Be in India: Experiments with Truth

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Top Places to Reconnect in the World 2012

Missy Crutchfield and Melissa Turner
Founding Editors
Be Magazine | www.bemagazine.org

Experiments with Truth

“To find yourself, you have to lose yourself in the service of others,” Gandhi said.

Kochrab, Gandhi's first ashram in India.

When Gandhi returned from South Africa to his home state of Gujarat, India, he founded his first ashram, Kochrab, in Ahmedabad. Two years later he moved the ashram to the banks of the Sabarmati River.

Ashram life was intensely focused on the mission at hand—an experiment in truth and life. Followers practiced satyagraha (truth), non-violence, chastity, control of the palate (no meat or alcohol), non-stealing, non-possession or poverty (simplicity and communal living), fearlessness, removal of untouchability, tolerance, and physical labor. It was this focused ashram experience that gave birth to the freedom movement for India.

The legacy of the Gandhi Ashram lives on today on the campus of Gujarat Vidyapith—the university Gandhi founded in Ahmedabad in 1920 and at Manav Sadhna—a community-building NGO located at the Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram.

Arun Gandhi spins on his Charka during an assembly at Gujart Vidyapith. He share that when he and Gandhiji would have spinning contests, Arun was the fastest spinner.

Spiritual practice at Gujart Vidyapith is similar to the focused ashram experience. Students gather each day to spin cotton on box Charkhas. Invented by Gandhi himself, the Charkha is a briefcase-like hand-cranked spinning machine used in the khadi movement to promote self-reliance through cloth-making.

The practice of sustainability is also woven into the very fabric of campus life at Gujart Vidyapith. The campus is powered by 50 percent solar energy and a new Energy Park educates students and visitors on creative forms of alternative energy—from stationary bicycles powering table saws and washing machines to wind turbine-powered water pumps. Everything has a purpose for good.

At the Gandhi Ashram, Manav Sadhna serves as a community-building NGO living out the legacy of Gandhi in the underprivileged communities nearby. From street schools in the slums to Earn and Learn child labor alternatives, Manav Sadhna serves over 8,000 children and women through over 35 different education, nutrition, health, women’s empowerment and disaster relief and rehabilitation programs.

The Ekatva "Oneness" Dance-Drama Tour takes the message of Gandhi around the world.

One educational experiment at Manav Sadhna that has proven a tremendous success is “The Ekatva Tour,” immersing 16 underprivileged children from the slums of Ahmedabad in a dance and drama program and sharing Gandhi’s philosophy of “Oneness” in cities around the world. The 2012 global tour will feature shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, and London.

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