Letter 23

Acharya Vinoba Bhave

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Sarvodaya Samaj-2


8th July. 1990

My dear Pranav,

Vinoba had a strong belief in the strength of words, in the strength of ideas. He was not much in favour of creating institutions or structures. He did not set much store by the capacity of governments to bring about changes in society.

He believed that a person inspired by an idea can be a change agent. He can create his temporary structure, use it and discard it when the time comes. He wanted Sarvodaya workers to be on the move, open to new ideas and capable of changing themselves. His greatest attraction was for the formless, structure less realm of ideas. After all, that is what Brahman is all about. Each one has to search on his own for Brahman.

Vinoba often quoted Kakasaheb Kalelkar, another contemporary and leading Gujarati author equally at home in Marathi, who once said that A-Sarkari (non-governmental) work alone is Asarkari (effective). He believed in voluntary action of the people. He wanted Sarvodaya people to spread out, move and sprout throughout the length and breadth of India. "This work of ours is not of a sectarian nature. We should not even call ourselves 'the Sarvodaya Group, because that also gives a wrong impression. Let us think of ourselves as human-beings and nothing else. Otherwise, even this Sarvodaya Samaj, with all its freedom from institutionalism, will little by little become a sect, a narrow group in which we will be separated from others. Let us never allow our tongues to slip into labeling people as 'socialist', congresswala' or 'sarvodayawala'. Such terms will of course continue to be used, because there are many who wish to work under party names and find them useful. But we belong to no party. We are 'the third power'...the third power (is) the power which is opposed to power of violence, distinct from the power of the state...This third power is inherent in man, and we seek to realize it on the widest possible scale. And therefore it is not for us to form a separate sect, it is for us to identify ourselves with the common run of humanity and to work among men simply as fellow human beings." (1)

Vinoba's emphasis on not having institutions was very fundamental. After all, we only 'experience' life as individuals. Group, family, caste, religion, country, nation, union, company are all theoretical constructs. They are all concepts the reality which we experience is only the individual. It is the individual who has to change himself to change society. If a man is not changed, nothing changes.

A man can be changed only by changing his thoughts. This can be achieved only by the spread of ideas. It needs continuous "deep-casting." It is not done in a day, but you should go on doing it every day. Then alone lasting changes can come about. Vinoba's idea was to concentrate on changing the ideas, the thoughts or the inner core or heart of the individual. It was called hridaya parivartan (change of heart) by Gandhiji. Changing the core of man's being is the message of all religions, but more so of Samatana Dharma.

With love,


L. N. Godbole

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