About the Series
The object of this series is to record, for the present
and future generations, the story of the struggles and achievements of the
eminent sons and daughters of India who have been mainly instrumental in our
national renaissance and the attainment of Independence. Except in a few cases,
such authoritative biographies have not been available.
The biographies are planned as handy volumes written
by knowledgeable people and giving a brief account, in simple words, of the
life and activities of the eminent leaders and of their times. They are not
intended either to be comprehensive studies or to replace the more elaborate
The work of writing these lives has to be entrusted
to different people. It has, therefore not been possible to publish the
biographies in a. chronological order. It is hoped, however, that within a
short period all eminent national personalities will figure in this series.
THIS BOOK ON the life and work of Acharya Vinoba Bhave has been a quest for me, though I have been
interested in his thought and activities for the last forty years. Still it
cannot be claimed that the search is at all complete. Vinoba
is too vast and too deep a subject for a complete search by a
person like me whose efforts have only been directed towards
understanding him intellectually. If I undertook to prepare this book, it was
only because some persons who had been close to Vinoba
had suggested my name to the late Dr R.R. Diwakar,
the General Editon of this series, for writing this
book, and wanted me to accept the offer and they were prepared to co-operate
with me in this endeavour.
In preparing this book, I have been greatly helped
by several books, already available on Vinoba's life
and work. My greatest debt, from this viewpoint, is to Kalindi's
Ahimsa Ki Talash which gives Vinoba's autobiographical reminiscences in his own words,
and then follow Baburao
Joshi's Tapodhan Vinoba, Shriman Narayan's Vinoba: His Life and Work, Suresh Ram's Vinoba and His Mission, Vasant Nargolkar's
The Creed of Saint. Vinoba and a few others, including Vinoba, Vyaktittva
Aur Vichar, a publication of Sasta Sahitya Mandal, New Delhi.
Except for Kalindi's work, none covers the period
beyond the Bihar Storm Campaign for Gramdan
(1965-1969) and that too has only been dealt .with by Shriman
Narayan cursorily. Hence for.
that campaign and the later period, I had mostly to
rely on the
various Sarvodaya periodicals in English and Hindi,
especially the later, and on Maitri, a
monthly published by the Brahma Vidya Mandir, Paunar, Wardha. A solitary book
which proved of great help to me for the speeches of Vinoba
during the Storm Campaign was Suresh Ram's Towards Total Revolution.
There were several matters which required either
clarification or more detailed information. In this I received full
co-operation of Shri Shivaji Maharaj, the brother of Vinoba, Kalindi Bahan of the Brahma Vidya Mandir,
Sarvashri Balbhai and Jayadevabhai who had worked as Vinoba's
secretaries, Shri Ranjit Desai of Paramdham Prakashan, Paunar, Shri Narendra Dube, Secretary, Acharyakul and Khadi Mission, and
of Shri Achyut Deshpande
who has been quite close to Vinoba and was among
those who had attended his famous talks on the Gita, delivered in Dhulia Jail
in 1932. To all of them, I would like to express my deep sense of gratitude.
Shri Achyut Deshpande has
also been a source of constant encouragement to me throughout the preparation
of the manuscript and my gratefulness to him is still greater.
The late Dr.R.R. Diwakar had not only recommended my name to the
Publications Division for writing this book, he also took interest in its
preparation and his advice was always available to me whenever I sought it.
Since he is now no more, my gratitude to him is all the more.
I would also like to thank Dr Razi
Ahmad, Director, National Gandhi Museum and Library, New Delhi, Shri H.S. Mathur, Librarian, and Shri M. Tiwari,
Assistant Librarian, for their help in making books and periodicals readily
available to me, to Shri N. Vasudevan, Director,
Gandhi Book House, Rajghat, New Delhi, for his advice
and help in the preparation of the manuscript, to Shri. CA. Menon Chairman, Delhi State
Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, for
his useful suggestions and for going through the typescript, to Shri Gautam
Bajaj for his copyright photo of Vinoba and to Mrs.
Praveen Kapur of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, New
Delhi, for typing the manuscript.
Lastly, my thanks are due to the Publications
Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, for
the confidence placed in me for preparing this manuscript.
ACHARYA VINOBA BHAVE, generally called Vinobaji or Vinoba who succeeded
Gandhi to the leadership of his constructive work movement, primarily aimed at
building a new India of Gandhi's dream. He shot into fame as the father of the Bhoodan Movement and was also his spiritual heir. There is,
however, no such declaration of Gandhi in its favour as it was in the case of
Jawaharlal Nehru whom he named as his political heir. The reason is obvious.
