Dr. Sudarshan Kapur, our beloved peace studies faculty has made the news again today! Sudarshan teaches such classes as Nonviolence in and Though History, Women and the Expansion of Democracy and Introduction to Peace Studies here at Naropa University. Traveling in India throughout the Spring, we will keep you posted on the happenings of his journey.
A missionary to spread Gandhigiri in the time of terror
For more than a decade now, Kapur has been teaching Gandhian philosophy at University of Colorado, University of Denver, Iliff School of Theology and Naropa University. On Tuesday, he started his four-month journey across India to spread awareness on non-violence.
“People often ask me if Gandhi is still relevant but my answer is yes. The problem is only a few have taken up the trouble to study Gandhi and hence cannot point his relevance. More than a century ago, Mahatma Gandhi wrote Swaraj, it was a critique on modern society. Gandhi has candidly written how the modern societies will be sheer materialistic and institutions will be heartless,” said Kapur.
According to Kapur, Gandhi’s observations proved how ahead of times he was in that era.
“It is difficult to demystify Gandhi because you cannot pigeonhole him into any one concept like liberalism, traditionalism, socialism or capitalism. Gandhi was indeed a complex man,” said Kapur.
Kapur’s tryst with Gandhism began when he joined Quaker Foundation in Philadelphia in the early eighties. “The African-American struggle and coming of Martin Luther King are directly linked to Gandhi’s non-violence. Though White Americans recognised Gandhi, it was the Black African-Americans who drew inspiration from him initially,” said Kapur.
Kapur says there are three reasons for this: “The cultural and historical context made the Black African-Americans oppressed. There was also the similarity of colour. Both Black African Americans and Brown Indians were oppressed by the Whites. Thirdly, there was the religious component too. Blacks are traditionally church-going people. They automatically drew inspiration from Gandhi, who was also deeply rooted to his concept of dharma,” said Kapur.
Kapur says the way President Obama deals with the Iraq situation can tell how well he will spread his ancestor’s message of non-violence. “When President Obama steps out of his conventional intelligence and resolves to have a peace talk with the Iraq government, he will be giving Gandhi’s non-violence movement another chance,” said Kapur.
When faced with global terrorism, Gandhi’s non-violence will not be everyone’s answer, but Kapur says it’s just our ‘cynical’ attitude. “If non-violence worked during the African-American struggle, India’s independence, Philippines struggle, then it can work now too. It is important to remember that differences cannot be banished together completely. In any case, we don’t want a world where there is peace akin to grave and no differences. It should be accepted and celebrated,” said Kapur.
However, Kapur admits that non-violence in the modern context will only succeed, if we speak truth and think with heart and compassion. “Gandhi merely did not preach truth, love and compassion. He practised them in every walk of his life. To give non-violence a chance, we need to practise these virtues for our ability to change the society we live in. It’s directly related to our ability to change our own life,” said Kapur.