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What I learned from Gandhi
June 24, 2000

One of the most important historical figures of India is Mahatma Gandhi. Ghandi was a gentle, yet powerful leader who led his country to independence from Britain through non-violent resistance. Gandhi is also known as Bapu, or grandfather in India. During the later years of his life, Gandhi lived in a community where people came together to be a part of his teachings, his beliefs and his practices. This special community was called an ashram and it was founded in 1936 and was located in Sevagram, India.

Map
Today, I am a visitor at Gandhi's ashram and even though he is no longer here, the people in this community live their lives as closely to Gandhi's teachings as possible. Like Gandhi was, they are willing to share with anyone who wants to learn

Every morning a bell rings to wake me up at 4:30 a.m. The hot sun is not up yet and I hear the sound of the crickets buzzing. I carefully make my way through the yard where I pass several huts made of bamboo and mud. Quietly, I join a group of a dozen men and women dressed in simple, white clothing. They are sitting cross-legged on the porch of the community leader's hut. As we begin to sing, the songs of birds mix with our voices.

After getting up so early for these morning songs and prayers, instead of wanting to crawl back into bed, I feel clear-headed and awake. I start to understand why Gandhi himself always prayed and studied during the hours before the sun came up. I decide to read for awhile before the work day begins at 6:30 a.m.

In this community, the work day includes a number of different projects and the first one that I work on each day is gardening. If you're going to work in the garden in India, early morning is the best time to do it. Later in the day, the sun gets too hot! I am working with two men and the three of us are pulling up grass and weeds to prepare the garden for planting. After all the days that I have spent traveling on trains and buses, my body is a little confused by this physical work, but it feels good. Ghandi often spoke of the importance of physical work and he believed that every person should take part.

Vocabulary

resistance - the act of opposing or forcing against
community - a group having interests in common
physical - pertaining to the body
benefit - an advantage or positive result of
pure - genuine or simple

After working for one hour, my stomach begins to growl and tells me that it's time to eat! Just then, I hear the bell ring and I know that it's 7:30 a.m. and time for breakfast. We wash up and enter a small kitchen where we all sit in two rows on the floor, facing each other. A thin man serves a simple breakfast of cooked cereal and yogurt. At lunch a few hours later, he serves homegrown and cooked soups, vegetables and bread. This man is not the new guy in the village, he is the "head honcho" of the community and he believes that all people are equal. Also, he believes that it is our job to serve all of humanity. This man has lived here since Gandhi was alive, when Gandhi himself served the meals.

After lunch, I gather with the group on the porch where we sit with metal trays. Our next work project is to carefully pick the rocks from kernels of wheat. This wheat will be ground by hand into flour. The work is boring but we talk and stay cool in the shade while we work. I chat with a friendly man who speaks English fairly well. After awhile, I realize that work like this allows people to communicate and to build a sense of community. Gandhi's teachings and practices have so many benefits!

Related Links

More about Gandhi

Gandhi's Ashram

More on Gandhi's Ashram

At 2:30 p.m., another clang of the bell means it's time for the next project. The project will be spinning work and we will use tools to spin cotton into thread. As we move on to this new project, I begin to realize that the people in this community are very talented. They can make their own clothing, and grow their own food. These people following Gandhi's teachings are living such a pure life and they can make everything that they need to survive. Most of all, I learned that Gandhi and his followers are truthful, non-violent people who want to serve others. They follow simple, yet powerful lessons and they are positive examples for me and for you.

Abeja

p.s. - Please e-mail me at ...abejahummel@bigfoot.com
 

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