Letter 5

Acharya Vinoba Bhave

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Talks of Vinoba

4th March, 1990

My dear Pranav,

I was happy to learn from your grandpa that you read my letters with interest. You wanted to talk to me rather than phone or write to me. I like that. Seeing is believing. A lot more can be said face to face. You will be surprised to know that Vinoba has written very few books but he has given hundreds of talks and that all his books are really compilations of his talks. The style, therefore is more direct, which can be understood by villagers with whom he had his talks face to face in all parts of India.

Another important point about Vinoba is that he always thought and expressed himself in Marathi or Hindi. You will find quotations from Jnaneshwar, Tukaram, Eknath and Ramdas in his speeches. They were all saint poets from Maharashtra. He also quotes from Kabir, Mirabai, Tulsidas, Thiruvalluvar, Andal, Mahadevi Akka, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Narsi Mehta and other Bhakti poets from all over India. Besides Marathi, he was well-versed in Sanskrit, Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Bengali, Oriya, Kannada, Malayalam, English, French, Arabic, German and dozens of Indian languages. He did his best to read all religious texts in their original languages. He published books on the essence of the Bible, the Quran, Dhammapada, Gurubodh, Tao, and Manusmriti. His abiding love and mastery however was the Gita, the Upanisads and the Vedas.

According to Vinoba, the people who influenced him most were Sankaracharya, Jnaneshwar, Mahatma Gandhi and his own mother. He translated the Gita into Marathi. It is called Gitai or Mother in Gita. He wrote it for his mother, as she did not understand Sanskrit. Gitai is the most simple and beautiful rendering of the Gita in the same meter in Marathi. It is considered a masterpiece in content as well as style. Vinoba's talks on the Gita are rated very high in the tradition of Sankarbhashya (Sankaracharya), Jnaneshwar (Jnaneshwar) and Gitarahasya (Lokmanya Tilak). The Gita was his life breath.

Vinoba has gifted us with one beautiful thought by way of a simile. What is swas (breathing )in individual life is viswas (trust )in social life. Without trust in each other we cannot live together or even sleep. We will be worried about safety. Do you not see prime ministers and others surrounded by body-guards? But you have totrust the body-guards. They can also kill, as they did in the case of Indira Gandhi. Social life is impossible without trust, Real beauty, of course, lies in the short pithy sentence where swas and viswas rhyme beautifully. It is not possible to translate it into English.

Vinoba's speeches and writings are full of such pithy sentences. The more you think about them, the more meaningful you find them. That is the Upanisidic style. The risis stated the sutra or the precise word or mantra. You have to think over it again and again. You find newer meaning everytime. That is the way you keep yourself changing continuously. Sutra or the thread of truth is permanent; each generation, each individual has to find newer and newer meanings. This was the open-ended Hindu style of thought. You will find it exciting, Pranav, once you start reading more and more about it.

With love,


L. N. Godbole

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