ASSOCIATES OF MAHATMA GANDHI > VINOBA BHAVE >MY DEAR PRANAV > The Modern Side of 'Bhakti'
The modern side of 'Bhakti'
29th April, 1990
My dear Pranav,
Vinoba connected the old spiritual traditions like bhakti to modern times. This approach of finding out similarities and common bonds was one of his lifelong missions. He found in the Gita this idea fulfilled. He called it "abhidheyam param samyam." to see the ultimate equality in everything as the message of Brahman.
When Dharmaraja reached at last the gates of heaven, there was only a dog with him. Bhima, Arjuna and the others had fallen by the way side. He was told at the gate: "You can come in, but the dog is not allowed to enter." Dharmaraja replied, "If my dog cannot enter, neither will I." One who performs devoted service, even if only a dog, is superior to those who are always thinking of themselves. The dog proved its superiority over Bhim and Arjuna, who could not make it to the gates of heaven. No matter what sort of a person one is, if one goes into the presence of God, one becomes worthy of honour. No matter what sort of wood is thrown into the fire, it will glow. Bhakti is the wonderful means for attaining Him.
Those who plead, at a khadi exhibition, to the people to come in, say, "Do come in and have a look. Look at the fine texture, the bright colours, the beautiful patterns." Khadi provides work for millions who will otherwise have to go to sleep on empty stomachs. This message of God reaches the people once they enter Khadi exhibitions. This Bhakti for the common good illuminates the minds of people. They get connected to the community around them.
Vinoba commends such an attitude in a bhakta (1). He has said, he was once traveling in a train, passing over a bridge across the Jamuna. A passenger sitting next to him flung with great enthusiasm a coin into the river. There was a rationalist in the compartment who observed, "The country is poverty-stricken and on the top of that there are people who throw coins out of carriage windows." "You have not understood why he does it." I said, "The bhavana, the mental attitude with which he threw the coin is worth at least two or three such coins, is it not? If the money was given for some good cause, it would, no doubt, have been better. But then he was moved to do this because of the feeling that this is not a mere river, but the Lord's compassion flowing before us. Is there any room for this feeling in your economics?"
When his eyes saw one of his country's rivers, his heart melted. If you can assess in terms of money the value of this feeling, then I shall know how to estimate your patriotism.
Does love of country mean mere bread? If on seeing one of the great rivers of our country, the idea awakens in one's mind that one should immerse all of one's possessions in it, and dedicate them to it, how great is that love? In your creation, has the Lord a place? The river is a combination of hydrogen and Oxygen. The sun is a kind of big glass-lamp. One should therefore bow low before a loaf of bread? It is a kind of white earth. Why does your mouth water at the sight of it?
Here is the big bright sun just risen, here is the beautiful river flowing past - if you do not see God in them, where can you see Him? Wordsworth laments:
The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The sunshine is a glorious birth,
But yet know, wherever I go,
That there hath, past away a glory from the earth."
It is the attitude of mind towards things that makes all the difference.
L. N. Godbole