By Marc Eliot Stein, January 30, 2021
The latest World BEYOND War podcast episode is something different: a deep dive into the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and its relevance for peace activists today. I spoke to Dr. Suman Khanna Aggarwal, the founder and President of Shanti Sahyog in New Delhi, India. Shanti Sahyog is an affiliate of World BEYOND War, and we began our conversation by talking about conflict resolution and nonviolent defense.
Our conversation took off from there into several directions. Before we began our podcast interview, I told Dr. Aggarwal that I’d really like to explore her own personal journey into Gandhian philosophy and peace activism. Truthfulness is a key principle of satyagraha, and I really appreciated the way Shanti Sahyog’s founder opened her thought process and story of personal growth to me in this interview. It’s not surprising to hear that Gandhian scholars are not born enlightened, but instead have to find their way through circuitous paths. By the end of our fascinating discussion, I could only agree with Suman Khanna Aggarwal that the universe created Shanti Sahyog, and that it must be the universe that keeps it going.
This interview also wanders into Gandhian science, Greek philosophy, the difference between spirituality and religion, wealth, personal commitment, Richard Attenborough’s movie “Gandhi” and even some of the critiques of Mohandas Gandhi’s life and work that may confound those who wish to understand the scope of Gandhi’s remarkable influence on our modern world. The musical excerpt for this episode is from Philip Glass’s opera “Satyagraha”.
A few memorable quotes from this interview with Dr. Suman Khanna Aggarwal:
“Relationships only work when they’re based on trust. The laws of life apply everywhere. You can’t say in my personal life trust is the most important thing, and in my political life mistrust.”
“Maybe in 100 years our grandchildren will look back and say, my god, do you know they killed each other?”
“What is the United Nations doing? Ask me. I have been a plenary speaker. They’ll give me a suite, not just a room. Of course I’ll make a fancy speech, I’ll do a workshop on conflict resolution, we’ll have a cultural evening, and we will come home. Peace is done! I’m so frustrated, what did we do?”
“Richard Attenborough did a very good job. No Indian could have made such a good movie. He studied Gandhi for 12 years. He hit it on the head. I have seen it 21 times. I use the movie in my workshops.”
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