. Started by Community United Church of Christ and Temple Beth Israel in 1998, the event brings a renowned scholar from one of the represented religious traditions to Fresno for a weekend of lectures and events on topics of interest to interfaith audiences.

At Fresno State, a bronze bust memorial of Mahatma Gandhi inspired the creation of the Peace Garden, just north of the Henry Madden Library. Three sculptures of other well-known social activists and peace leaders have since been added.

This year, as the Peace Garden celebrates its 30th anniversary, plans for a fifth sculpture is in the works, this time honoring Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist and political leader who became South Africa’s first black president after spending 27 years in prison for his efforts against racial injustice. He was referred to as “The Father of the Nation” and became a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1993. Tuesday, Feb. 11, marked the 30th anniversary of Mandela’s release from prison.

Visit Fresno State News to read more about the Peace Garden and the Nelson Mandela statue.

By BoNhia Lee, communications specialist, University Communications. Photos by Cary Edmondson, University photographer.

The Mahatma’s Inner Voice

The voice of intuition is often overruled by the voice of reason, leaving one with a sense of regret.

When Sonia Gandhi turned down the offer to become Prime Minister in UPA 1 in 2004 and attributed her decision to an “inner voice,”  there was a sense of relief at her decision, yet many were intrigued over her choice of words. But then, cynicism crept in and most of us dismissed it as just a catchy turn of phrase.

Yet, the very same words when used in connection with the Mahatma assume a whole new dimension. I am certain that there was not an  iota of self-interest in Gandhiji’s decisions.

The “inner voice” that the Mahatma referred to, goes much beyond the intuitive voice that an average  person becomes privy to and is guided by. Being immersed in spirituality, Gandhiji submitted his physical body to a great deal of penance and perhaps it is this and his self-reflective meditative practices that honed his inner voice of consciousness to provide him the best possible counsel, which he applied  to  the service of the country.

The Dandi March was one such inspiration. The non-violent way  in which Gandhiji showed his followers to not retaliate in the face of great brutality set a tone for the rest of the Independence struggle. It provided India with a  path breaking moral supremacy and brought her closer to being able to achieve her goal of self rule.

Across the ages, there have been many prophets who were privy to this inner voice of wisdom.  I have concurred that from this wisdom has developed the term “prophetic words.” Mahatma Gandhi was certainly among the greatest apostles of peace, who walked this earth.  Who else but he could have chosen to keep away from Delhi when the Indian flag was unfurled for the first time on the 15th of August, to stay with those who were  affected by the riots resulting from the Partition of India. Horace Alexander, a Quaker who was closely associated with Gandhiji, wrote his biography, Gandhi through Western Eyes and was with him on that occasion, made these observations:  “What Gandhi did on that day was one of the most extraordinary happenings in his evening life. He brought peace to that great city of Calcutta, and to the whole of Bengal, where Hindus and Muslims had been killing one another almost daily for over a year.”

At every stage of his life, Gandhiji applied the principles of Ahimsa or non-violence towards all sentient beings and Satyagraha or the adoption of a higher consciousness of truth and morality.  His was a life of humility and self-effacement. He spoke of the Talisman that he employed in his decision-making – whether the action that he was contemplating would benefit the last man – Sarvodaya through Antyodaya, which is at the core of India’s formation as a country.

I have understood that to understand the Mahatma’s inner voice, his own words resonate greatly: “I do not know what you would call a vision, or what you would call prophetic.  When I announced my fast of 21 days in jail, I had not reasoned it. On retiring to bed the previous night, I had no notion that I was going to announce a fast for 21 days.  But in the middle of the night a voice woke me up and said, ‘Go through a fast.’ ‘For how many days,’ I asked? ‘21 days’ was the answer. Now let me tell you that my mind was unprepared for it, disinclined for it.  But the thing came through clearly as anything could be. Whatever striking things I have done in life, I have not done prompted by reason, but prompted by instinct, I would say, God. Take the Dandi Salt March of 1930.  I had not the ghost of a suspicion how the breach of the Salt Law would work itself out. Pandit (Jawaharlal Nehru) and other friends were fretting and did not know what I would do; and I could tell them nothing, as I myself knew nothing about it.  But like a flash it came and as you know, it was enough to shake the country, from one end to another.”

In the tradition of Yoga, all practices aim toward stilling the mind. Among other benefits, a mind bereft of thoughts can invoke  super-natural powers that can offer prophetic guidance and extra-sensory perception also known as Siddhi. 

Whilst great Yogic practitioners would use their powers for self realization, what makes Mahatma Gandhi different is his combining of the spiritual with the temporal; both in his single-minded quest to achieve independence for India and in wishing to wipe a tear from every eye. I am reminded of  the Buddha, who did not end his quest by achieving enlightenment under the Bodhi tree but used his wisdom toward alleviating the same suffering that led him to question the meaning of life.

There is not much to look forward to from muscular leaders who will have the Mahatma’s statues dusted and pay lip service to him on his 150th birth anniversary in the name of nationalism. If only Gandhi would resurrect now to solve the problems of modern times. At the least we could emulate his universal and eternal vision even in the smallest ways. May all that was good in the Mahatma light a spark in those who follow, so that they might act as beacons for the world.

Melanie P. Kumar has been an Independent Writer and contributing for more than 20 years now.  Married to a Gandhian scholar, she has had occasion to travel to many of the important places associated with Mahatma Gandhi. She has also attended innumerable seminars on Gandhi, which has prompted her interest in writing about the Mahatma in an effort to understand him.