Letter 15

Acharya Vinoba Bhave

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The Experimenter


13th May, 1990

My dear Pranav,

An interesting facet of Vinoba's life is his continuous growth. He was always evolving, changing and becoming a better person.

He was an intelligent student. He was a voracious reader. He was a leader in his student group. He developed his life with very simple living. The most important thing about him was that he remained a continuous experimenter.

As a young boy he was influenced by the books of Veer Savarkar. The 1857 war of Independence (which was called the Sepoys Mutiny by historians) and the life of Mazzini (an Italian leader) were some of the books that he circulated amongst his friends. They were all proscribed books

In 1916, instead of going to Bombay for his Intermediate University Examination, he left for Varanasi. He was influenced hailed by the Bengali revolutionaries. His ascetic mind which called him to the Himalayas. He went to Varanasi, where he read Mahatma Gandhi's speech. He saw the unity of his ascetic search and the revolutionary new approach of Gandhi in the political field in 1916. That year marks the end of the first chapter in his life.

For the next thirty years he kept developing as a Vedic scholar, experimenter in khadi, propagator of non-violent Satyagraha, working as a scavenger to end the idea of untouchability attached to scavenging and a teacher who crystallized the Gandhian idea of a New Education. He was a rather harsh, disciplined, intensely intelligent, scholarly individual who was already recognized as an interpreter of the Gita. He became an ideal satyagrahi in the mind of Gandhi. He was therefore chosen as the First Individuals satyagrahi by Gandhi in 1940.

Most of Vinoba's early ideas were already established after thinking and working them over for thirty years. Thenceforth we come to the third and most creative stage of his life.

Mahatma Gandhi died on 30th January, 1948. The political aim of independence from Britain was achieved on 15th August, 1947. The political process of the constitution making and governing was taken over by leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Rajaji and Dr. Rajendra Prasad. All of them had their political training with Gandhi. The Sovereign Democratic, Republic of India was established by the Constitution of 26th January, 1950.

But that was only the political part of Gandhi's Mission. Vinoba was not cut out for it. He was attached to the rest of Mahatma's ideas. The political part was a transient one. The eternal part of Gandhi was his belief in Truth, Non-violence and Sarvodaya. The rational and logical base of these Gandhian beliefs was the forte of Vinoba. They used to call him the spiritual heir of Mahatma Gandhi, while Jawaharlal Nehru was called the political heir.

The lasting part of Gandhi's Mission grew through the person of Vinoba. That is where he stood, head and shoulders above others. He had drunk at the fountain-head of Indian thought. He had gone deep into the roots of India. He struck his roots in the Upanisads, Vedas and the Gita. He traveled through every part of India and imbibed it basic spiritual base. He knew English well, but he was not westernized in any way. He remained till the end a true son of the soil. (bhoomiputra).

More about it in my next letter.

With love,


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