Letter 48

Acharya Vinoba Bhave

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30th December, 1990

My dear Pranav,

The Gita had a great influence on Vinoba. It has been commented upon by many people in India and abroad. Shankaracharya wrote his commentary on it. So did Lokmanya Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba. Each one interpreted it in his own way. The influence of the Gita on Vinoba was manifold.

Vinoba rated the Gita on par with his mother. In Marathi alone there are 65 translations of it. Vinoba's mother wanted to have one done by him. He could not complete it in her lifetime. He published his translation, in samashloki (the same meter) in 1931. He called it Gitai (Mother Gita). The most important part of it is its Introduction. Vinoba says," Gitai is like my mother. I am her child who does not know. She picks me up as and when I stumble and cry." Vinoba;s is the most simple and direct translation of the Gita giving the full rich meaning of the original. This is Gitai, the largest selling Marathi Book to date. It was not translated into any other languages till Vinoba's death. It is a standard text book in all his six ashrams and his students learned it in Marathi.

The second important book by Vinoba on the Gita is the Gita-Pravachane or (Talks on Gita). It has been translated into almost all the languages of India and in English. This a very lucid and logical interpretation of the Gita, with remarkable precision. It is a record of Pravachans (talks) Vinoba gave to jail mates in Dhule jail from February 1932 to June 1932, on every Sunday. It was taken down verbatim by Sane Guruji. It has a very remarkable, directly appealing and simple style of its own. Vinoba gives here his interpretation of the Gita. The most important concept he expounds in it is akarma (non-action). That is his personal contribution. Pranav, you must read this whole book when you can. It will make a lasting impression on you. It has changed the course of many lives in India. Both Gitai and Gita Pravachane were considered as finite works and Vinoba did not change them.

Vinoba's third book on the Gita is Gitai Shabdarth. (Literal meanings of words in the Gitai) is a compilation, where he has gone deep into the implications of many key words.

The last book on Gita is Gitai Chintanika. This is a remarkable book. It was continuously evolving. Vinoba used to create many new interpretations and ideas on the Gitai virtually every day. This was the book of a man who was continuously evolving, ever changing, yet essentially the same. From the viewpoint of the study of Vinoba as an individual this is an important book

So Pranav, you will eventually see Vinoba as fully immersed by the Gita. The Mahabhashya of Shankaracharya, the Gitarasya of Tilak, Aurobindo's commentary, the Jnaneshwari of jnandeva were all a staple diet for him. Still, he tackled the Gita in four different ways.

Gita is a veritable treasure-house of distilled wisdom from the Upanisads. It has influenced many lives. Vinoba's life was one illustrious example of that influence.

With love,


L. N. Godbole

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