Mahatma Gandhi Center for Non-Violence, Human Rights and World Peace
The relevance of Mahatma Gandhi for the contemporary world, characterized by turbulence, is undisputable. His principles of truth and non-violence shaped millions of lives and influenced leaders across continents. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to Mahatma Gandhi as “the guiding light of … nonviolent social change,” and, during his India visit in 1959, said in a radio address, “In a real sense, Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation.” About five decades later, Nelson Mandela, while unveiling a Gandhi Memorial in South Africa, in 1993, stated, “The enemies that Gandhi fought – ignorance, disease, unemployment, poverty and violence are today common place…Now more than ever is the time when we have to pay heed to the lessons of Mahatma Gandhi.” Mahatma Gandhi’s famous words “my life is my message” and “be the change you want to see in the world” encapsulate the transformative power of his ideas and philosophy. For him, the most potent weapon to fight oppression and injustice is non-violence, which emanates from a strong determination to stand against them. According to him, violence begets violence, and if the principle of ‘an eye for an eye’ is applied, ‘the whole world will be blind.’ In the contemporary world, Gandhian ideas are more acutely needed than before.
The Gandhian principles remain relevant in searching for solutions to many of the global problems. The establishment of Mahatma Gandhi Center for Non-violence and World Peace at Hindu University of America (HUA) is an attempt towards searching for alternatives against prevailing methods. The Center aims to make theoretical as well as practical contribution towards the betterment of human society. And by doing so, it aims to further the goal of HUA, which strives for transformation of human life and society in the modern world by drawing from rich Hindu culture and tradition.
Mahatma Gandhi, known as apostle of peace and non-violence, was a devout Hindu, and was referred ‘a saint among politicians and a politician among saints.’ In contrast to the principle ‘might is right,’ he stood for the principle ‘right is might.’ For him, howsoever noble a goal may be violent methods to realize it corrupt the goal itself. He was deeply influenced by Hindu religion and tradition, which developed in him a worldview which was neither parochial nor exclusive. For Gandhi, “Hindu Dharma is like a boundless ocean teeming with priceless gems,” but in the same breath he believed “in the fundamental Truth of all great religions of the world.” He famously said, “My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God. Non-violence is the means of realizing Him.” His principle of non-violence stemmed from his religious tradition, and he applied this principle to political action in South Africa and India.
Mandela, quoted above, rightly argued, “Now more than ever is the time when we have to pay heed to the lessons of Mahatma Gandhi.” Whether it is increasing intra-state conflicts or rise of religious extremism or global warming or degeneration of human values – Gandhian principles are relevant to explore their roots and to find their solutions. For Gandhi, war is an acute form of violence motivated by evils such as greed, prejudices and animosity and the results are devastating with socio-cultural, economic and political consequences. He argued that religious extremism is a form of intolerance as true religion never teaches violence. Gandhi’s ideas encompassed almost every aspect of human life. His famous dictum, “The earth has enough resources for our need, but not for our greed,” has, if truly followed, a potential to transform the consumerist economy and to help bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.
It is an imperative to widen the prevailing discourses on human life and society by factoring Gandhian principles. The principles of Ahimsha (non-violence) and Satyagraha (love for truth) provide powerful tools to examine problems at various levels of human society. The Center attempts to mainstream the ideas of Gandhi towards developing a new and enabling perspective from Hindu philosophical tradition to make world a better place to live. It will encourage dialogue among civilizations and cultures as through sharing, cross-cultural exchanges and cross-fertilization of ideas, the world can be a peaceful and secure place.
The Center will also focus on the ideas and contributions of other Indian thinkers including, but not limited to, Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo. These philosophers, like Mahatma Gandhi, were concerned with global problems, and had offered useful perspectives. The Center will, hence, explore the relevance of their ideas for contemporary global problems.
The Center aims to offer a new prism to study human life and society across the divides. Starting with a focus on contemporary conflicts and exploring their peace prospects from perspectives of Mahatma Gandhi and other Indian thinkers, the Center plans to gradually broaden its focus to cover other aspects of society. It aims to emerge as an academic center of international repute on non-violence and peace within a three-year period with the help of an advisory committee, comprising eminent scholars, non-resident affiliates, full-time staff and volunteers. It aims to be recognized as a major global institute to explore prospects of peace through peaceful means across the globe.
To mainstream ideas of Mahatma Gandhi and other Indian thinkers in theoretical and policy debates on contemporary problems afflicting human society.
- To widen the prevailing discourse on human life and society by exploring hitherto less researched alternate perspectives.
- To factor Gandhian ideas and other Indian thinkers in academic and policy debates towards development of rich and multiple perspectives and pathways to address gap between principles and practice. Various academic disciplines and policymaking agencies will benefit from such debates.
- To examine relevance of Mahatma Gandhi for contemporary global problems including, but not limited to, inter-state and intra-state conflicts, climate change, religious extremism, rich-poor divide, education, economic development and women empowerment.
- To explore relevance of Gandhian ideas such as frugal economy, gram swaraj (grass-roots democracy), Ram Rajya (ideal state), trusteeship, social service, swadeshi (self-reliance), bread-labor, social and religious harmony, and optimal use of resources.
- To broaden the discourse on world peace.
- To promote dialogue among cultures and civilizations.
Programs and Activities
- Organizing conferences, webinars, workshops and summer schools.
- Organizing public lectures by eminent scholars.
- Inviting scholars for residency to interact with faculty and students.
- Soliciting working papers and opinion pieces from eminent scholars to be published by the Center.
- Starting a blog to promote discussions on issues of relevance to non-violence and world peace.
- Developing and offering certificate and degree courses on Mahatma Gandhi and other Indian thinkers. To start with, two online certificate courses can be offered in Fall 2016. Later graduate courses (Masters and Doctoral) can be offered. Following are some of the tentative courses:
- Mahatma Gandhi: Life and Philosophy
- Satya and Ahimsha: The Two Core Gandhian Principles
- Mahatma Gandhi on Human Life and Society
- Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi in the Contemporary World
- Sri Aurobindo and Contemporary World
- International Conflict and Peace: A Gandhian Perspective
- Swami Vivekananda and Contemporary World
- Mahatma Gandhi on Politics, State and Religion
- Networking and collaborating with institutions working on issues related to peace and non-violence. Some of the institutes in this context in the USA can be The King Center in Atlanta, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Foundation, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, and M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, Rochester, New York.
- Collaborating with local universities, colleges, schools and community to promote Gandhian ideas through lectures and training sessions.
- Publishing articles in referee journals, authoring and editing books.
- Starting a new journal to promote the goals of the Center.
- Providing consultancy to institutions and policymakers.
- Developing a data base on Indian thinkers. To begin with, this can be done by collecting works of Mahatma Gandhi, and secondary literature on him by eminent scholars.
- Developing projects on Indian thinkers, the first one being on Mahatma Gandhi. This can be a long-term plan. Following are some of the tentative ideas:
-Relevance of Gandhi in the Contemporary world
-Alternative approach to peace and conflict: A Gandhian perspective
-Gandhi and a select case study (such as Ukraine, Iran crisis, Middle East)
-Gandhi and a specific issue (such as education, health, nature, economic development, democracy)
-Gandhi and status of women
Fundraising: To support the activities, the Center will approach individual donors, Diaspora (such as Jain Diaspora) foundations, NGOs, institutes (for instance in India, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Indian Council for Social Science Research, Indian Council for Historical Research, and Nehru Memorial Museum can be contacted) and government (for instance in India, Ministry of Culture and Ministry of External Affairs can be contacted).
Dr. Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra
Director, Mahatma Gandhi Center