Striving in nonviolence is hard work, and we all need encouragement. But homework? You got it. Gandhi gave his grandson Arun homework to help him gain the inner strength he needed to keep on striving. He counseled Arun to keep a large sheet of paper in his room, and each evening to sketch out a sort of genealogical “family tree” of the day’s violence. He told him to write on one side of the paper “Physical” and on the other side “Passive” and to keep track of what he witnessed, heard, did and felt.
Why did he want to teach him about violence? It was to get him to see early on how much we all participate in forms of violence without being aware of it. Violence, Gandhi held, went beyond physical acts of aggression, extending to the way we treat life around and within us, such as violence to the earth, violence in our hearts, impatience and even waste. When it really comes time to separate out violence to ourselves from violence to others or our planet, it is all of a sudden not that simple a task, because it is all woven together. Wait, when I harmed that creature, it hurt me, too.
Arun noted that this daily exercise did indeed help him to see his own acts of violence more clearly, and ingrained in him an awareness of the often unacknowledged relationship between passive and physical violence (passive violence, he realized, often leads to physical violence). With such powerful and personal consciousness-raising information, he said that he could then begin taking steps to transform himself, little by little, day by day.
Get a notebook and try the exercise that Gandhi recommended to his grandson, and make a commitment to yourself to redirect violent behaviors into nonviolent channels.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 email@example.com