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G.A. Spanovich: Using Mahatma Gandhi's Spiritual Model to Create Cultures of Peace

Address at a Conference on  “The USA at a Turning Point: Building a Nation and a World of Peace”
Los Angeles, California -  November 15, 2013

"It is not enough to teach children how to read, write and count. Education has to cultivate mutual respect for others and the worlds in which we live, and help people forge more just, inclusive and peaceful societies." UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

The USA is at a turning point, and we must work now to build our nation of peace and our world of peace; we can no longer wait for others to do that work for us. We must begin now, today and including everyone in this room and we must start by building “cultures of peace” in our homes, in our schools and in our communities. It must spread out from there, and we must be dedicated to this course and our work with it, for the other side, the arms industry, operates 24/7 – never sleeping, constantly producing missiles, bombs, guns, bullets and expanding the nuclear arsenal. So we too must never stop building our “culture of peace”; we too must work 24/7.

We must work as junior Mahatma Gandhis against all those who would have use military violence to suppress basic human rights – something both Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield and the Amnesty Executive Director Dr. Schulz told me was the reason war exists – due to the violation of basic human rights.

One simple Indian man, a deeply spiritual Hindu, took on the full might of the most powerful military machine on the planet at the time. Mahatma Gandhi confronted the British Raj (British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947) seeking independence from Great Britain. He was a deeply spiritual human being. God and his faith in God gave him his fearlessness, and his ability to fast for long periods of time allowed him to cleanse himself of normal worldly concerns so that he was able to pull from his Divinity within to know what to do and when to do it. A reporter camped outside his hut while he undertook a long fast, asking Gandhi what the next step was. Gandhi also took a vow of silence, and after weeks of silent meditation came out and announced, “I will make salt.” The reporter felt maybe he has lost it; but Gandhi began a march to the ocean and in his pre-TV, pre-radio era attracted millions of people who also marched to the ocean and made salt. It was a crime under the British law, but the British could not put millions of people in jail. Historians say that this action broke the back of the British Raj, and after that it was only a matter of time before Great Britain left India!

We must each personally take on the responsibility that Mahatma Gandhi took on; we must become responsible for building our nation of peace and our world of peace. Like Mahatma we must also use a spiritual approach, for the spiritual approach is the most powerful. Mahatma was not the only one who proved that. Jesus was another, so were the many saints and martyrs throughout Christian history. Today the Nobel Peace laureates are in fact our living Mahatmas – our peace saints. Kim Dae-jung endured three years of torture in prison on death row, Nelson Mandela spent decades in prison and Adolfo Perez Esquivel endued torture in prison. What they all had in common was that each was not afraid to look evil in the eye. Evil blinked and the peace work changed history.

Sometimes people ask me if Satan is real. I usually answer by saying you can see Satan’s face in every war: his teeth are the bombs and the missiles, and he delights in all the killing that occurs. There can be no doubt that its terrible spirit is alive and revels in destruction and killing on a grand scale.

So what can we all do today if we accept the calling of God to create “cultures of peace”? Are we ready to help the Lord create “cultures of peace” on the Earth today so that the idea of war and using war to settle differences becomes so patently absurd and illogical that was will be banished to the dust bin of history as a dinosaur?

So how do we do that? I would like to suggest that we need a new approach – a wholistic approach to end conflict and prevent war; one that recognizes our inherent humanness, our inherent spirituality and the Divinity that dwells at the core of all human beings. The 1989 Nobel Peace Laureate, the Dalai Lama, says we need a “human approach” to world peace, for when we are fully human we are naturally spiritual and spirituality is part and parcel of being a human being. He also recommends a two-step approach to peacemaking: (1) rebuild the relationship which has been damaged, and (2) talk about the specific issues. He says the relationship healing must come first.

Over the years I have developed a Wholistic Approach© to mediation and conflict resolution and am now writing a book: Using a Wholistic Approach© to End Conflict and Prevent War. To use this approach to develop “cultures of peace” and to heal our human-to-human interaction, we must understand that we are whole and our wholeness has four major dimensions:

  1. We have a mental dimension, which is characterized by our thoughts and our intellect and all of our words and actions that flow from them – good or bad;
  2. We have an emotional dimension, which is reflected in our heart feelings and our emotions and all of our words and actions that flow from them as well – good or bad; we cannot choose anger or hatred and expect to build a “culture of peace,” but forgiveness and reconciliation, on the other hand, will build a new culture of peace;
  3. We have a physical dimension, a physical body that is either healthy or unhealthy – sick or well – and which affects our words and actions; for again we are one whole, and we must take care of our bodies daily;
  4. Finally, we have a spiritual dimension, which is as much if not more important than our other three dimensions and which is really where our Divinity resides; if we have a strong soul and choose words and actions that are good, our soul is strengthened and so can take on historical juggernauts, as did the Mahatma and Jesus and many others.

The Dalai Lama has said we have to use right thinking to see clearly and properly; we have to choose positive thought and thus speak from that place. We also have to trust our heart and our intuitive feelings and act from the values of compassion, forgiveness, healing, reconciliation and hope. This is how we personally can work to build “cultures of peace” all around us.

Years ago I was watching a Los Angeles Times reporter debate with the Dalai Lama about the potency of compassion. The reporter said: “What is this fluffy stuff on compassion? It won’t create anything, but the force of anger will get things moving and it is an American value.” The Dalai Lama was quiet for a while and then said “I don’t think so." He continued: "You can never know the potency of compassion unless you practice it; you can’t think about it and think that is it. No, you must become compassionate and act compassionately, surrendering your anger and hate; then you will see its potency and then you will see it can overcome all anger and all hatred.” We must overcome our internal anger and hate, for only then are we fully prepared to help the Lord build “cultures of peace”!

Most importantly, we must call on the Divine within us and we must listen to the Lord speak to us as a still small voice of the within. We can hear the still small voice speak when we are silent or in meditation or prayer. We must give our spiritual knowledge a voice at our personal decision-making table, for through silence and meditation on the Lord’s voice within, the still small voice will guide us how to create “cultures of peace” and to perhaps affect a million people, as the blessed Mahatma did, and change history. The power of the Divine is within us and is waiting for our silence, in order to speak to us.

I have brought Arun Gandhi, a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, many times to Portland, Oregon; once I asked him over dinner if the Mahatma ever talked about the still small voice and Arun said: “My grandfather talked about the still small voice all the time and felt it was so important to hear that he devoted one full day to silence each week.”

There you have one of Mahatma’s greatest tools for his work; you too have the same tool.