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ASSOCIATES OF MAHATMA GANDHI > VINOBA BHAVE > MOVED BY LOVE > To The Starting Point - To Start Again
To the Starting Point—To Start Again
At the very first meeting in East Pakistan I told the people how glad I was to be there. ‘It’s my own country,’ I said. ‘I don’t feel that Hindustan and Pakistan are any different; they have the same air, the same soil, the same people, the same human hearts—there is no difference at all. The whole earth is ours, and we are all its servants. It is a mere accident that we are born and die in one country rather than another. I feel that I belong here, for all human society is my home, and wherever I go I say Jai Jagat.’
At my first two or three meetings people shouted Pakistan Zindabad—‘Long live Pakistan’. Jai Jagat, I res- ponded, and gradually the phrase caught on. Jai Jagat brought everyone together in love and harmony.
By this time I had completed my selections from the Holy Koran, and they were about to be published in book form. Before the book appeared however the newspaper Dawn of Karachi attacked me. This infidel, it said, was taking liberties with the text of Holy Scripture. Muslim periodicals in India at once took up the cudgels on my behalf; it was wrong, they said, to criticize a book without reading it. Their support touched me very much.
In East Pakistan I followed the practice of silent common prayer, and thousands of Hindus, Muslims and Christians all came to take part. Dawn criticized this too, and accused me of introducing Hindu prayers, but the papers of East Pakistan made no such accusation. ‘I am doing nothing,’ I replied, ‘against the worship you practise in your own homes, whether you use an image, or offer namaj, or follow any other form. But can there, or can there not, be a form of prayer in which all of us may unite? If the answer is No, God Himself will be cut to pieces.’
On the very first day I asked for land, and a Muslim donor stood up to pledge his gift. This was a good beginning; it opened the door. It showed that the human heart is the same everywhere, and that in East Pakistan also the land problem could be solved by love and non-violence. I am much touched by the affectionate treatment I received among my Pakistani brothers. The government too deserves my thanks for all the arrangements it made to ease my pilgrimage. All the inhabitants gave me brotherly love, and I believe that even those journalists who at first were critical became my friends in the end, and were convinced of my good intentions.
At the time of my visit to East Pakistan I had been turning over an idea in my mind for about a year. I realized that while gramdan was fully in line with human social instincts, it did not accord so well with the instinct of self-preservation. I began to look for something which might satisfy both instincts together, and hit on the idea of what is called sulabh (easy) gramdan. This means that each individual owner surrenders one-twentieth of his land for distribution to the landless, and that the legal ownership of all the land is vested in the village community. The former owners however continue to cultivate the remaining nineteen-twentieths of their original holdings, and may not be deprived of that right without their own consent.
I put this idea before the people of (West) Bengal. The workers responded with new enthusiasm, and a number of villages were donated in this way. One of them was the village of Plassey, the site of the battle which marks the loss of India’s freedom. There in Bengal I met Pandit Nehru (for the last time) and as we talked together I gave him this news. ‘I am delighted to hear it,’ he said. ‘It brings Milton to mind, how he wrote first Paradise Lost and afterwards Paradise Regained. Now we too have our Plassey Lost and Plassey Regained !’ He went on to speak of it that day in his public meeting. ‘Our real battle,’ he said, ‘is with poverty, and for that battle Baba’s (Vinoba’s) proposals for gramdan will be of very great service.’
At the same time I was also thinking much about khadi. Khadi workers from all over India met at Navadwip in Bengal in February 1963, and I shared my thinking with them. ‘So far,’ I said, ‘khadi has been government-oriented, that is, it has depended on government help. From now on it should be village-oriented. My idea is that every indivi- dual (spinner) should have a few yards of cloth woven free of charge. This would encourage village people to spin, while at the same time the village would become self-reliant for its cloth. If a village by its own efforts can produce its own food and its own cloth, it will be really strong, and so in consequence will the country. This is a real “defence measure”, and I ask you to take it up on a war footing. Listen to the poet Browning:
       I was ever a fighter, so one fight more,
       The best and the last.
