GF Annual Lecture 2017 – Gandhi for the 21st Century

Through the good offices of former Gandhi Foundation trustee and current patron Diana Schumacher the Foundation was honoured to have Satish Kumar deliver this year’s Annual Lecture at the Nehru Centre on Thursday 28th September.

Satish started the lecture by recounting how he started his adult life as a Jain monk but at the age of 17 he read Gandhi’s autobiography and that entirely transformed his outlook and therefore his life. If you want to transform the world you have to be active in it, was the message that first struck him but this must be conditioned by knowing why you are doing it. He continued talking about how service can be a spiritual practice and how this can be applied to all professions. Spirituality being something that can be applied by everyone, but is something experienced not studied from books. By doing this one can engage in what he called reverential economics and we must seek to return to the original meaning of economics (relating to the home) and its relationship with words such as ecology. To do this we must look at the whole planet as our one and only home. Therefore one replaces a desire for power with a desire to serve.

Mark Hoda and Satish Kumar

He continued by tying in concepts that our lives are much more than simply defined by our jobs.  And by integrating this with a life of service we can create the embodiment of Gandhi’s word sarvodaya. This phrase usually means looking to achieve a good for all, but here it must strive to achieve that for the whole planet not just humans. This goes beyond a socialist utilitarian conception of the greatest good for the greatest number.

From here we can look into ideas such as conservation, peace, etc. To facilitate this we must start to develop a sense of gratitude towards nature. Additionally until we remove personal ego we cannot be truly happy as we are otherwise serving ourselves. Satish did caution against assuming such acts are going to be easy or straight forward – they also require imagination.

Following the lecture Satish kindly spent at least half an hour answering questions from the floor. He was asked how does this message work with an ever increasing global population; the answer stressed the importance of education and reducing consumption. Mary Holmes of Action Village India asked how we could reconcile individual desires and community; Satish focused on how we cannot ignore community whether in our own locality or with a global perspective giving the examples of Vinoba Bhave’s life and his own book, I think therefore I am. Long standing Foundation member Brian Parker asked about how we should deal with dark forces in the world. To which Satish felt we need to put things in perspective namely that in a world of roughly 7 billion only 200,000 are engaged in war. Matthew Bain asked about the world’s fixation about economic growth to which Satish felt the need to establish a new paradigm where happiness is more important. Further questions dealt with the need for dialogue when differences of opinion arise, thinking globally whilst acting locally, the opportunity that Brexit might allow Britain to become more self-reliant, and how the Gandhi Foundation could perhaps develop a Gandhian political manifesto.

Report by William Rhind and Mark Hoda

Categories: Uncategorized

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