Who Is Vinoba ?
(Introducing Vinoba, whom he has chosen to start the individual civil disobedience movement in October 1940, to the people of India and the world, in Harijan, 20-10-1949)
Who is Vinoba Bhave and why has he been selected? He is an undergraduate, having left college after my return to India in 1915. he is a Sanskrit scholar. He joined the Ashram almost at its inception. He was among the first members. In order to better qualify himself, he took on e year’s leave to prosecute further studies in Sanskrit. And practically at the same hour at which he had left the Ashram a year before, he walked into it without notice. I had forgotten that h e was due to arrive that day. He has taken part in every menial activity of the Ashram from scavenging to cooking. Though he has a marvelous memory and is a student by nature, he has devoted the largest part of his time to spinning which he has specialized as very few have. He believes in universal spinning being the central activity which will remove the poverty in the villages and put life into their deadness. Being a born teacher, he has been of the utmost assistance to Ashadevi (Aryanayakam) in her development of the scheme of education through handicrafts. Shri Vinoba has produced a text-book taking spinning as the handicraft. It is original in conception. He has made scoffers realize that spinning is the handicraft par excellence which lends itself to being effectively used for basic education. He has revolutionized takli-spinning and drawn out its hitherto unknown possibilities. For perfect spinning, probably, he has no rival in all India.
He has abolished every trace of untouchability from his heart. He believes in communal unity with the same passion that I have. In order to know the best mind of Islam, he gave one year to the study of the Koran in the original. He therefore learned Arabic. He found his study necessary for cultivating a living contact with the Muslims living in his neighbourhood.
He ahs an army of disciples and workers who would raise to any sacrifice at his bidding. He is responsible for producing a young man who has dedicated himself to the service of lepers. Vinoba was for y ears director of the Mahila Ashram in Wardha. His devotion to the cause of Daridranarayan (‘God revealed in the poor’) took him first to a village near Wardha, and now he has gone still further and lives in Paunar, five miles from Wardha, from where he as established contact with villages through the disciples he has trained.
He believes in the necessity of the political independence of India. He is an accurate student of history. But he believes that real independence of the villages is impossible without the constructive programme of which khadi is the centre. He believes that the charkha (spinning wheel) is the most suitable outward symbol of nonviolence which has become an integral part of his life. He has taken an active part in the pervious satyagraha campaigns. He has never been in the limelight on the political platform. With may co-workers he believes that silent constructive work with civil disobedience in the background is far more effective than the already heavily crowded political platform. And the thoroughly believes that nonviolent resistance is impossible without a heart-belief in the practice of constructive work.
A friend suggests that I should write a treatise on the science of Ahimsa. To write such a treatise is beyond my power. I am not built for academic writings. Action is my domain, and what I understand, according to my lights, I do…..In the event of my inability the correspondent has suggested three names in order of preference for this task: Shri Vinoba, Shri Kishorlal Mashruwala, Shri Kaka Kalelkar. The first named could do so but I know that he will not. Every hours of his is scheduled for his work and he would regard it as sacrilege to take a single moment therefrom for writing a shastra. I would agree with him. The world does not hunger for shastras. What it craves and will always crave is sincere action. He who can appease this hunger will not waste his time in elaborating a shastra.