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By Kalindi
This book is not Vinobaji’s autobiography. He himself used to say that if he were to sit down and write, the result would not be ‘the story of the self’1, but a story of the ‘not-self’, because he was ‘Vinoba the forgetful’. But he neither wrote nor dictated any such story of the not-self. But during the course of his thousands of talks he used to illustrate his topics by examples from experience, and these naturally included some incidents from his own life. This book is simply an attempt to pick out such incidents from various places and string them together.
It follows that there are limits to what can be done. This is not a complete life story, only a glimpse of it. There is no attempt to give a full picture of every event, every thought, every step of the way. It brings together only those incidents and stories which are to be had in Vinoba’s own words. Some important events may therefore not be found in it, and in some places it will seem incomplete, because the principle followed is to use only Vinoba’s own account. Nevertheless, in spite of these limitations the glimpses will be found to be complete in themselves.
Children are fond of playing with a ‘jigsaw puzzle’, where a complete picture, painted on a wooden plank, has been cut up into small pieces of many shapes and sizes; the aim is to fit them together in their proper places and so re-build the picture. Sometimes the players make mistakes and insert a piece into the wrong place, so that the picture is spoiled. The trouble is with the child’s lack of skill, not with the original painter of the picture. It is possible that in putting together these fragmentary ‘glimpses’ of Vinoba’s life similar mistakes may have crept in.
But then, as Jnanadev asks, how can one number the Infinite, or add lustre to the Supreme Radiance? How can the mosquito grasp in its fist the illimitable sky? As he goes on to say, there is one basis on which it can be done. The work has been undertaken in a spirit of utmost devotion on the basis of the ‘gift of fearlessness’ received from Vinoba. Vinoba has both given and received gifts of many kinds, but this gift of fearlessness which we have received from him is the quintessence of his own quest for non-violence, and shows that the quest was successful. There can be no doubt that these glimpses of his life will inspire and strengthen us to carry on that quest with enthusiasm. They are offered here in the name of the Lord.

  1. The Hindi word for 'autobiography is atma-katha, literally 'story of the self'.