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'And also' - Duties and Philosophy
22nd April, 1990
My dear Pranav,
Vinoba's capacity to put his thoughts in a few words was something remarkable. All his arguments are so gentle and persuasive that it is difficult to forget them. His interpretation of Indian thought is summarised by him in two words. He calls them "and also". In the original Hindi, it is actually one word, "bhi".
Vinoba explains it in his "Talks on the Gita" (1) with a story of Pundalika. Pundalika was a great devotee of Pandurang at Pandharpur in Maharashtra. Amongst The Vaishnavite temples in India, Pandharpur occupies a position similar to Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. Pundalik looked after his parents and served them with equally great devotion. Being pleased with such service, Lord Pandurang came running to greet and bless him. But Pundalik would not be beguiled by Pandurang and refused to give up his duty of service to his parents. Serving his old father and mother was for him, worship of GOD, true bhakti. He said to God, "Lord, you have come yourself to bless me with this vision. This I understand. But I believe in the doctrine of AND ALSO. I cannot accept that you alone are God. To me you are God, and my parents too are God. Since I am engaged in their services, I am unable to give you my attention immediately. Please forgive me."
So he pushed towards Lord Pandurang a brick for him to stand on and became absorbed again in his service to his parents. Legend has it that Lord Pandurang is standing on that brick since then for ages for his devotee to be free. Tukaram, a great saint poet of Maharashtra has taken up this example in one of his abhangs: "What mad love is this, that kept
Vitthal waiting;
What bravery to push a brick
for Him to stand on."
Vinoba says that the inclusive principle of AND ALSO enlarges your mind. It allows you to continue your duty (svadharma) but does not exclude other responsibilities. A man never falls into the tangle of conflicting philosophies, nor does he abandon his own principle (svadharma). He does not raise controversies like those Gita talks of "naanyadastiti vaadinah." "Those who say that nothing else is" and "only this exists-there is no other". On the other hand, Pundalika had a humble but firm attitude. "This is true. And that too is true. But for me, this is true."
In Hindi, "bhi" means AND ALSO". Once you accept that there are other ways of looking at things, you become a pluralist. You become inclusive. You have space for others also.
Vinoba, therefore, once suggested that in making India one nation we need not insist on one language. We can have Devnagari as the common script for all Indian languages. And this common script should be used along with the existing scripts. Its utility and use will make it easier for people to accept the common script. It would also be one more bond bringing all Indians together.
Such is the interpretation of the words AND ALSO. It is basic for any pluralist system like democracy.
With love,
L. N. Godbole