The following thoughts expressed by Vinoba Bhave are from the book "Selections from Vinoba" (abbreviated in the text as S.V.), written by Vishwanath Tandon. The book has been publisheda by Sarva Seva Sanghprakashan, Rajghat, Varanasi - 221001, India in 1981.
Christ | Christian Teaching and Hindu Philosophy | An Appeal to Indian Christians and Others | The Meaning of the Islamic Kalma | Islam, Emphasis on Charity | Islam and Christianity, Their Characteristic Features | Gautam Buddha, A Hindu Reformer | The Message of Lord Buddha | A Difference between Buddha and Mahavira | Hinduism, No Narrowness | Vinoba's Hinduism Not Exclusive
The three important things of Christ are:
1. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
2. Love your enemy and it will bring change of heart in him.
3. Let all my followers love each other and sacrifice everything for others as I did for them.
These three moral duties come first into my mind whenever I think of Jesus Christ. These are the eternal moral duties and will be there as long as humanity lives.
I am as much devoted to the teachings of Christ as to the Vedic Dharma preached by our ancient saints. Christ's teachings are universal as he never preached any difference of religions, sects, etc.
Jesus called upon us to love our neighbour. But though this has been extolled as a great virtue by all nations, few have been prepared to accept it in practice as an immediate obligation. We talk of love and non-violence and One World, but devote the bulk of resources to the piling up of armaments for mutual destruction. We despair of our neighbour. This is cowardice. Jesus refused to five way to it. He bore the Cross - the burden of our sins - and embraced martyrdom.
Luckily, this teaching of Jesus is not alien to India. We have been the meeting ground of a multitude of races, creeds and cultures, a land of synthesis and fusions.
I therefore unreservedly declare that Jesus Christ is our own, that to us in this country, Jesus and his teachings have never sounded strange or unpractical, that we regard Jesus as one of our family.
Christian Teaching and Hindu Philosophy
I can wholly accept the New Testament, especially the Sermon on the Mount. There is no difference between Christian teaching and Indian philosophy. Hindu Dharma has given the basis for ethics; the Christian religion and Buddhism have taken the basis for granted and have stressed the ethical side.
An Appeal to Indian Christians and Others
It is for our Christian brethren, now that their foreign trappings are shed, to subscribe to the indigenous background suited to our own genius. And I also suggest that similar processes of wholesome assimilation may also take place among the followers of Islam and other religions, that Christians and Muslims of India who have hitherto held fast to their moorings and their traditions outside India, may no longer remain strangers to the Hindu cultural background, but assimilate Brahma Vidya with profit. It would broaden their outlook and confer a wholesome spirit of quest and tolerance to their religious and ideological approach and add lustre to their culture.
The Meaning of the Islamic Kalma
I particularly like `There is no other God except God, and Muhammad is the Prophet of God'. In the first part it says, that Allah is one. Every man would accept this. In the next half it says, `Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah.' This is interpreted in different ways. Some interpret it to mean that Muhammad is the only Prophet of God. But this is incorrect. For Islam says, "We make no distinction among the various prophets that have come into the world." This is one of the fundamental tenets of Islam. Therefore the plain meaning of the text `Muhammad is Allah's Prophet' is that no prophet can take the place of God, not even Muhammad. He was only a prophet of Allah.
Thus if we understand this Kalma in a broad sense, it should be acceptable to the whole world. No doubt some people might well say that for them Muhammad was enough. To children their father is enough. Though they would respect others' fathers also, yet for their own purposes devotion to their own father serves them sufficiently. The Sikhs believe that there have been ten Gurus for them and henceforth no more Guru is to come. This may be sufficient for them. But it cannot be so said for the whole world. We cannot limit the doings of God. We can limit our own faith.
In Islam, charity specially is one of the important religious injunctions which its followers are asked to carry out, and I think that its views in this respect are, in their sociological content, more advanced than we find in Hinduism. For example, the Koran has denounced the institution of interest most emphatically which would suggest that they (Muslims) are nearer the true economics.
