10 December 2006

excerpts from Vinoba Bhave

I would like to include some quotes from a teacher of ours, Vinoba Bhave.

Vinobaji was one of Gandhiji's band of merry pranksters -- a scholar,
activist, revolutionary, and deeply spiritual being. My introduction
to his thought (and therefore, <i>pace</i> Gandhiji's "my life is my
message", his actions) came, appropriately enough, during my
pilgrimage early this year. On the last day I met one Mr. Mahesh
Kothari, who told me stories of Vinobaji, a man who walked the dusty
Indian streets for twenty-five years, enacting land reform with his
every footstep.

So, I persist with the assumption that anyone who reads this is just
happy to know I'm still alive and knows how important land reform is
to me -- how I've seen it and felt it to be the cause, directly or
indirectly, of most of the revolutions in the last thirty years, and
how it remains our greatest challenge, for those of us who want to see
an equiality of hope and possibility, for those of us who seek balance
with the Amazon, and for those who understand those two imperfections
-- poverty and bad housekeeping -- to be one and the same.

Vinobaji speaks to Everything with his every word, as is wont of a
true master. I was given a few of his books and will quote from one
entitled "The Third Power", a smattering collection of his talks from
1950-1968. By "third power", Vinobaji both implies and demands the
existence of a governing force indepedent of coercion and law -- the
power of Love. In my vocabulary it is decidedly anarchist,
co-operative, and self-organizing in nature -- a power that the term
"civil society" (which so many today buzz about and work on,
humdillah) falls under but does not fully encapsulate.


from "The Sarvodaya Movement: A Review" (speech at the Social and
Political Workers' Conference, Bodh Gaya, October 1968)

I began to plan for an all India pilgrimage on behalf of this 'peace
potential', but I had not spoken about my plans to anyone. Then
Shankarraoji and others began to press me to attend the Sarvodaya
Sammelan at Sivarampalli. I did not feel interested, but they
threatened to cancel the meeting if I would not come. So finally I
said: "All right, I will come on foot; I will leave Sevagram the day
after tomorrow".

My going on foot caused an explosion like an atom bomb, and yet it was
nothing extraordinary. People have always journeyed on foot, although
now-a-days it is not usual. I planned to return by a different route
which would bring me into touch with the problems of Telengana at that

So I came to a village, Pochampalli, where the Harijans appealed to me
to get them land, as they were cultivators and had no other means of
livelihood. At first I thought of approaching the government but
decided that would be of no use. So at the evening meeting in the
village I put the problem to the villagers, and was offered a gift of
a hundred acres.

I lay awake most of that night thinking about what had happened. I put
my faith in two things -- God and mathematics. I calculated that to
satisfy the needs of all the landless of India would require fifty
million acres. Could I get such an amount for the asking? I turned to
God. "If you are afraid to take up the challenge", He said, "you had
better throw overboard your talk of <i>ahimsa</i>. He who makes the
child hungry makes milk in the mother's breast". That was enough; the
very next day I began asking for land and getting it. I will not go
over that long story now. It was a wonderfu ljounrey. There were
meetings every day and every day people gave me land. I travelled in a
kind of exaltation, humming Rabindranath Tagore's song, "Go forth
alone, O hapless one", but I changed the word 'hapless' into
'blessed'. The <i>Vedas</i> also say that 'the sun travels alone'; it
was an inspiration to see the sun travelling alone through the heavens
as I travelled alone over the earth.

from "Acharyakul" (talks given to teachers of higher education 1967-8)

Patanjali thinks of God as the <i>Guru</i>, the Teacher. This Supreme
Spirit, he says, is the <i>Guru<i> of our ancient seers. In all my
reading I have not found any other book of religion or psychology
which refers to Him as <i>Guru</i>. He is called "Father of the
Universe", or "Father" as in Christianity, or "Mother". But in the
<i>Yoga Shastra</i> he is regarded as <i>Guru</i>. This is a
significant thing for all of you teachers present here. He is the
Teacher, the Supreme Teacher, who teaches us all. We, on our part,
should imitate Him in our methods of learning and teaching. This
<i>Guru</i> teaches us with the purest detachment of spirit; he is in
the highest sense disinterested; he imposes nothing on his pupils.


I believe that the work of land-sharing is of the greatest and most
fundamental importance; yet I feel myself personally more fitted for
this task in education which is before you, because I am a life-long
and habitual student. Not a day passes without my giving some time to
study. When I began to consider my whole way of life, and the
teachings and guidance which I have recived both in my inner
consciousness and from the messages of the sages, there came to my
mind the passage in the Upanishads which summarizes the whole duty of
man thus:

1. Follow truth, also study and teach.
2. Maintain serenity, also study and trach.
3. Master the senses, also study and teach.
4. Give service to guests, also study and teach.

from his introduction to <i>Gandhi and Marx</i> (a book by K.G. Mashruwala)

The concepts of <i>aparigraha</i> (non-possessiveness) and
<i>samabhava</i> (sense of equality) found in the <i>Gita</i> had
taken a strong hold of Gandhiji's mind. In short, Gandhiji considered
that the only practical method of practicing <i>aparigraha</i>, in our
present society or indeed in any circumstances, is to use all one's
powers as something one holds in trust for humanity.

We may do away with the inequalities of wealth which result from an
unjust social order, but inequalities of intellectual and physical
endowment cannot be wholly eliminated. This being so, every person
must understand that whatever intelligence, bodily strength or wealth
he possesses is his for the welfare of all.

Mutual trust is the foundation of human relationships, between parents
and their children, between neighbor and neighbor, even between
nations. This attitude of confidence can be fostered by education; and
in fact a social order based on mutal trust implies that the varied
capacities of all its memebrs are wisely encouraged and used.
<i>Aparigraha</i> means that the individual should, from a feeling of
confidence, use his talents for the good of all.

from "The Third Power" (speech at the Sarvodaya Sammelan, Chandil,
Singhbhum, Bihar on 9.3.1953)

Picture a battlefield where soldiers are being wounded. Those who go
to the help of the wounded are filled with compassion; they serve
friend and foe alike at the risk of their own lives, like a mother
serving her children. There is no doubt about their human kindness and
the value of their service. But they cannot stop war. Their service is
bound up with a society which accepts war. One and the same war
machine has two parts, one to kill, the other to rescue the wounded.
The contrast between these two functions is clear; everyone can see
that one is cruel and the other merciful. War is made up of the
cruelty of the one and the humanity of the other, and both work
together to ensure that war goes on. To speak in the blunt language of
science, so long as we accept war at all we are guilty of its crimes,
wehther we fight or whether we nurse the wounded. I have given this
example to show that we must not imagine that we can create a merifcul
govenrment by a few mericful actions. Government in essence means
brute force.

from "Gramdan: A Comprehensive Concept" (speech at the Gramdan
Conference at Yelwal, Mysore, 12.9.57)

The Upanishad regards the production of more food as a religious duty,
to be sealed by a vow. I am no traditionalist. I say that only if
science and <i>ahimsa</i> -- that is to say, spiritual knowledge --
are joined together, then heaven can come on earth, and for that, as
many people as possibly must be engaged not only in agriculture but in
industry. But everyone ought to have some direct experience of
agriculture also. Nothing, not even religious music and ritual,
contributes so much as agricultural work to the steadying of the mind
as well as to the health of the body. So every family should be given
at leat half an acre of land; the remainder may be farmed

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