"Be the change you want to see in the world." |
Report about January 21 to February 8 Trip to India
By Bernie Meyer
February 12, 2010
I traveled to India in order to attend three conferences to share Gandhi's truth seeking messages and experiences. As I am called the "American Gandhi", I seek to apply Gandhi's values, principles, and experiments to the issues of today. I intended to visit southern India to see a true Gandhi person, Krishnammal Jagannathan, and LAFTI from January 9th to 19th, but India Immigration would not allow me into the country due to Visa problem. This was my seventh trip to portray Gandhi in India.
Since coming to India to portray Gandhi for the first time in 2005, my conviction has grown that the actions of humans threaten the survival of not only humans but life on earth. The primary threats come from global climate change, resource depletion, and nuclear weapons. Looming peak oil effects, nuclear power radiation, and chemical pollution exacerbate these threats. The poor masses of humanity suffer first and foremost from these issues. Hence, Gandhi speaks to the concerns for the poor and to the environmental problems affecting all life. These are the messages I attempt to share as I portray both the historical Gandhi and the role of the American Gandhi.
The first conference that I attended was at Gujarat Vidyapeeth in Ahmedabad from January 22 to 28. War Resisters International (http://www.wri-irg.org) held their triennial conference under the banner: Nonviolent Livelihood, Struggle and Activism: Links & Strategies. Leaders came from places like Colombia, Venezuela, and Paraguay, the villages of Eastern India, the United States, France, Germany, the Philippines, Indonesia, and England. I presented my six scene portrayal of Gandhi's life at an evening event. For almost 40 years I have been aware about the struggles for survival of the peoples in Latin America. Now, I have a growing concern about the communals and tribal peoples of India. The at times brutal displacements for natural resources remind me of the history of native Americans.
The second conference was at The World Peace Center at MAEER's MIT (http://www.wpc-pune.co.in) in Pune from January 20th to February 4th. The Round Table Conference focused on the theme: Pathways to Peace through Democratic Change. As it occurred at the first conference, people from throughout the world participated by sharing their views affecting humanity. The first conference emphasized local issues like land reform and violence to villages and to minority populations. This Round Table discussion covered a broad range of topics. Holistic health, leadership, sustainability, culture, science, technology, and related issues give some idea of the scope.
My third event was the Third International Nonviolence Leadership Training Camp at the Children's Peace Palace in Rajsamand, sponsored by Anuvrat Global Organization (http://www.anuvibha.in.org) from February 5th to 7th. The main emphasis here was training in ahimsa (nonviolence) through Preksha Meditation. As Gandhi focused the mind in prayer and lived by vows, Anuvrat teaches discipline of the mind according to science and spirituality to create a nonviolent society. The training camp also conducted workshops about violence to the environment and to people with many references to Gandhi. I conducted one workshop to share Gandhi's message to the issues of 2010. Also, at the insistence of young people I brought Gandhi's presence in dhoti and shawl for the last day. We had a good time.
These three events were very intense with discussions about our violent and stressful world. I can only share a few of the many experiences which have the most meaning for me.
Many people have difficulty facing the life threats to humanity. Often, the subjects are avoided. However, Prafila Samarth from the Vanarai Foundation in Pune made a strong presentation about combating Global Warming. He offered a manual which gives the reader a comprehensive view of the subject. I like the sub theme: "More from Less for More," a phrase by Dr. R. A. Mashelkar. This means that humanity needs to produce more goods from fewer resources for more people. They say that Gandhian Engineering is a key to survival. The manual not only tells how we must stop producing gases which cause global climate change, it also says that we must learn to stop wasting the earth's resources for the population to survive.
The training program at Rajsamand overlooks the Rajsamand Lake. This is a man-made lake over 400 years old, once the largest man-made lake in the world. The lake is now shrinking in size due to human consumption of water and environmental factors. This is a living example of a threat to the lives of people. Dr. S. L. Gandhi, who led the Leadership Training Program, gave a talk about the Lake and its need. He recalled the days of the past when he swam in the lake as a young man. Now, action is needed to save it. The result at the Training event was a petition to government leaders to save the lake. I am happy to see action because sometimes conferences talk too much and do not lead to action. As Gandhi says, "Be the change you want to see in the world." This means to follow truth and serve humanity with love. Action for the good of humanity is the change Gandhi talks about.
Another very important moment for me was about "peak oil," the sense that the world has reached it production limit of liquid oil while demand is increasing. This will have dire effects upon people due to the 500,000 products supporting peoples. I discussed this in my workshop. A speaker later said that there is nothing to worry about, alternative energy sources are available. I have to dispute this perception. In fact, on that same day I received an email from Post Carbon Institute, http://www.postcarbon.org, asking support to a petition to President Obama. The petition requests that he take action to prevent the most negative effects of oil depletion by supporting development of alternative energy sources and conservation of oil. One of my key resources on this issue, Richard Heinberg, has researched the 18 leading alternatives to liquid oil. He found that all the alternatives together do not replace the energy which we receive from oil. His most recent book, Looking for a Miracle, details his findings. To ignore peak oil is to ignore the life breath of industrial society.
In so many of these issues, I find that people do not want to face them. They are too threatening. There is much denial of the reality. I say, research and study the information. I think that it is critical that we do all we can now to change our lifestyles.
I had one very inspired experience on this trip. I was asked to give the valedictorian address at the Round Table Conference. This was my fourth appearance at MAEER's MIT and The World Peace Center since 2008. The Conference was in a hall that has the symbols of the world's religions and of saints from India. Also, Gandhi's presence is presented in wonderful art. I presented my valedictorian address with the words of Gandhi about "truth is God" and about his belief that "the fundamental truth of all religions is one." After this portrayal of the historic Gandhi, I went to the American Gandhi. I said that Gandhi's constructive program needs to be updated. We need to take the 42 talks given at the Round Table and put them into a digital manual to guide us so that we too have a constructive program. I feel this urgency. After the talk, I received comments like "brilliant," "right on," and "thank you."
At times I wonder "Who is listening to Bernie Meyer?" Are people only interested in remembering the historic Gandhi, the Father of India? Or, are they interested in what Gandhi would say about our world today? Gandhi said that his message is as "old as the hills." Gandhi learned from great teachers, ancient and modern.
This message and this opportunity is why I come to India. I believe that we need to put Gandhi's vision and belief in truth together with technology that sustains life, not ends life. Nuclear weapons, climate gases, resource depletion, are threatening life on earth. With a spirit of truth, love, and action we can live. Our children and grandchildren can live.