Gandhi 3.0 -- Bows Of Gratitude
Posted by Zilong Wang on Jan 27, 2018
In January 2018, around the 100th anniversary of the Gandhi Ashram, the experiment culminated in a global retreat, the third of its kind since 2014.
"It is difficult, very difficult to find words to express all that we've lived in Ahmedabad," wrote Vasco from Portugal, who authored the first book in Portuguese on mindfulness. "When people ask me how it was, I just stay silent, let my eyes and smile shine, bless them in my heart and give them a big hug. :) All words seem to dilute the sacredness of the experience… Feel touched at a deeper part of my being... Although in the last years I've been fortunate to experience several "cutting-edge" retreats and programs and also to work closely with some of the most inspiring organizations, this experience you gave us showed me a higher level in terms of what is possible regarding human connection and loving-kindness. I feel blessed and resonate with Ujwal's words, 'God must exist and I must be in his good books -- how else could I have been at this retreat?'"
It is a most unusual invitation: Travel across globe to spend a week with 70 changemakers whom you have never met. No agenda. No desired outcomes. No price tag. For many invitees, our minds never figured out how we said yes. Yet, from the very first moment, our hearts knew we had to be here. One participant wrote after the retreat, "I went with some skepticism, not sure this was for me. But I was moved over and over, by the people, their generosity of spirit, the deep truths we shared, the love. I am eager to see how I might take this forward into my life and work."
It is a most unlikely constellation of participants: Forty participants and thirty volunteers, from over a dozen countries, speaking over a dozen languages. Their ages range from 23 to 82, while their spiritual lineages cover almost the entire divine spectrum. Professionally, we only need a dentist and a blacksmith to start our own town. At any given time, we see a Japanese spiritual leader sitting next to a Hawaiian elder and martial arts master. A founder of business school having chai with a young Sufi. A former CEO of a multi-billion company taking a walk with Nobel Peace laureate. A Himalayan yogi chopping potatoes with a Israeli peacemaker. A senior Western Buddhist nun admiring the creativity of a Nepalese artist. Founders of massive NGOs tearing up at the stories of a former submarine commander… As one participant puts it, "This is the most diverse group of people I've been with."
It is a most unexpected outcome. The volunteers are singularly committed to practice unconditional love without any attachment to results. We knew in theory that the giving itself is the reward, but as the days unfold, it's hard to discern who's giving and who's receiving -- when material given and immaterial received indefinitely blurs such a distinction. The participants arrive with broad strokes, but no timetables, in their retreat itinerary. They land at the airport with instructions that pretty much read, "Look for nameless volunteers you've never met before who are clearly there to pick you up." :) (Sidenote: everyone gets picked up. :)) Yet no one bats an eye, possibly because trust is a thread that weaves through us all. As the invitation offered, "If diverse people can all hold space with a focus on inner transformation, something may shift in the matrix of our inter-connection and create a field for radically innovative solutions for today's challenges." What has emerged from that space -- and what continues to emerge as we return to our respective corners of the globe -- some have said, is nothing short of life-changing.
Ujwal (a doyen of Indian retail banking and social sector) wrote, "I have been in many gatherings of business people, intellectuals, non profit leaders, politicians, academics nationally and internationally...but never experienced such pure concern for the future of the individual and humanity. It is undoubtedly the highlight of the sixty seven years of my existence." An accomplished professor reflected: "I came to the Gandhian Oasis, and it wasn’t a mirage. It nourished and reignited my soul in service to humanity. So much to deepen and explore after this experience of rejuvenation. I too am gulpingly inspired by the radically kind volunteers and light warriors I met in this my first trip to India. It took 54 years to be welcomed home. It has cracked my outer coconut shell." A Buddhist nun, Ven. Karma Lekshe, remarked: "I've been looking for this for 20 years! No words for the wonders of Gandhi 3.0; we need to do this with our nuns." Anil Sachdev, founder of an innovative business school, wrote, "A million thanks to you for the five best days of my life!" Mandy Catron, who got sick during part of the retreat, commented, "I feel like I've got 30 mothers taking care of me." Yoav, from Israel, shared: "I've never bowed in my life, but I figured if I'm going to break that inner wall, these are the people to do it with, this is the place, and now is time. It was deeply transformative." Sehr Karim, a project initiator from Pakistan, wrote: "If I don't get up tomorrow morning, it will be fine because I've now seen heaven." Gary Zukav, a celebrity author, summed it up as, "My time here has been mind expanding, heart expanding and life changing."
One of the walls on campus had a simple quote: "No matter what the question, love is the answer." When 70 people practice that together, it seems that we collectively move from the "necessity of the probable" to the "plausibility of the possible."
More coming soon ...