I believe we must fight this last fight for khadi—let khadi be enthroned as king, or else it will wither away.’
On the eighteenth of April 1963, the day when I completed twelve years of pilgrimage, I was on my way to Gangasagar.1 I looked back, that day, on those twelve years of daily speaking. ‘It has been a consecrated, strenuous effort,’ I said. ‘People have named it the Bhoodan Ganga, and like Mother Ganga herself the bhoodan stream should also merge into the ocean, here at Gangasagar. From now on my pilgrimage will be a tyaga-yatra, a journey of renunciation. I shall shed all my burdens and simply set out to enjoy myself, to indulge in happy play. My main interest will be to build up a cadre of workers, bound together through the length and breadth of India by ties of mutual affection and by a common agreed approach to the principles of their work.’

Worshipping a Trinity
For a number of reasons I had ceased to attend Sarvodaya conferences. All the same, I did attend the Raipur conference in 1963, and placed before it a triple programme:
(1) Gramdan—Without gramdan we cannot fit ourselves for the new age of One World. Today a family is too small a unit; it must be enlarged to include the whole village. Only when this is done can we talk of world peace. Gramdan is at one end of the scale, and Jai Jagat at the other.
(ii) Shanti-sena—We cannot claim that non-violence has any real power until we have such a widespread Peace Army that there is no need of a police force, and no occasion whatever to use the army. The Shanti-sena, the Peace Army, is a must.
(iii) Village-Oriented Khadi—Khadi today depends on government help and rebate, and so loses all real power. Khadi should be a vehicle of the people’s revolution. Village-oriented khadi is what Gandhiji himself wished to see.
The conference passed a resolution accepting this triple programme, and as soon as the meeting was over I left Raipur for Maharashtra, for the Vidarbha region, for Wardha.

Coming Back to Where I Started
I returned to Wardha by the same road along which I had set out for Delhi almost thirteen years earlier. As we drew near to Wardha my companions asked me how I felt, did I have a special feeling for the place? ‘As I see it,’ I replied, ‘the whole world is my home, but the land of India is my home in a special way. It is for me what in Marathi is called “the middle house”, the central room. Maharashtra is like an alcove for worship within that room, and the Wardha district is the inmost shrine in the alcove, the “holy of holies”.’
I reached Paunar on the tenth of April 1964, thirteen years three months and three days after I had left, and for the first time since the Brahmavidya Mandir had been founded in 1959. People felt anxious about my bodily health, and at their request I agreed to stay at Paunar for a fairly long time. My point of view however was different from theirs. It would be a credit to me, no doubt, to go on carrying the message of bhoodan-gramdan to the people, but it would be no credit to them, to those other men and women, that I should still have to do so, even after thirteen years. In order to be clear about my duty in this situation I agreed, rather half-heartedly, to ‘rest’.
When a decision has to be made about one’s duty, one must first and foremost examine oneself inwardly; one must also consider outward circumstances. I agreed to stay at Paunar partly for this self-examination, but I had another reason also. I had been instrumental in founding six Ashrams, all of which had the same central purpose, the education of workers. It was my duty to give some attention to them also, and during this period of rest I hoped to do some thinking about it.

The Typhoon-Pilgrimage
While I was living in Paunar the Sarva Seva Sangh held a session at Gopuri, Wardha. People came together from all over India, and those from each State came as a group to meet me. I said to the Biharis: ‘Why not set to work to raise a regular typhoon?2 Ten thousand gramdans in the next six months ! If you will do that, and need me, I will come.’ They agreed to do it, and off I went to Bihar. (August 1965)
It had been decided that I should go on from Bihar to Orissa, and a programme had been drawn up for me. But suddenly I fell ill with fissures and was obliged to remain in Jamshedpur. During this illness I continued to think about my situation. If I had called on people to raise a ‘typhoon’ while I myself sat still in Paunar, that would merely have reflected my own arrogance. But I had moved out, I had shared fully in the work in Bihar, and now I was compelled to stop, to rest. I felt that this was a sign from God, and that to insist on moving about would be to disregard His will. I benefited a lot, for the greater part of my time was spent in reflection and meditation. Telegrams poured in daily with news of gramdans. The ‘typhoon’ had reached a speed about half of what I had hoped for.
