By Renuka Christoph
We all share the commonality of global origins defined by diverse backgrounds and distinct ideologies. Whether we are first or fifth generation, we have the privilege of having a home built on American soil. It’s the seeds of diversity that have allowed our democratic country to blossom and we must stand together to continue cultivating our garden.
Arun Gandhi, the fifth grandson of the great Mahatma Gandhi, addressed the Unity Church in Nashville on Oct. 1, speaking on democracy, unity and nonviolence. He shared firsthand stories and teachings from his grandfather. When Arun Gandhi was 12 years old, he was living in South African and faced harsh discrimination. He decided to body build so he could fight back. His parents thought it would be best to send him to India for an 18 month stay with the great Mahatma Gandhi to learn the principles of nonviolence. Arun Gandhi was taught to turn weakness into strength, sharing how great leaders as his grandfather and Martin Luther King were set apart because they channeled weakness into strength and placed great emphasis on understanding anger. Mahatma Gandhi taught his grandson through stories, parables and various disciplines. The teen journaled daily about what made him angry, analyzing what he did and what was done to him.
“Grandfather taught me it is upon ourselves to realize we have weaknesses and that we must transform them into strengths. It is a lifelong process.”
The Sermon on the Mount compelled Gandhi to turn the other cheek. He stated, “It is not nonviolence if we merely love those that love us. It is nonviolence only when we love those who hate us. I know how difficult it is to follow this grand law of love. But are not great and good things difficult to do? Love of the hater is the most difficult of all. But by the grace of God even the most difficult thing becomes easy to accomplish if we want to do it. Nonviolence is a weapon for the brave.”
When asked about the current socioeconomic climate, Arun Gandhi responded by stating it is the abuse of anger that has resulted in present day dysfunctional democracy and downward spiral of race relations.
“The U.S. has shown the world its military super power. It is now time to show its moral strength.”
My own grandfather, or nanaji, was part of this lost generation that endured great peril in the fight for freedom. Nanaji had a divine peace that was truly unshakable. I once witnessed someone getting angry at him for refraining from anger. He didn’t support the discrimination of the caste system and stood for equity and justice.
I want that divine peace and long to reignite Gandhi’s movement of nonviolence which means protecting all citizens and standing for truth. And it starts with me.
Renuka Christoph oversees communication for Vanderbilt’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.