I arrived to India today in preparation for the Global Spa & Wellness Summit taking place in Gurgaon this weekend. Interestingly, tomorrow, the India government shuts down. But unlike the US, this is not because the politicians have failed to reconcile their differences; it is due to a national holiday in celebration of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday.
Gandhi Jayanti, as the holiday is known, marks the day of Gandhi’s birth and has been named one of only three official national holidays observed across the country. The United Nations has also recognized this day as the International Day of Non-Violence.
I hope people worldwide will take some time this week to reflect on Gandhi’s life and contribution and to look inward at how we can create a more peaceful world.
To me, there are three powerful messages that Gandhi has left behind:
- Thoughts are important. “Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed.” Gandhi recognized that our actions can be traced back to our beliefs. If we could “purify” our thoughts, we would live better lives.
- Personal responsibility. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This is my favorite quote (even though it seems that Gandhi never actually said it.) This may not be a direct quote but it is a great synopsis of some of Gandhi’s philosophies and it remains a powerful message. We should spend less of our time trying to change others, and more time trying to be more virtuous ourselves. The biblical version is Matthew 7:3: “Why do you see the spec that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” I like Michael Jackson’s version too: “I’m looking at the man in the mirror.” Change comes from within.
- Peace is the way. “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind” is another disputed quote from Gandhi, although it seems to have originated in an attempt to describe Gandhi’s perspective on peace. Gandhi preached non-violence and considered himself a “soldier of peace.” He modeled a new way of confronting violence and oppression with love and peace.
The world is a violent place. This week there was a mass killing of sleeping college students in Nigeria, three teens in Oklahoma killed an innocent jogger because they were bored, and here in India, the headlines tell of a teen girl being killed by her parents for eloping with a boy from another caste (the third honor killing in the state of Haryana in the past two weeks.) There is a lot of evil and hatred and violence in the world.
Granted, it may feel like there is not much we can do about senseless violence in a far off land perpetrated by people we don’t know. But in the spirit of Gandhi’s teachings, we can create more peace in the world by starting from within.
Take some time this week to “be the change.” Be kind to people you don’t know (or people who haven’t been kind to you.) Start by practicing thoughts of loving kindness (see an overview of Loving Kindness meditation here.) Practice “random acts of kindness” (see some ideas here.) And if you have been holding resentment against someone who has trespassed against you, maybe this would be a good week to let that go. Try to forgive and forget.
Happy Gandhi Jayanti from India . . . peace be with you.
by Jeremy McCarthy