I left for North Bihar on March 16, 1966.

Sookshma-Pravesh: Entering a deeper inward path3
In those days I began to feel an inward call that I should now stop putting so much pressure on the people to accept my ideas. The people themselves, it is true, did not regard it as pressure, but it is pressure nevertheless when a man gets after them over and over again with the same appeals. It seemed to me that during the course of that year I should decide to put an end to this. If people came to me of their own accord I would give them my advice and so on, but my own efforts would be directed towards a more inward from of activity.
I had a specific date in mind. The seventh of June was drawing near, and that was the fiftieth anniversary of the date when I first went to Bapu. ‘If the Lord does not take me away before then,’ I thought, ‘I will ask Gandhiji on that day to release me from service.’ Not release from truth, of course, nor from non-violence, but from the labours in which I had been engaged at his behest for the last fifty years. Gandhiji would surely not be unwilling to set me free, for no one expects someone in the prime of life to give the same service as a child, nor that those who have reached old age should give the same service as those in their prime.
On June 7, 1966 I therefore announced that I was feeling a strong urge to free myself from outward visible activities and enter upon this inward, hidden from of spiritual action, and that I would begin to practise it that very day. ‘It was on this date,’ I said, ‘that I had my first meeting with Bapu. That was in 1916, exactly fifty years ago. In that same year, a few months earlier, I had left home in the name of Brahma, the Supreme. Now I have received an inward call to lay at the feet of the Lord whatever outward visible service I have given, and to enter the realm of the hidden, the inward. It is a process to which I have given a new name: Sookshma Karmayoga—the hidden, more deeply inward path of action, rather than calling it meditation, or the pathway of devotion, of knowledge and so on. For me this is not a new thought, but an old one. Today I am beginning to act on it, to start reducing myself to zero. As a first step, I am going to put a strict limit on my correspondence.’
I believe that a lot of work is done in this innermost hidden way, and that those whose personal desires have been blotted out in the contemplation of God and His crea- tion may be of the greatest service, invisible though it be.
In this Sookshma Karmayoga, this innermost hidden path of action, there is no abandoning of compassion, of generosity or of self-control. Our triple programme calls for them all. It is compassion that inspires the Shanti-sena—compassion pitted against anger. Gramdan is the work of generosity—generosity pitted against greed. Khadi is the work of self-control—self-control pitted against self-indulgence. This being so, even when I abandon the outward visible way for the inward hidden one, my heart will always be in these works of compassion, generosity and self-control.
So the ‘typhoon’ went on, but letter-writing was almost at an end, and I did little speaking. My thoughts were on the call to inwardness and how I might enter into it more deeply. ‘I have been talking for seventeen years,’ I said, ‘and it is not right to go on talking indefinitely. I must keep my links with all our fellow-workers, but these should be of an inward nature. I have therefore had a list prepared with the names of all the workers of Bengal, and I would like to have similar lists of workers from all over India. I want to keep an inward bond with them all, and remember them in meditation. Most people do not recognize what power this inward bond may have, but the bond is only there when one is emptied completely of self.’
Spiritual resolutions of this kind are within the compass of the will of God, and yet they can be made as free decisions. A devotee acts on his resolve, and God helps that devotee. To receive such help is one thing, to receive a command from God is another. Seventeen years ago at Pochampalli in Telangana I asked for eighty acres of land for the Harijans and received one hundred acres. I could not sleep that night; I turned to God. The word came, the divine command: ‘You must take up this work.’ I have been on the march ever since. Then, during the meeting of the Sarva Seva Sangh at Gopuri (Wardha), the slogan ‘typhoon’ arose; I set out on my travels once more, by car, and that slogan has caught on. To me, that too is a sign that the orders came from God.

