Letter 39

Acharya Vinoba Bhave

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Thought is greater than man


28th October, 1990

My dear Pranav,

In my previous letter, I gave you some perspective about the relationship between Gandhi and Vinoba. You must have also noticed that I have all along been referring to Vinoba as Vinoba, simply because, to my mind, Vinoba is a thought. He was a person, whom I have seen only once in 1976 but he impressed me deeply since 1951. I considered him a thinker, and a communicator of ideas par excellence. He has molded my mind with a logical base. He has convinced me about God or Brahman in the most rational manner. I am writing these letters to induce you to read more of his writings and take what you like from them. The separation of a person and his thought is very essential.

Vinoba himself has put it very beautifully. The concept, thought or idea is greater than the thing or man. The thing is perishable, the concept abides. The thing, that is the individual man, the concept, that is, the idea he symbolizes. The individual becomes great because of the indwelling thought, which is great. The individual becomes the mouthpiece for the thought. The strength lies in the thought. And just as the existence of the individual helps the thought, it may also cause harm to it. After the individual is gone, the pure thought alone remains. That is why Tulsidas says that the name of Rama is greater than the Rama, implying that what can be achieved by an individual as great as Rama can be achieved in a much larger measure by the power of his name. Those whom Rama liberated in his life can be counted; but the number of people who were liberated and will be liberated by the name of Rama is not countable. Rama turned Ayodhya into a paradise. The name of Rama turned every village into Ayodhya. The story of Rama is told in every village. How far could an embodied Rama go? But the name of Rama has reached everywhere.

Saints after death become much more powerful than when they were while living. For with the perishing of the mortal body, their short-comings also vanish. When their thoughts become free of the body they pervade the atmosphere, and inspire all. Those hearts which have the right kind of 'receivers' can hear their voice. As the Sastras say, the word is imperishable. It is relayed into the air, and if we are fitted with a right kind of receiver we can hear it. This is the way men get inspiration.

Pranav, have you seen how Vinoba used this latest information and produced a logical base?

Vinoba said that Gandhi never stuck to his words. He was always evolving. His mind was ever occupied with the quest for truth. We should, following him, do our thinking afresh in the context of every fresh situation. Like Gandhi, Vinoba was always evolving, because he was always alive, learning and absorbing experiences.

With love,


L. N. Godbole

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