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Foreign students learn Gandhi philosophy to apply his ideals back home


Press Trust of India Ahmedabad
Gujarat Vidyapith, founded by Mahatma Gandhi in 1920 to prepare the country's youth for national reconstruction, has also helped several international students acquire skills to apply his ideals in their countries.
Apart from offering under-graduate, post-graduate and doctoral courses in different streams, Gujarat Vidyapith, which is a deemed university since 1963, conducts a four-month diploma in 'International Course On Gandhian Non-violence' exclusively for students from abroad.
According to Prem Anand Mishra of the Faculty of Gandhian Studies, the course, which began in 2011, has changed the perspective of many students from countries like the US, Mexico, France, Argentina, Brazil, Ghana, South Sudan and Indonesia.
"The purpose of the four-month course is to give orientation in the theoretical and practical dimensions of non-violence as explained and applied by Gandhi in his personal and public life. Till now, around 70 students from 15 to 16 countries have completed this course," says Mishra, who is the course coordinator.
Equal emphasis is given on practical exposure by taking students for visits to other Gandhian institutions and ashrams, like Gandhi Research Foundation at Jalgaon, Sampoorna Kranti Vidyalaya, Lok Bharati in Bhavnagar as well as naturopathy and organic farming centres.
"Participants stay for five to ten days at each of these places to observe, study and participate in the application of various Gandhian principles. After going back, many participants have informed us about how they applied Gandhian philosophy in their countries," says Mishra.
A student from Brazil was so impressed with 'Nai Talim', a Gandhian principle which states that knowledge and work are not separate, that he started a school to impart such 'basic education' in his country, he says.
"This student from Brazil even requested us to send some 'charkhas' (spinning wheels) so that he could teach students there how to make 'khadi' (the handspun). A girl student from Ghana is now conducting a workshop in her country on how Gandhian philosophy of non-violence can be applied to solve domestic issues," Mishra says.
"What they learn here is how they can start with small initiatives. After going through practicals on organic farming during the course, an Argentinian participant started a small project of converting kitchen waste into organic manure back home. He educated people about how such small steps would bring a positive change in society," he says.
Gujarat Vidyapith, set to celebrate its 100th anniversary next year, also attracts scholars, writers, academicians and artists.
"Many authors, researchers and academicians from other countries regularly visit here to seek guidance and refer books as we have a large library with over six lakh books. An author recently came here to seek guidance about Swadeshi, as he was planning to write a book on it," he says.
"Several artists from other countries also come here. They want to know about Gandhiji's views on art or how they can create an artistic interpretation of the Mahatma. Some foreign students even enroll for PhD. A Japanese student last year finished her doctoral course, that too in Gujarati," the professor says.
Sophia Bohrloch, a German social worker, stayed at Gujarat Vidyapith for three days to learn Gandhian thoughts on peace and co-existence, which according to her, is important to address the current migrant crisis back in her country.
"I am associated with an international NGO which is mainly based on peace movement. That is why we are connected with the Gandhian way of non-violence, peace and helping people in need. My visit here will give me more clarity about what should be the response of German people to the influx of refugees from war-torn countries," she says.
According to Ashwinkumar Chauhan of the Vidyapith, foreigners regularly visit the institution to seek answers to problems of the modern world.
"These foreigners get amazed watching students doing their own work and making khadi. We have preserved the basic ethos propagated by Gandhiji. This is the place which inspires them and educates them about importance of self-reliance, simplicity, compassion," Chauhan says.
Rajendra Khimani, honorary director of the Vidyapith, says, "These international visitors many a time stay for a week in the campus and follow the routine, such as wearing only khadi and eating only vegetarian food. During their stay, they realise that simplicity is the key to inner peace. They also understand the importance of remaining silent (maun), as practised by Gandhiji.

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First Published: Sep 29 2019 | 1:05 PM IST

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