Gandhiji’s Message is as Relevant Today

By Rashmi K. Ravindra, Pittsburgh, PA        e-mail:

In this year’s Gandhi Remembrance Day, the keynote speaker, Prof. Ed Brantmeier emphasized how interconnected and interdependent our lives are, something we do not always recognize in our individualistic and “atomistic” pursuits. His message was: Recognizing this holistic nature of life is necessary to reduce conflicts both within and without, individually and also collectively. We need to walk together doing service to others and living in harmony.  Brantmeier is the Assistant Director for Faculty Innovation and Assistant Professor at the College of Education, Gandhi Center at James Madison University in Virginia.

Gandhi Keynote Speaker on Stage

Prof. Ed Brantmeier in a pensive mood on stage.

The event was held at the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium in Oakland on Sunday, October 6 under the aegis of AHINSA (Alliance for Humanitarian Initiatives Non-violence and Spiritual Advancement), an organization founded by our long-time resident, Mr. Som Sharma of Monroeville.

Brantmeier walked his audience through breathing exercises and meditation and asked them to talk to each other’s nearest neighbors on any topic. My neighbor spoke to me on peace and his travel to India with his family. The idea was to make people open up with each other.

The choice of the eclectic Brantmeirer as this year’s keynote speaker was most appropriate. As a Fulbright Scholar he studied at the Banares Hindu University. He is the co-author of Spirituality, Religion & Peace Education, among others works.  The book looks into the teachings and practices of Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Quakers & Sufis, and focuses on the impact of competition, consumerism and materialism in the current education system.

Ed Brantmeier playing the Peace Song on the Native American bamboo flute.

Ed Brantmeier playing the Peace Song on the Native American bamboo flute.

Brantmeier was emphatic that children need to be taught the principles of peace very early. Given the poverty in many parts of the world, society, he said, has an obligation to teach financial literacy and basic education even for rag-picker kids.  Children can learn the power of words and numbers through such basic literacy.
Brantmeier connected very well with his audience by referring to current issues in our education system, by emphasizing the need for unity and not duality. Stressing on the theme of vasudeva kudumbam (Sanskrit, meaning “We all belong to a large universal family”), he rendered the melodious peace song Blooming on the Native American flute.

The program also included a panel discussion moderated by N Srinivasa from the S V Temple, with Rabbi Art Donsky (Jewish, Temple Ohav Shalom), Sanjay Mehta (Hindu, Hindu-Jain Temple), and Dr Azmat Qayyum (Islamic, CAIR) as panelists. The panel covered diverse topics including the political stalemate in Washington DC between the Democrats and the Republicans.

Sharma, Srinivasa et al at Gandhi Day

N Srinivasa, Prof. Ed Brantmeier , Som Sharma and another speaker of the day.

Abhijit Joshi, Seethalakshmi Madhavan and Saraswati Chelleuri sang melodious Bhajans. Children and young adults spoke on Gandhi’s impact and relevance through history and even today in conflict resolution.

Earlier, Jennifer Creamer of the Asian Studies Center of the University of Pittsburgh, stressed how relevant Gandhi’s teachings are today, with distrust and violence running amok in many parts of the world, including the US.  Som Sharma, the founder of AHINSA introduced the keynote speaker, and Srinivasa emceed the program with organizational help from Sanjay Mehta.  Vijayasekhar Reddy offered the customary Vote of Thanks.  ♦

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