Friday, January 25, 2008

January 25, 2007 - from Yavatmal to Sevagram

FROM YAVATMAL TO WARDHA. Early in the morning on this day one year ago, our bicycle entourage was sent off by staff and students of Yavatmal College for Leadership Training. Five Indian riders from the school would accompany us to Nagpur. The more, the merrier! We passed through Wardha, a major intra-India train exchange depot. We then rode on to a little place called Sevagram.

AT GANDHI’S HOME. Sevagram became the rural home of Mahatma Gandhi in 1936. From this quiet place, Gandhi not only practiced the simple, powerful principles of his convictions, but led India in a non-violent manner until England "quit India" in 1947. Gandhi guided India to Independence without a military, but with the force of non-violent spirit and non-violent civil disobedience. We stood in the one-room hut, Bepu Kuti, where Gandhi welcomed world leaders and strategized for India's independence. We saw his walking stick and the Quran, Bible, and Bhagavad Gita that he read each day.

REPUBLIC DAY: JANUARY 26. Three years after English rule ended, the Indian democracy was established on January 26, 1950. Republic Day is commemorated across India with great affection. We spent the night in guest huts at Gandhi's ashram in Sevagram. It seemed fitting that we should begin Republic Day from the birthplace of Indian independence.Visiting Sevagram was a deeply moving experience for us.

ASHRAM OBSERVANCES. At the Sevagram ashram (retreat center), I read the sign posting the "Seven Deadly Social Sins" that Gandhi defined. I was also interested in the 11 Ashram Observances and have contemplated the impact of the power of the use and abandonment of these practices both in India and among American Christians. Here are the 11 Ashram Observances at Sevagram:
1. Truth
2. Non-violence
3. Chastity
4. Non-possession
5. Non-stealing
6. Bread-Labor
7. Control of palate
8. Fearlessness
9. Equality of religions
10. Swadeshi (Gandhi's description: "a call to the consumer to be aware of the violence he is causing by supporting those industries that result in poverty, harm to workers and to humans and other creatures")
11. Removal of untouchability

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