Letter 20

Acharya Vinoba Bhave

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Swarajya - Sarvodaya


17th June, 1990

My dear Pranav,

The Sarvodaya Conference held at Chandil in Singhbhum distict of Bihar was a major landmark in the life of Vinoba. There, for the first time, in a very cogent manner, Vinoba expounded his ideas of the "Third Power", which is different from the "Power of Violence" (Himsa Shakti) and the "Power of State" (Danda Shakti). He called it "People's Power" (Loka Shakti). He delivered a major speech on it at the Chandil Conference on 9th March, 1953 (1).

Vinoba firmly believed that his job was to awaken this people's power, which is latent in every individual. Unless this latent power is unleashed, real democracy will not prevail. People must be made strong. Unless the people are strong and self-reliant, they really cannot control State Power. Vinoba even went to the extent of saying that he was more afraid of "good" government (Su-rajya) than "bad" government. The people fight the bad government, and throw it out, as they did in India in 1947. But if a really good government exists, it will make people crippled and dependent on it. Vinoba saw a great danger in Surajya. After all, an individual is a reality which can be seen, but groups, families, castes, religions, parties, countries, governments etc, are all social constructs. His stress on this individuality is of cautious far reaching importance. This individual's swarajya (self-government) is more important than Su-rajya (good government) by others.

In Maharashtra, this idea is expressed in the following words:

Tyajet ekam Kulasyarthe,

Gramasyarthe Kulam tyajet,

Gramam Janapadasyarthe,

Atmarthe prithivim tyajet.

You should sacrifice an individual (ekam) for the family (kulam); the family for the village (grama); the village for the state (janapada); but for self-realisation (amarthe) sacrifice the world (prithivi). This sequence and its climax are a very major theoretical position in Hindu civilization.

Where the individual is so important, how does one awaken his social consciousness of experience of power? Vinoba says that it is possible only through the spread of thought (Vichar Prasar) and the discipline of thought (Vichar Sasan).

"By discipline of thought, I mean that ideas should be clearly understood and expounded. Nothing should be accepted without understanding the principles involved. It should be a matter for regret when anyone accepted our ideas without having understood them; we should be satisfied with explaining our ideas without imposing our will on others. Some people say that the Sarvodaya Samaj is a "loose organization." A loose organization would certainly be useless and serve no purpose. The Sarvodaya Samaj is not a loose organization; it is not an organization at all. It is a society based solely on ideas. We compel none to carry them out without understanding them, and we will not obey anyone's orders without first considering and approving them. We meet only to exchange ideas. The Koran, in singing the praises of the saints, says that their work is marked by mutual consultation. We too must devote ourselves to mutual consultation and pooling of ideas. We should be happy when people refuse to accept our ideas because they are not convinced; we should be very unhappy if someone puts these ideas into practice without understanding them. It seems to me that there is more strength in such an organization than in one which is efficient, clear-cut and bound by regulation. I am not saying that a strictly regulated legalistic organization has no power at all, but that its power is not Siva-Sakti, it is not a power for good. It is because we wish to create Siva-Sakti that we desire only the discipline of ideas." (3)

With love,


L. N. Godbole

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