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  • Writer's pictureLinda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs

Excerpted Inspirations #74


[Eknath Easwaran was Flinders' spiritual teacher, who grew up in a "matrilinear tradition."]      Easwaran also introduced me -- and in doing so addressed many of my deepest concerns -- to the life and works of Mahatma Gandhi.  In Gandhi I found for the first time a powerful model for social change that did not merely accommodate women: Gandhian nonviolence, particularly with regard to what Gandhi had called the Constructive Program, seemed to me to be altogether steeped in what we would now call "the feminine."  The true measures of India's freedom, he insisted, had to do with what people ate, and whether they ate; how they earned a living; the state of their latrines, and the level of literacy.  Whatever might be going on at the political level, there would be no truly free India until these problems were addressed.  Gandhi found that women intuitively understood what he was doing, and they brought intense love and creativity to the work of village uplift.  Even women from wealthy backgrounds had been able to regard India's poor as their own family members, just as he did.  They spun cotton, wove it into "khadi cloth," and clothed their families with it, destroying the Indian market for British textiles and reviving a cottage industry that had once kept whole villages employed. It thrilled me to learn that the home itself had been the very heart of India's nonviolent revolution and the women its driving force.       The relevance of Gandhi's ideas to the contemporary West became clearer and clearer to me.  As Americans, I began to see, we had been colonized, too, not by a foreign government, but by something subtler -- materialism and the competitive, painfully separate way of life it brings about.  It followed, then, that in the West, just as in India, that lesser-known side of nonviolence, the long, slow, unglamorous work of village (and city) uplift, might be as significant and useful as the nonviolence of the political demonstration -- the sit-in, the fast, the march on Washington, D. C.   -Carol Lee Flinders, Enduring Grace: Living Portraits of Seven Women Mystics (1993), p. xv


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