I left the Ashram a year ago to recoup my health. I had intended to stay in Wai for two or three months and then return, but though a whole year has passed away, nothing has been heard from me. Questions, therefore, may have arisen whether I am ever to come back and even whether I am alive or dead. I must admit, I am myself entirely to blame in the matter. I had, however, written a letter or two to Mama Phadake requesting him to write to me immediately if any satyagraha was to be launched. I had told him, I would give up everything to join it, but otherwise I would stay on, out of the Ashram. If anybody suspected that I was a deserter, even there the fault is mine alone, because I am averse to correspondence. I must, however, state here that the Ashram has not only captivated me, but I have also the ingrained conviction that I was really born for the Ashram. Why then, did I loiter away a whole year outside the Ashram precincts?
Early in my life, when I was only ten, I took a solemn vow to observe
Brahmacharya and dedicate my life to the country. Later on, during my
high school days, I was fascinated by the teachings of the
Bhagavad-Gita. My father, however, asked me to take up French as my
second language, but that did not abate my zest to learn the Gita.
I began to study Sanskrit privately at home that very day, and I
was resolved upon studying the Vedanta and other books on philosophy
whenever possible. When, with your permission, I came to Wai, I saw
that there was an excellent opportunity for me to study the Vedanta.
One Shri Narayan Shastri Marathe, a Brahmachari all his life, is
teaching the Vedanta and other scriptures here. I was seized with a
passion to learn the Upanishads, etc., from him. Now let me write
what I have done during all this time.
My work with respect to my craving for knowledge which kept me out so long:
Study of (1) the Upanishads, (2) the Gita, (3) Brahmasutra Shankarbhasya,
(4) Manusmriti, and (5) Patanjali Yogadarshan. I went through, besides,
(1) Nyayasutra, (2) Vaisheshiksutra and (3) Yajnavalkyasmriti. My desire to
study our religious books has now been fully gratified. I can now
read whatever I want to in Sanskrit without any extraneous aid.
Then about the recuperation of health for which I went to Wai. I had made it
a rule to walk ten to twelve miles. Then Began grinding 6 to 8
seers (12 to 15 lbs) cereals with a hand-mill.
At present I do 300 namaskars and take a walk every day for physical
exercise. This has improved my health.
Regarding my diet: I have never taken other condiments, but, for the first six
months I used to take salt. I am now on a salt less and spice less
diet. I have started taking milk. Many experiments proved that I
cannot go without milk. But my desire to give it up, if possible,
persists. For a month, I had nothing but milk, lemon and bananas, but
I found that I was getting weak. This is my present diet: Milk
1lbs., jowar chapattis 2, bananas 4 or 5, lemon 1, when available. When
I come to the Ashram, I intend to regulate my diet on your advice.
I am not tempted by any other food for the sake of its taste
only. All the same, I cannot help feeling that my present diet is
rather too luxurious. My daily expense over food, item by item is
about: bananas and lemon 4 pice, chapattis 2, milk 5, total 11. I want
to know from you what changes I should make. You will please write me.
Other things done:
Took classes in (1) the Gita. Free tuition to six students of the whole gospel
with full exposition of the verses. (2) Jnaneshwari (a big Marathi
exposition on the Gita by Jnaneshwar ), 6 chapters, 4 students
attended. (3) 9 Upanishads to two students. (4) Hindi propaganda: I
do not know Hindi well myself. But I used to read a Hindi
newspaper to some students. (5) English to two students. (6)
Excursions : nearly 400 miles on foot. Saw fortresses of historical
fame such as Rajgarh, Sinhagarh, Torangarh etc. (7) Used to hold
during my tramps discourses on the Gita, which have come to 50 in
all till now. Even now, I propose to foot it to Bombay and then
take a train for Ahmedabad to rejoin the Ashram. A student, 26 years
old, has been throughout with me in my journeys and he too is at
present footing it out in my company. He is not inclined to study
the Gita from anyone except myself. The latest date of my entry
into the Ashram is Chaitra Sudi 1 (the New year's day in Maharashtra
falling generally in April). (8) I started at wai an institution
called the Vidyarthi Mandal (student's association ) and founded a
library in connection with it. We, fifteen students and myself, formed
a club of hand-grinders and our earnings were used in buying books
for the library. We offered the same rate (1 pice for 2 lbs) as
the local grinding mill, and thus could draw customers. Sons of even
high-class families were members of the club. Wai is a centre of
orthodoxy and since the hand-grinders were all Brahmin students
studying in the high school, we were ridiculed by the public as
faddists and fools. All the same, our grinding club continued for two
months, and 400 books have been stocked in the library. (9) I tried
very much to propagate the principles of the Ashram; I attended its
annual celebration. (This celebration means nothing more than a meeting
for comparison of the notes of members as to the work accomplished
and the work to be done.) I put before them the idea of spreading
Hindi and I have every reason to believe that the institution will
take up the work. Since you have begun an effort for the
propagation of Hindi, I may say that this institution in Baroda will
be prepared to associate with you in the work.
And finally, I must state how I have behaved as an inmate of the Ashram. These
are our vows : Control of the palate: I have already dealt with this
vow during my reference in this letter to my dietetic experiments.
Non-possession : a wooden dish (thali), bowls, one lota (a small jug)
belonging to the Ashram, dhoti, a blanket and books comprise all my paraphemalia.
I have taken a vow not to use a shirt, a cap and a
coat. I wrap my upper body also with a dhoti. I use only
hand-woven clothes. Swadeshi (exclusive use of articles made in one's
own country) : I do not use a single foreign made article ( but
only if swadeshi is not taken in the expanded sense which you gave
it in your speech at Madras). Truth, non-violence, Brahmacharya : I am
sure that I have strictly observed these vows to the best of my
understanding of them.
What more shall I write? In my dreams and in my waking hours, only one
question haunts me : "Will God design to take service from me?" I
followed the rules of the Ashram (except one) and so, though the body
may be roaming outside, I am, in reality, always in the Ashram. It is
the ideal of my life. The one exception, alluded to above, is about
self-cooking, i.e., about making chapattis myself. I tried to observe
that rule also, but could not do so in my excursions.
If any question of offering Satyagraha arises, say, against the hardships of
the third-class passengers in railways, I will come immediately;
otherwise, I have given you above the latest date of my arrival in the Ashram.
What are the changes that have been made in the Ashram? How many students
are there? What is your scheme of national education? And what
changes should I make in my diet? I am longing for advice on all
these points. And you must write the reply yourself, in your own
hand; that is the earnest and insistent prayer of this 'Vinoba', your
son, whom you are no other than his revered father.
I will leave this town in a few days.