people who have seen the movie "Gandhi" with actor Ben
Kingsley may have noticed a brief scene in which he is bent over a tool
usually associated with women's work - a spinning wheel.
Called a charkha in India, it is a
hand-driven form of the machine used for centuries to spin fiber into
thread. For Gandhi, it became a powerful symbol of liberation and the
spirit of the people of India.
Gandhi originally proposed his plan to
liberate India from British rule, creating swaraj or self-rule, through
the use of the charkha in the 1920s.
He believed that if his fellow citizens
would spin their own cotton to make cloth called khadi, instead of
buying British-made cloth, they could become self-sufficient. But Gandhi
soon grew to recognize that spinning also promoted "the education
of becoming and being."
advertisement All throughout his life
in India, especially during his leadership of the nonviolent movement
toward independence, Gandhi gathered spiritual strength from his
spinning. It was his time to replenish his soul.
Through the wheel, which became a
manifestation of the myriad-formed Hindu god, Gandhi prayed for
The charkha became a vehicle for the
greatest trait of a divine self, service to others. Spinning combined
head and heart, emotion and intellect into a living faith.
Although I may not worship the same
many-formed God of Gandhi's Hindu faith, I turn to my wheel or spindle
when I need guidance.
As in the computer games that my son
plays, in which the hero must find "manna" or "life
energy" to complete his mission, I often spin to gain spiritual
strength. And I am not alone. Many women and men sit daily at their
wheels, spending time, as Gandhi would have wished, in quiet
As we spin, and our hands move in the
way that hands have moved for thousands of years, we often pray, and as
we pray, these prayers are born from the thread that we spin. Although
our thread remains on the bobbin, we hope that our prayers find their
way to the recipient.
Sometimes there are prayers for
ourselves, and sometimes there are prayers for friends in need of
And sometimes we spin, as I think
Gandhi often did, to remind ourselves that we are part of a greater
universal desire for connection to one another and our divine source,
whose purpose for us, I believe, is peace.
Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on his
way to evening prayers on Jan. 30, 1948. His legacy of the movement of
nonviolence remains, fostered by his descendants and followers. And
there is a place for spinners in that movement as well.
We can honor Gandhi by responding to
his request to spin every day, and as we spin, to think of peace and
freedom from oppression. The simple work of our hands can liberate our
Eliza Drummond is a member of First
Christian Church. She recently earned her master's degree in applied
theology, exploring more deeply the idea of hand spinning as meditation.
This column is coordinated by Two Rivers Interfaith Ministries, a
network of more than 35 religious and spiritual traditions in the
Eugene-Springfield area. For more information, call 344-5693 or visit