Celebrating Magnificence: Raj Kumar – Peace Activist
Born in India, Raj moved to the US in 1989. Raj has served as a counsellor, a yoga and health teacher, in the public sector, as an author, and as a peace activist. His life tells a tale of self-discovery and deliberate self-crafting.
Terri Hefner writes, “Kumar, who has a Ph.D in clinical psychology and is the author of a number of books, had a life changing experience in 1998 when he underwent open heart surgery. ‘I went from materialism to spiritualism,’ he admits.”
Since his personal health odyssey, reports Paula Rath, “Raj Kumar lives in a world somewhere between Western and Eastern forms of medicine. Trained in the Western way of clinical psychology, Kumar, who holds a doctorate, is working his way back to his Eastern roots in India.” Raj has taught yoga and other mindful health practices for body, mind and soul.
“’I believe that spirituality is beyond psychology and religion in our life,’ Kumar said. Since a personal health crisis… in 1998, Kumar finds himself increasingly mindful of the 4,000-year old practice of Ayurveda, which employs yoga, nutrition, exercise, meditation, massage, herbal tonics and sweat baths,” according to Rath.
The 9/11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City in 2001 served as a strong signal to Raj that something was out of balance in the world. That day, he vowed to himself to do something to promote global peace: he planted the seed which eventually grew into the Gandhi International Institute for Peace. On the next day, September 12, Raj organized a spiritual gathering for peace at Kapi Hale in Honolulu.
When a hate-driven carnage happened at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, Raj spoke out here in Honolulu: “There needs to be more love, tolerance, patience and understanding if we are going to live together in peace… Intolerance is less of a problem in Hawaii because we live in a diverse community,” Kumar said. “This is one of the best places to live on earth, but on the mainland there are still a lot of problems. We need more education so that there is better understanding of other people and other religions.”
In 2006, Raj instituted the first celebration of Gandhi’s October 2nd birthday under the Gandhi statue in Kapiolani Park.
“ Violence has happened for centuries. In those days we did not have the technology and media to expose it,” stated Raj. “ I believe we should respect all people who are practicing any faith – we should not discriminate – we should not punish them. Anybody should have the right to live the life they want to, the God they believe in… No religion is superior to others.”
Gandhi International Institute for Peace – GIIP
Gandhi International Institute for Peace that Raj first envisioned in 2001 has been raising awareness about nonviolence among youth, and promoting peace in the community. The institute annually celebrates Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, October 2, which in 2007 was declared the “International Day of Nonviolence” by the United Nations. The Gandhi Institute’s first official celebration of the day in 2007, consisted of a peace walk from Ala Moana Park to Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. Hundreds of people, including students from various universities, and members of 20 organizations, participated in this walk.
GIIP is a non-profit and its Board of Directors consists of a variety of professionals, including social and spiritual leaders, peacemakers, doctors, psychologist, social worker, teacher, engineer and several musicians. The Board has built bridges, and developed relationships among various local businesses, colleges and universities, churches, and non-profit organizations.
Speaking of our human legacy, Raj said in 2012, “Children are the future of the nation and the leaders of tomorrow. We need to instill the seeds of love, compassion, humility, kindness, patience, calmness and tolerance in our children and teach them to follow eternal laws and principles of life. We also need to encourage them to live in harmony with others, become a global citizen and create a better and safer place to live in. Gandhi said, ‘Be a change, if you wish to see a change in the world.” When we change, the world changes.”
In April 2013, Dr. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, visited Hawaii, and shared teachings of Gandhi with teachers, students, political leaders, social leaders and interfaith leaders.
In January 2015, State Senators, Suzanne Chun Oakland and Brian Taniguchi in the Hawaii Legislature, Senate introduced Bill 332, which was passed unanimously by the Senate and House and signed into law by Hon. Gov. David Y. Ige on April 10, 2015. This wish-come-true of Raj Kumar’s made Hawaii the first State to proclaim October 2, as “Mahatma Gandhi Day”.
Hawaii – Goa as Sister States
Recognizing India as Gandhi’s birthplace, Raj believed that ahimsa (non-violence) that Gandhi stood for hearkens closely to the Hawaiian concept of aloha. To further this connection, Raj championed a Sister State connection between Hawaii of USA and Goa of India.
Per Terri Hefner, “In 2016, the state Legislature passed a resolution to establish a sister-state relationship with Goa, India, and Kumar was tapped as a liaison to promote education, cultural exchange programs, international faith and peace conferences and spiritual pilgrimages between the two countries.”
The State of Hawaii and Goa, India, signed an agreement Sept. 28 2018 to enter into a sister-state relationship. Dr. Raj Kumar is a president of the Hawaii chapter of Indian-America Friendship Council, he played a vital role in making the state sisterhood become a reality.
“This historic agreement represents a mutual commitment to begin a fruitful relationship that will promote the economic, educational and cultural development of two great states. This affiliation will unite the people of Goa and Hawaii,” Raj stated.
The agreement will promote trade, tourism, information technology; and exchange of health and wellness, agriculture, culinary art, education and cultural programs between private sector organizations and universities of both states.
“The U.S.-India partnership is an important one, and the Hawaii-Goa relationship will help strengthen this bond. We welcome people from Goa to invest in Hawaii’s economy, and share their traditional and cultural values with us,” said Governor David Y. Ige.
International Yoga Day
Thanks to the efforts of Raj Kumar and the Gandhi International Institute for Peace, the Hawaii Legislature formally recognized International Yoga Day on June 21st of 2019 and into the future. Hawaii now stands as a beacon of health and mindfulness, being the first state in the nation to do so. Through this initiative, Raj sought to honor both this historic achievement in Hawaii and the practice of yoga itself. The first official celebration of International Yoga Day in Hawaii took place at Still & Moving Center
Anger and Nonviolence Book
We look forward to Dr. Raj Kumar releasing a new book, called Anger and Nonviolence, in October 2020.
GIIP Mission Statement
Modern Science has taught us to reach the moon but we have not learned to live with our fellowmen in peace in the society. For centuries, millions have died in the clash of cultures due to misuse of ego, lack of self-control, ideological differences, war, civil riots, domestic violence, school violence, workplace violence and social crimes as people were not able to resolve interpersonal conflicts leading to violence, destruction and loss of lives.
The idea of establishing an institute for peace is to stress the need for non-violence, tolerance, full respect for human rights and fundamental freedom for all, democracy development, mutual understanding and respect for diversity as reinforcement for peace and growth of mankind.
The true vision of the institute is to provide peace education to children, remove conflicts and hatred among individuals, raise awareness to use humane and non-violent approach with others, provide moral, emotional, behavioral, educational support, and spiritual guidance to unite people from different cultures, faiths, organizations and countries to promote peace on earth. The institute can serve as a significant contributor providing leadership to diffuse crisis, create understanding, and provide options/solutions through active and attentive listening and impartial mediation, and establishing agreement, peace and harmony in the living and work environment in the world.