An Interview With The Visionary Behind 'From India With Love,' Mandar Apte
By Deidre Norman
From India with Love is an initiative to reinvigorate nonviolence in the United States. The visionary behind this initiative is Mandar Apte. To start the conversation, Mandar created a documentary film of the same name that shares the story of six victims of violence from North America who took an epic journey to India to deepen their understanding of nonviolence. We were thrilled to be able meet up with Mandar and ask him a few questions about his path, the inspiration behind this film and his newest project.
We would love to hear about the inspiration behind the the documentary From India with Love.
Our country is going through a very turbulent phase. Violence is on the rise and seems to happen anytime, anywhere. It does not depend on your socio-economic status or the neighborhood that we live in. While researching about how to promote nonviolence, I came across a journey to India that was undertaken by Martin Luther King, Jr., when in 1959 he had visited India to study the teachings of nonviolence from Mahatma Gandhi.
How did you choose the six people to take on this journey to India?
The people in the documentatry were selected based on their different exposures and experiences with violence. The purpose to select a diverse cast was to showcase that today violence happens to anyone, anywhere, anytime and is not based on our socio-econmic status or the neighborhood we live in. Each one had a unique story and in the film, we are coming together in the spirit of promoting compassion and nonviolence.
I would love to hear how you got started on your Yogic path?
Right after my graduate school, I started working as a petroleum engineer for Shell. The job involved a lot of travel and long hours. My blood profile results were terrible and clearly due to stress, bad food and sleeping habits, etc. I therefore started looking for healthier ways of living. A friend recommended that I should do the Happiness workshop offered by the Art of Living Foundation. The workshop taught me the basics of yoga, pranayama and meditation. In addition, it taught simple life hacks that I was easily able to integrate in my lifestyle. It improved the quality of my life. I wish that we would have learnt yoga much earlier while in school. Within one year of the workshop, I became an instructor so I could share the benefits with others.
How do you practice nonviolence in your daily life?
I do my best to practice the principles of ahimsa. Nonviolence comes from the Sanskrit word "ahimsa" which stands for a 'lack of violence' at three levels - at the level of thought, speech and actions. Therefore, the practice of ahimsa requires tremendous self discipline. Hence practice of yoga and meditation becomes an integral part of your commitment to ahimsa. However, I have also come to realize that simply practicing yoga and meditation isn't enough. It must also be complemented by having healthy 'sattvic' food, a healthy ecosystem of 'sattvic' friends and also staying involved in service projects. Ahimsa is a razor's edge and is a discipline. For me, my inspiration is my meditation teacher Sri Sri Ravi Shankar - his wisdom and guidance have been of tremendous help.
Can you tell us about the trip you are taking to India this October?
On the occassion of Mahatma Gandhi's 149th birth anniversary, this year, we are planning a Summit on Countering Violence and Extremism. We will be inviting mayors, police executives, policy makers and victims/survivors of violence, to come together and discover new ways to promote greater compassion and nonviolence in our world. Passionate change makers are invited to join hands to bring this vision to life. More details are on www.nonviolencesummit.org.
It is so beautiful to meet someone who I see as following their Dharmic path, do you feel that spreading non-violence is your Dharmic path?
Yes, I think so. Recently, I was appointed a visiting scholar at George Mason University. I will be setting up the Business for Peace innovation lab. I would like to align my peace activism with my corporate innovation background. That seems to be the next calling - to inspire big business to actively promote peace, compassion and nonviolence.
Are there any words of inspiration you would like to share with our readers?
Just that, life is very short and it is not worth staying unhappy, angry and upset. There is so much violence, pain and suffering on our planet, let my work inspire more people to find inner peace and spread happiness and joy. If you feel inspired, reach out and let us co create a more peaceful society.
You can watch the documentary From India with Love HERE.