Letter 24

Acharya Vinoba Bhave

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Science + Spiritual Wisdom = Self-knowledge


15th July, 1990

My dear Pranav,

Vinoba believed that the future of mankind depends on Science and spirituality. His own personal development was based on both.

"My father was a scientist, my mother's bent was towards spiritual knowledge. At school, science was my favorite subject, but I was also attracted by spiritual literature. These two streams of knowledge, the scientific and spiritual mingled together in my life. In my view they deserve equal respect and have one and the same significance. The subject matter of the one is the external physical world, while that of the other is the inner world of man. Together they present a complete and integrated picture of the nature of the universe.. I became convinced that the only way to establish the kingdom of God on earth is to unite Science and self-knowledge." (1)

Vinoba believed that we must read the most up-to-date books on science and the most ancient texts for self-knowledge. He was not an ascetic in the old Indian sense of a person who is a seeker of self-knowledge alone. He wanted science for progress, but self-knowledge too. He believed that continuous questioning, a continuous quest must be pursued in both science and self-knowledge.

"Man, like a bird, has two wings - science and spiritual wisdom, and he needs both together for his happiness. The design of every machine provides two forces, one to generate energy for movement and the other to guide and control it. One cannot work without the other. A car has an engine and a steering wheel, so does a human being. We walk with our feet and not with our eyes, but the eyes show us where to go. Self-knowledge or wisdom is the eye, science is the feet. With no eyes, man would not know where he is going; with no feet, he would be able to look about him but would have to sit still at home. Nothing can be done in this world without science, but science cannot go in the right direction without self-knowledge."

(2) Vinoba clearly spelt out the role of science in India. He was aware that India was weak in science, and must learn from the West, as she had the right to do. But the progress of Science in India, in his view, had to be for three things. "First, we must resolve; that our human problems shall be solved by ethical and non-violent methods; that our villages shall be truly free to manage their own affairs in peace; and that we shall all live together in mutual goodwill and without conflict. Secondly, we must determine to use science as a tool of service, not as a weapon of destruction, to increase our harvests, not our armaments. Thirdly, we must decide on the merits of each case, whether to use our scientific know how to build large-scale or small-scale machines. If we keep these three points in mind, science will serve us well." (3)

The initial policy framework of India was thus encoded by Vinoba in these three points. He was a moral and spiritual influence over the minds of the rulers of India till his death.

With love,


L. N. Godbole

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