Letter 14

Acharya Vinoba Bhave

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Bhakti, Gyan and Seva


6th May, 1990

My dear Pranav,

Vinoba's pravachans used to be with all kinds of people. Once he was asked a question. Bhakti of God assumes that God and Bhakta are a duality. They are two (Dwaita). How can he then equate Jnana (knowledge of the ultimate reality) and Bhakti (devotion to the ultimate reality as one) in Adwaita? Jnanadeva says: "Only know Vitthal. This is bhakti, this is jnana." Bhakti and jnana are two names for the same thing. Knowing the Lord and loving Him are not two different things.

An act performed through love is very different from an ordinary act. As the son comes home tired from the field, the mother looks at him with natural love, and says, "You are tired, my child." Look, how much power there is in this small action. Weave all the actions of your life with the warp and woof of bhakti and jnana. This is what is called Purushottama-Yoga.

Vinoba said, "The Vedas are not hidden in the Samhitas (collection of Mantras) or in your books and treatises. They pervade the whole universe. Shakespeare speaks of:

Tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones....

The idea is that the Vedas are neither in Sanskrit nor in the samhitas, but in all creation. When we say, prabhate karadarsanam, all the Vedas are in that palm, and they say, "serve." Consider whether your hands worked yesterday, whether they are fit to work again today and whether they carry the marks of service. When the hands are worn out with service, then the destiny that Brahma ordained for you becomes clear. This is the meaning of looking at one's palm in the morning. Where are the Vedas? They are in your hands. I am the Vedas living and awake.

The truth is that the essence of the Vedas is in our hands. We have to build our lives on the foundation of service, love and knowledge. This is what is meant by saying that the Vedas are in our hands. (1)

This is how Vinoba combines love, knowledge and action as a trinity. He draws this meaning out of Gita. Gita itself is considered the essence of all Vedanta (or Upanisads).

Vinoba's commentary on the Gita is considered one of his more memorable works. He gave these lectures on the Gita every Sunday in Dhule Jail, where he was imprisoned by the British during 1932. They were recorded by Sane Guruji, another major Marathi author, who was imprisoned in the same jail. They were delivered to the inmates of the jail, who included dacoits, murderers, thieves and other jail birds, along with political prisoners such as Vinoba and Sane Guruji. He gave these lectures even to the women prisoners, where Vinoba, a bramachari, was given a special permission by the jailor. The jail rules were ignored and Vinoba delivered his Pravachans to all the prisoners in Dhule Jail. (2).

With love,


L. N. Godbole

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