Acharyakul: a Family of Teachers
In December 1967 again, at the conference of scholars at Pusa Road, I felt myself to have received a divine command. I do not remember such a conference being held before, either during my earlier travels or even during the time of Gandhiji. In old days such gatherings were called Sangiti, and I felt that this was a special event. Moreover the idea was not mine, and I had done nothing to arrange it. Karpoori Thakur4 made all the arrangements, and he told me that not a penny of Government money had been spent. That made me feel that God was behind it, and that if we obeyed His orders we could bring about a non-violent revolution in education.
At the conference I said that the guidance of the affairs of the whole country ought to be in the hands of its acharyas, its teachers. Today however teachers have been relegated to the ordinary ranks of service; the educational institutions do not, unfortunately, have the same measure of indepen- dence as the judiciary. Even though the salaries of the judges are paid by the Government, the judiciary is independent; the judges are not subject to authority. The teacher ought to have a similar independent position, even though the salary may be paid by the Government from public funds. But for the teachers to become independent in practice, in the real sense of the word, there is one necessary condition: that the teacher should develop his own strength and not run after power-politics. He must keep clear of that dirty game, rise above narrow ‘isms’, and go in for the politics of a humane world order based on the moral power of the people—for what I call loka-neeti, the politics of the common man.
Secondly, I said, there are two ways of dealing with unrest. They might be called the Departments of Alleviation and Suppression. The acharyas belong to the Department of Alleviation, while the Government’s police force is the Department of Suppression. If the teachers can succeed in allaying unrest (by getting the basic causes removed) there will be no need whatever to suppress it. This means that the field of action of the acharyas is the whole life of India; its scope is not confined to the premises of the University. If the police have to be called in anywhere we should regard it as a blot on the acharyas’ record.
On the basis of these ideas the Acharya-kul was inaugurated at Kahalgaon in March 1968. Kahalgaon is an ancient place whose name commemorates the sage Kahol, who took part with other sages in the assembly (described in the Brihadaranyak Upanishad) which was called by Yajnavalkya for a discussion on Brahman, the Supreme. When I spoke at Kahalgaon I said: ‘I have come to Bihar this time looking forward to two things. First, that the whole of Bihar should become a gift state.5 Second, that the teachers should realize their autonomous power. Let there be a fellowship of all teachers and acharyas, and let it be called Acharya-kul.’
I went to Bihar with two slogans, ‘typhoon’ and ‘six months’, but I stayed there for four years. The people of Bihar did splendid work. No one failed to do his utmost, and the result was that every district in Bihar declared itself ‘gifted’. By October 1969, at the Rajgir Sarvodaya confe- rence, the whole stage proclaimed Bihar-dan.
I would like to repeat something I said during the early days of the bhoodan movement. We shall have to decide, I said, what kind of society we want to create. ‘Many alternatives are open to us today; all of us are faced with a crucial decision concerning our social and economic structure. Which road shall we take? What method shall we adopt? If we use bad means for good ends, India will be faced with endless problems. If we use non-violent means to solve our problems, there will be no problems left. This is the work of Dharmachakra-Pravartan, turning the Wheel of Righteousness. I believe that by such endeavour we shall find the key to non-violence in our hands.’
I cannot complain that God has given me a sorrowful lot, for everywhere I have found happiness in plenty. I cannot return even a fraction of the love I have been given, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from the west to Assam in the far east. I cannot imagine that I could ever repay this debt of love, so richly have I received. I can only say to the people, in the words which Saint Madhavadeva wrote to his guru: ‘I can do nothing except bow before you.’ I salute you all, with reverence and devotion.