Letter 17

Acharya Vinoba Bhave

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Vinoba and Jayaprakash


27th May, 1990

My dear Pranav,

Vinoba's ideas are not well known outside India because of their essentially Indian perspective. He was introduced to the West after Jaya Prakash (JP) Narayan was attracted to his ideas in 1954.

JP was a Marxist educated in America. He had first-hand experience of poverty in that country. When he came to India he was considered a confirmed Marxist. Like many others of his generation, he believed that he had all the answers for the problems facing India. He was drawn to Gandhiji and the freedom struggle. He was a famous name in the Quit India Movement of 1942. JP continued his search for truth. After his contact with Gandhi, JP started getting attracted to the roots of India.

As a Marxist, JP knew that every individual must think about his fellow beings. He must be committed to his community. He knew that this is necessary for the social existence of man. But why should he be good? He had no answer to that question. He was attracted to Gandhi. Being a firm believer in God, Gandhi had all the reasons for being good. Vinoba with his rationality and reasoning, led him to Adhyatma, and the ultimate reality perceived by many as God. J.P. therefore offered himself as a Jeevan Daani (life time sacrifier of the self) in 1954.

JP had this to say about Vinoba. "Vinoba is not a politician nor a social reformer or revolutionary. He is first and last man of GOD. Service of man is to him nothing but an effort to unite with GOD. He endeavours every second to bolt himself out, to make himself empty so that GOD may fill up and make him His instrument." (1)

Because of Vinoba's absence of conditioning by western ideas, he could think of Bhoodan (the Land Gift Programme). Vinoba is synonymous with bhoodan in India. Actually, it was not an intellectually thought-out idea or hypothesis which was worked out in practice. It was perceived by Vinoba through an incident in his life. In that sense it is truly a "scientific" discovery in the Western sense of the term. Scientific theories are constructed out of observed facts.

Bhoodan established Vinoba as an independent thinker who could arrive at new solutions to the problems facing India in 1950s. We must be very clear about the basic facts. All economics is based on the idea of economic man. He is selfish and greedy. He tries to maximize his personal benefits. He believes that society has a meaning for him only for his own benefit. His selfish ends, benefits, are the only incentive which activate him to work. Why does a man work? The economic answer is simple: To maximize his personal benefits. All theories, perceptions and ideas of economics are based on this idea of an Economic Man.

Vinoba challenges this basis rationally with his Vedantic perceptions, and is in a position to offer new solutions. It is not surprising. From the focal point, the circumference of a circle can be reached in 360 different degrees or radii on the same plane. When you shift the starting angle, you can reach totally different conclusions. That is what we call the difference of 180. Vinoba challenged this basis, and therefore could "see" or perceive the idea of bhoodan. I shall tell you about it in my next letter.

With love,


L. N. Godbole

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