Cultivating the Seeds of Peace: Arun Gandhi speaks about the importance of personal peace in today’s world

“Anger is like electricity. It’s just as useful and just as powerful, but only if we use it intelligently. It can be just as deadly and destructive if we abuse it.”


Arun Gandhi on stage with Associate Dean of Human and Organizational Development Sharon Shields and a sign language interpreter in Wyatt Center. (Photo by Immanual John Milton)

Immanual John Milton

Arun Gandhi, grandson of esteemed socio-political activist Mahatma Gandhi, spoke in the Wyatt Center Sept. 16.  Peabody College invited Gandhi to be a part of the Dean’s Diversity Lecture Series to give his talk, “Is Peace Possible in a Culture of Violence?”  that centers around promoting channeling anger in a positive manner. He charges citizens of the world to spread the seed of peace in a world that “desperately needs it.”

Arun Gandhi’s talk focused on the ambitions of his grandfather’s work. With Mahatma’s 150th birthday coming up on Oct. 2, Arun is carrying on his legacy. Before the talk, Arun led a peace vigil on Magnolia lawn from 9:30 11 a.m.

The lecture followed Arun Gandhi’s life story, which began with a tumultuous childhood in South Africa. He told the audience how he was bullied and often beat up because of the color of his own skin. Arun said that this violence made him want to seek revenge. When Arun’s parents saw his frustration, they sent him to live with Mahatma.

The Peace Vigil Arun Gandhi held on Magnolia Lawn before his lecture. (Photo by Rachel Friedman)

In India, Arun helped Mahatma raise funds for his campaigns by collecting autograph books from fans for five rupees each. Arun once asked his grandfather for a signature, but Mahatma turned him down. 

“I don’t make an exception, even for grandsons. If you want an autograph, you will have to not only pay me for it, but you will have to earn the money and pay me. Don’t ask your parents for it.”

Determined to get the signature, whenever Mahatma held meetings with important political figures, Arun would storm in and ask for signature, hoping the gravity of the situation would force Mahatma’s hand. However, Mahatma would always hold his grandson in a hug and continue speaking to the politicians. 

At the end of the day, Arun never got his grandfather’s autograph. However, he was struck by the fact that Mahatma would never raise his voice or show anger at Arun’s childish persistence, Arun said. He compared his grandfather’s patience with how easily people get angry with siblings, parents and other people, emphasizing the importance of self-control and personal peace that Gandhi demonstrated in today’s violent world.

The talk drew an audience of about 200 people. Attendee and senior Deniz Gungor noted the importance of adopting Arun’s philosophy of spreading the seeds of peace into daily life. 

Peabody graduate student Raunak Pillai said that Arun’s message that the time of crisis being the time to talk about peace was powerful.

“More generally, I think hearing about his grandfather’s personal anecdotes was very moving and interesting to hear as the son of an immigrant from India,” Pillai said. “It’s very interesting to see a personal side of this figure that had such an important impact on my family.”