Letter 21

Acharya Vinoba Bhave

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On Institutions


24th June, 1990

My dear Pranav,

In my previous letter I gave you Vinoba's idea about an organization based on ideas. This can be the freest possible 'organization' if at all it can be called an organization. His pithy statement used to be arachana (non-organisation) is rachana (organization).

"(O)ne aspect of our work is dissemination of ideas. From this point of view, I can see why Lord Buddha established the Bhikshu Sangha and Sankaracharya the Yati Sangha. I have, it is true, come to the conclusion that we ourselves should not form any such Sangha, because experience shows that their defects are likely to outweigh their advantages. Nevertheless we ought to reflect on the reasons why those great men felt the need of sanghas and the ideas that lay behind them.

We want our ideas to flow out to people like a perennial spring of water, and therefore, we need messengers to carry them. Without such messengers, the Sarvodaya Samaj cannot do its work. We must take every opportunity for meeting people and coming into close touch with them. People are not likely to accept our ideas at the first hearing; our workers must be filled with such enthusiasm the they will enjoy repeated discussions with the same groups. Their faith and confidence in the power of ideas must be strong enough for that.

The fact is that many of us have got entangled in various institutions. These institutions have their own importance no doubt. Nevertheless, let us show our regard for what they stand for without becoming attached to the institutions as such. Let them continue their work, but let some of their members be always moving about among the people. If we do not organize our work on some such lines, our ideas will lose their vigour and the discipline of ideas will not be effective.

"But if you are not bold enough for this, if you will quail before the prospect of carrying the message to every village and turn instead to short-cuts by proposing legislation (for bhoodan), then I must tell you that making laws, and relying on laws, is not our job. By all means let there be laws, good laws, as quickly as possible. But if we get involved in the law making, we shall be forsaking our own calling, our own Dharma, for an alien vocation. Our own job, our Dharma, is to travel round the villages and to maintain our faith in our ideas. Do not say that the work will never be done by discussion of ideas. The work will never be done in any other way. It can only be done through acceptance of the idea. The power of the idea, the discipline of the idea, our first tool." (1)

Sankaracharya, the ace Jnanayogi of India being his Guru, Vinoba's faith in dissemination of ideas was very deep rooted. He believed that organizations and institutions have a role, but a limited one. They are carriers of ideas. They have to be discarded from time to time.

We often build institutions around ideas, but do not allow them access to the sun and wind. Such ideas get fossilized. They loose their flexibility and capacity to grow. Living organisms are continually replacing and changing themselves. They retain their strength. There is no other way for groups of people to remain agile and relevant.

With love,


L. N. Godbole

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