Islam and Christianity, Their Characteristic Features
Everyone agrees that a unique spirit of brotherhood and comradeship pervades the teaching of Islam, and that Islam means PEACE. This is why the moon is its symbol. A man who has no passion for peace and has no compassion in him, is not a Muslim. On the other hand, he who has peace and compassion in him, is a Muslim, whether he has such a label or not. I should call him and regard him a true Muslim.
Similarly, love and service are two characteristic features of the Christian way of life. Now I do yearn to live up to these ideals in everyday life. So I am willing to sit at the feet of their prophets and holy men and learn. And I should love to regard myself, or call myself, part Christian and part Muslim, and look upon it as my good luck to be so, and endeavour to be worthy of all that this means. This I can do, I claim, without the least harm to my Hinduism. I rather feel my Hinduism will bloom and blossom forth and add to its lustre and gain in stature for my doing so. Even so, Christianity and Islam, reinforced in the manner I have just explained, can assume a special significance in preaching universal love and brotherhood and service of all God's creatures.
Gautam Buddha, A Hindu Reformer
He (Gautam Buddha) was a greater reformer of Hinduism. He was a Hindu and died a Hindu. That is my belief. Our society recognized it by accepting him as an incarnation.
The ideas of the Buddha are attracting the whole world today. The world needs them. Their attractions are their rationalism, attack on casteism, renunciation, compassion, non-enmity etc. Among these, I assign chief place to compassion and non-enmity.
The message which Lord Buddha delivered to the world was fashioned by him notes a result of any speculative thinking but out of his experiences of life. It has stood the test of centuries and shines even brighter today than ever before.
What is that message? It is : Not by hatred is hatred appeased; not by anger is anger pacified; not by falsehood is falsehood eradicated. Hatred will only inflame hatred, and anger aggravates anger. Hatred must therefore be met by love, anger by peace, and falsehood by truth.
Buddha's message is not new. But the ways of the world have remained more or less unchanged. Because, while the people respected him whoever attained this ideal, they did not consider it worth acting upon in practical life.
There was another reason why this message did not spread among the masses. It was this : Hatred is not likely to disappear as long the factors which excite it are existent.
A Difference between Buddha and Mahavira
Lord Buddha was primarily a humanist, while Lord Mahavira was inspired by extreme compassion for all living creatures. This compassion went to the length of holding that the very life of man is based on violence. Hence he holds that even taking of food is a sin. The less is the food consumed, the less is the violence perpetrated. Consequently, he remained without food as far as possible.
The Buddha prohibited violence and it will have to be said that he was successful. Now we do not find violence practiced in Yajnas. Such violence was also there during the times of Mahavira but he did not interfere with it. He simply preached unadulterated non-violence and for that he was always practicing austerities. He remained satisfied with that much. This compassion of Mahavira was nirguna, abstract. I think that the level of Mahavira was higher and I am inclined towards it. But I have followed the way of the Buddha. That path is of preaching compassion by taking up some work. The compassion of the Buddha is such that it prompts one to do something.
The religion of the Buddha is based on compassion but detachment is its dominating feature. Its field is that of humanity. Jainism too is based on compassion, but it is not concerned with man only. It is concerned with all living creatures. There is neither any uneasiness in it nor excitement; there is an aloofness.
Hinduism gives its followers complete freedom. It does not insist on any particular discipline or prayer. Religion has to release us from bondage. The only imperative commandment it can have is to ask us to purify ourselves. Hinduism has emphasized the need for inner purity. Indian civilization and culture has shown a tremendous capacity for assimilation and absorption. If Hinduism becomes narrow, we shall be destroying our precious heritage.
Vinoba's Hinduism Not Exclusive
In fact, I do not find any difference in the various religions - Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism etc. Having grown up in different countries, their outward forms are different, but in essence they are the same. So my Hinduism is not exclusive. It includes every other religion. Though my roots are in Hinduism, yet I have studied the Bible, with as great a respect as the Gita. Likewise, I have studied the Koran. The Sermon on the Mount satisfies me as much as the Gita. Thus my environment seems to be Hindu but there is no Hinduism in it.