Gandhi Summer Gathering 2015

Welcome to the Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering, and welcome into a world of interesting and thought-provoking ideas, delicious homemade food, craft workshops, contributions, sharing and communal opportunity !  I always look forward to this event, from the inclusive talks to shramdana; cleaning and cooking for the community.  I suppose shramdana is just chores, but it also is an opportunity to explore the beautiful buildings !  This year it was in a romantic abbey building with kitchen gardens, bee-hives, forests, and shady courtyards with panelled halls.  Crafts were fun and profitable, ranging from painting, sowing, and calligraphy to stop-frame animation (featuring Gandhi himself!).  Anyhow, nothing can reproduce the awe and wonder felt at the end of the Gathering’s insightful talks.

A day at the GF Summer Gathering looks like this: firstly, early (optional!) yoga in a quiet room, then a buffet breakfast (maybe with yesterday’s fresh bread rolls) before a quarter hour meditation with candles.  After sharing information and hopes for the day we have a talk on the topic with a range of readers and activities, followed by shramdana (group chores – Gandhi style).  After a homemade lunch, there is some free time before craft workshops take place with dinner, entertainment, parties and meditation provided after.  Hopefully you fall asleep with the pleasant fulfilment Gandhi strived for !

This year the gathering took a difficult theme: Gandhian values in the digital age, but planned subthemes guided our sessions.  On the first morning session we read Gandhi’s own words condemning technology, but how Schumacher developed it into easier ‘practical action’. The next day we looked at the evolution of the computer.  I found this bit really interesting as I found out that computers were almost invented in 1837 by Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, the next computer being made in 1940s !  The third session gave us some surprises – as the results of a technology questionnaire came in !  Most were expecting that the younger generations would have the most tech, but the fact was that those from 41-60yrs had and used computers most; followed by 21-40yrs. Could this be because those who have jobs use most technology, and could it explain the rise in higher professions and greater inequalities?

However, in the next session we learned about the internet and the maker movement in the USA and about how people have grown their own food and made their own crafts and clothes, selling them on the internet on sites such as Etsy.  This was my favourite session and I felt inspired to join in.  These were Gandhian practical principles that we could all practise.  At the end of the session we concluded that even though technology was causing inequality within and between economies, it could have positive benefits inspiring people to take up their own craft.

On the last full day we identified five social values and three personal values that Gandhi lived by and tried in small groups to answer the question, ‘For each of these eight values, will it be more or less widely practised in thirty years’ time ?’  The answers showed a fair amount of agreement over those areas of life where improved information technology would be beneficial and those where it would be neutral or harmful.  On the final morning we considered practical arrangements for the Summer Gathering and chose a theme for which the provisional title is Gandhian Economics, with special reference to alternative forms of ownership in business and industry.

And so ended a week where we could immerse ourselves into good principles, knowledge and fun crafts.  We are all excited about the 2016 Gathering, where we hope we will all experience the excitement and opportunity again at the Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering.

Linnet Drury

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