Letter 49

Acharya Vinoba Bhave

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6th January, 1990

My dear Pranav,

As Vinoba was greatly influenced by the Gita, he used to say that Vinoba as a human body would vanish, but Gitai, perhaps would remain. His humility was remarkable. He does not say that Gita Pravachane or the Gitai Chintanika will remain. They are his commentaries or interpretations. They are his darsanas. The reality is Gita. And Gitai is its translation. Even amongst his Gita books he wants to be remembered for his translation of the Gita. Such small glimpses of a person makes him small or big in the eyes of others.

In his early years Vinoba was a hard-headed thinker. He was like an uncut diamond. He mellowed after his bhoodan padayatra. He used to be very abrasive and curt in his communication with others. In later years, his intellect remained sharp but his expression mellowed. His sutra was : Satya (truth), Prem (love) and Karuna (compassion).

Annual literary conference of Marathi used to depend on the donation of the rich, and therefore these annual conferences were irregular. The Ashadhi Yatra was an ancient event where all the saint poets of Maharashtra used to assemble. This Yatra of Pandharpur has taken place with clock-work precision for the last two thousand years. People observe a fast on Mahaekadashi. They go to Pandharpur on foot and on empty stomachs. This yatra was actually a literary conference where saint poets would meet each other.

In order to highlight the dependence of modern literary conferences on donors and their irregularity compared to the clock-work regularity of the Maha Ekadashi Yatra, Vinoba expressed his views in one sentence. He said that modern conferences are based on rice, while Ashadhi is based on fasting. Ashadhi therefore meets regularly. The real pungency of Vinoba's sentence can be felt only in Marathi.

At the end of his talks on Gita Vinoba used a beautiful simile. As long as a man is searching for meaning in his life he continues talking of "I", (or "main" in Hindi). He goes on calling "Main, Main" like a living goat. He is full of this ego or pride in himself. But as he approaches nearer the ultimate reality (Brahman), and dies, he discards this body as "I". Like the same proverbial goat he starts calling "tuhi" "tuhi", "you" "you" (twam, twam) only. The intestines of the goat when used for musical sitar the same goat changes the tune from "Main", "Main" to "Tuhi", "Tuhi". Pranav, when you read this in the Indian context in Hindi or Marathi, you will realise how beautifully Vinoba has played on the words "Main" and "tuhi". He took this quote from Dadu, a saint poet in Hindi (1).

He ended his talks on that note. That again is the Mahavakya of Shankaracharya and Adwait philosophy : "Tat Twan Asi" "That thou art".

With love,


L. N. Godbole

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