Gandhi wanted to leave no sect after him and hence the question of a declared
spiritual heir did not arise at all. But there is enough indirect evidence in
its support. Gandhi evaluated Vinoba's spiritual
attainments very high, attached highest value to his views, and, according to Shriman Narayan, even looked upon
him as his superior in certain aspects. That is why during his own life-time Vinoba was treated as such by those who were near to him
and knew him. Gandhi's nomination of him as the first satyagrahi
in the Individual Satyagraha of 1940 only set a seal on it.
Kaka Kalelkar, who was ten
years senior to Vinoba in age and knew him as a
student, considered him 'senior-most' amongst the Gandhians,
and K.G. Mashruwala who succeeded Gandhi as the
editor of his Harijan Weeklies after his death and
was a reputed interpreter of his thought, felt that Vinoba
had understood Gandhi best.
While nominating him as the first satyagrahi in 1940, Gandhi had to write a special article
introducing him to the country. This was so because despite all his spiritual
attainments and intensive constructive work at the grassroot
level, Vinoba believed in reducing himself to zero.
He says in his Abhang Vraten, "Vinya is a non-being like zero of Mathematics. The master
or Guru is one and unique whose
esteem grows by the addition of zeros." It were the force of
circumstances, the compulsion of events, that made him leave his cell of Ward
ha after the passing away of the Master and assume the leadership of the
constructive workers, spread all over the country. He himself had once
observed: "If Gandhiji were alive today, I would
have never appeared before the public as I do today, but would have
concentrated all my attention on village sanitation."
To have a more concrete understanding of the
greatness and importance of Vinoba, one may first
know the opinion Gandhi held of him, even when he was in his early twenties. On
Vinoba's joining his Ashram in 1916, Gandhi wrote to
his father, "Your son Vinoba is with me. He has
acquired at so tender an age such high spiritedness and asceticism as took me
years of patient labour to do." And next year he told C.F. Andrews during
his visit to Sabarmati: "He (Vinoba) is one of
the few pearls in the Ashram. They do not come like others to be blessed by the
Ashram, but to bless it, not to receive, but to give." And this impression
of Gandhi only grew with years.
Jawaharlal Nehru, who met Vinoba
for the first time at the Sevagram Constructive
Workers Conference held after the death of Gandhi in March 1948, looked to him
for guidance and confirmation of his viewpoints. He once said "Whenever I
am in difficulty about a problem, I think of Gandhiji.
But since Bapu is no more, my thoughts invariably turn to Vinobaji, whom I regard as
the best interpreter of Gandhian thought and
tradition." Jayaprakash Narayan's
high opinion of Vinoba is testified by his remark:
"Revolutionary and path-finding thinkers in history have usually been
followed by mere interpreters, systematisers, analysts. There have been rare
exceptions as Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin in the case of Marx. Vinoba
is such an exception in the case of Gandhi." It is even reported that he
always used to touch Vinoba's feet because of his
highest respect for him.
Vinoba, as indicated earlier,
emerged on the Indian scene in 1940 and became a world figure with the birth of
his unique Bhoodan Movement in the early fifties. His
fame then travelled far and wide, bringing many foreigners to this country to
have a close look at the man and his movement. Many articles appeared about him
in well-known periodicals of the English-speaking world and also a few books,
including one in French. He was admired for the originality of his ideas, for
their clarity and for his knowledge of many languages. Hallam Tennyson, a
great-grandson of the famous poet, rightly said of him: "Like a candle lit
at a neighbouring flame, he now burns with a steady and separate light."
And Donald Groom, a British Quaker knowing Vinoba'
very well, wrote:"Vinoba sitting looks a picture
of frailty. But speaking he becomes a picture of vitality, power, humour, goodwill.
In that frail body is a vital
spirit which moves him to creative action and gives him an inspiration which
moves men." Arthur Koestler characterized the Bhoodan
Movement "the greatest peace revolution since Gandhi", and Louis
Fischer saw in it "the most creative thought coming out of the East".
Days and Home Renunciation
Gandhi in Ahmedabad
In Wardha: The Twenties
In Wardha: The Thirties
Martyrdom: New Responsibilities
The Bhoodan Period
Gramdan Period: Early Phase
Gramdan Period: Later Phase
with Pandit Nehru
Return to Paunar
Approaches in Sarvodaya
Thinker and Harmoniser
Vinoba as a Man of Letters: His Books
Vinoba's Contribution to Gandhian Thought
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