Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

Everybody knows that Vinoba Bhave was the discipal of Mahatma Gandhi in field of sprituality. He learnt a lot of thinks by the activity & life of Mahatma Gandhi. "I know of nothing which is of greater value than reading the Gita. And yet, I have found a living person who follows the philosophy of Gita in his own life. He is my master and lives in an Ashram on the banks of Sabarmati river in Gujarat" said Vinoba Bhave, while concluding his fiftieth talk on Gita. Perhaps these were the apt words in which a disciple could pay tribute to his master. Acharya Vinoba Bhave is not known for wasting words superfluously, for he doesn't possess even a gram of sycophancy in him. Being a student of mathematics and also having a scientific temperament, he knew the worth and significance of the word as a medium of expression. His estimation of Mahatma Gandhi was as good as any judicious person could give. Not only does it shed proper light on the character of the Mahatma, but also speaks volumes on the character of his follower.

Vinayak was only 20 when he came to Kochrab Ashram on 7 June 1916 from Kashi, where he had gone to study Sanskrit. The young man who had gone all the way from Baroda to Kashi to quench his thirst for learning, suddenly left Kashi and turned up at the doors of the Ashram. This was another story of Gandhi's magnetic call. On reaching the Ashram, Vinoba was taken to the kitchen where Gandhi was cleaning and cutting vegetables for the meals. The first conversation continued between them while Gandhi was actually engaged in his daily routine. He welcomed the young man and offered him full membership of the Ashram.

After joining the Ashram, Vinoba conformed to its rigorous and austere life. He worked in the kitchen, in the workshop and in the garden like any other inmate. One day­ he was heard loudly reciting verses from the Gita and the Upanishads early in the morning at 4 o'clock. It was only then that the inhabitants discovered that the new entrant was a profound scholar of Sanskrit and the religious scriptures. It is interesting to know that Mama Phadke, an inmate of the Ashram from Maharashtra, was the first to name Vinayak as Vinoba, in the saintly tradition of Maharashtra.

In the following days Gandhi and Vinoba worked together grinding corn, cleaning toilets and studying the philosophy of Gita and Upanishads. Some time later, Gandhi described Vinoba to C G Andrews as "one of the few pearls in the Ashram, who came there not to be blessed, but to bless it". But Vinoba in all humility tried to reduce himself to a zero. He did not give the slightest impression of 'showing off.' In the course of a talk with an inmate Vinoba had said: "Only I can know what I have got in the Ashram. It was an early ambition of mine to distinguish myself, by some violent deed, in the service of my country. But Bapu cured me of that ambition. It is he who had extinguished the volcano of anger and other passions in me. I have been progressing every day of my life in the Ashram." Later, recollecting his first meeting with Gandhi at the Ashram, Vinoba wrote: "When I was at Kashi my main ambition was to go to the Himalayas. Also there was an inner longing to visit Bengal. But neither of the two dreams could be realized. Providence took me to Gandhi and I found in him not only the peace of the Himalayas but also the burning fervour of revolution typical of Bengal. I said to myself that both my desires had been fulfilled. "

One day while taking bath in the river Sabarmati, Vinoba lost his balance and fell into a fast-moving current. He did not raise any scare for sometime, but when he found that he was being swept away, he cried: "Convey my namaskar to Bapu and tell him that, though Vinoba's body has disap­peared, his soul is immortal." As luck would have it, Vinoba was soon thrown up on a strip of land in mid-stream where the water was shallow. From there he swam back to the Ashram.

Kakasaheb Kalelkar has also narrated another incident of similar nature. Once he and Vinoba had gone to a neighbouring village and were returning in the evening along the railway line, and as they were crossing the railway, bridge they heard the sound of an approaching train behind them. There was no railing or foot-path on either side of the bridge. Kakasaheb got scared and started running over the bridge on the wooden planks with gaps in between. Vinoba had weak eyesight so he could not see the gaping gaps between the planks. He too started running after Kakasaheb.. The slightest mistake on his part would have thrown him down into the gushing river below. But mathematics came to his succour and he negotiated the planks with arithmetical accuracy even without seeing them. The engine was only a few yards behind. Kakasaheb had already crossed the other end of the bridge but Vinoba was still running. Seeing that Kakasaheb shouted: "Vinoba, jump to the left." He did so and jumped into a pit nearby. Vinoba had a narrow escape. When Gandhi learnt of this incident, he advised Vinoba to wear glasses in order to stop further deterioration of his eye sight.

In his Ashram life, Vinoba did not rest for a minute during the day. He not only looked after the boys in the hostel and taught various subjects to the students of the Rashtriya Shala, but also spent a few hours in spinning, weaving, cooking, grinding, and preparing the fields with pick-axe for cultivation. Even while teaching, Vinoba exerted all his energy and would even perspire. Whatever he did was done with his whole being.

In 1920, Jamnalal Bajaj came in contact with Gandhi. He was anxious about starting a similar type of Ashram at Wardha, and requested Gandhi to shift there with other inmates. That was not possible at that time. There upon, on Jamnalalji's insistence, Gandhi agreed to spare Vinoba for Wardha Ashram. Maganlal Gandhi was against the proposal, but Bapu prevailed upon him. Vinoba agreed to go to Wardha with a few chosen colleagues and pupils.

Vinayak Narhari Bhave was born on 11 September 1895 at Gagode, formerly in Baroda state but now in Kolaba district of Maharashtra. His father Narhari Shambhurao was in government service at Baroda. Vinoba's grandfather Shambhurao, though deeply religious, was quite progres­sive in his views. His mother Rukminibai was a devout lady. She knew hundreds 'of Marathi Bhajans-devotional songs- which she would keep on singing in the course of her domestic work. Vinoba's early character was moulded mainly at the hands of his pious and affectionate mother. She led a life of simplicity and self-restraint, and observed religious vows with regularity. It was at her feet that Vinoba imbibed the basic precept: 'He who gives is a god: but he who withholds is a devil.' Vinoba once told a group of workers: "My mother was the source of strength. She had unlimited confidence in my capacity. That living faith of hers gave me immense strength".

Vinoba's personality was shaped by the great qualities of Shambhurao, Narhari and Rukminibai into an extra ordinary amalgam of the wisdom, devotion and action-Jnana, Bhakti and Karma. One comes but rarely across a man who combines the three qualities with such distinction.

In October 1940, Gandhi selected Vinoba Bhave as the first Satyagrahi-civil resister-for the individual Satyagraha against the British, and Jawaharlal Nehru was the second. Gandhi personally went to Pavnar Ashram to seek his con­sent. During the talk Gandhi expressed his desire to see Vinoba free from the rest of his activities for the Satyagraha. Vinoba's reply was very characteristic of him. He said: "I carry no load on my head. I am as prepared to obey your call, here and now, even as I would be, if the Yamaraj-God of death-had sent for me."

Both Jamnalal Bajaj and Mahadev Desai, who accompa­nied Gandhi to Pavnar, were deeply touched by this rare example of voluntary obedience and dedication.

After obtaining Vinoba's consent, Gandhi issued a comprehensive statement on 5 October 1940. He introduced Vinoba in the following words:

Who is Vinoba Bhave and why has he been selected for offering individual civil disobedience? He is an under-graduate, having left college after my return to India in 1916. He is a sanskrit scholar. He joined the Ashram almost at its inception..... In. order to better qualify himself he took one year's leave to prosecute further studies in Sanskrit. And practically at the same hour at

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