My dear Pranav,
Did you get my first letter? I continue with the same thoughts. Brahman (it)
Exists (is). Vinoba was a firm believer in spirituality (adhyatma)
or Science of understanding brahman. He believed that Religion and
Politics were outdated. The future lies with Science and Spirituality.
All of us are children of Light. We are a part of brahman. This self Atman
and Brahman or Parmatman Advaita or non-duality. But who am "I"?
What am "I" in all this?
Vinoba left his home at the age of 16 when he was in the second year of
college. He was studying at Baroda, when he left for Varanasi in
the north. His basic desire was to learn and understand what
Brahman is (Atha to brahmajignysa). He wanted
an answer to who am I?
He clearly knew that a man is not his clothes. A man is not his hands, legs
or even the sum total of the parts of his body. A man is not
just his body. This is called Dehabhava You must know that you are
something different and better than your body. Then you see how you
are related to others. But such ideas or thoughts are like seeds.
"I discover many a time that thoughts keep on developing in deep
sleep. Seed that is covered with soil appears to have been lost, but
it continues to develop underground. It seems this is a similar
process." (1) How are you related to the total? How are you related
to brahman? Vinoba's life was a constant search for the truth about
this self (atman) and the Supreme being (brahman). All his actions and
thoughts were based on this basic mind-set.
Pranav, you may find this rather tough. Most people will not accept the
brotherhood of human beings unless they accept the fatherhood of God
(brahman) (2). But let me tell you that it will be increasingly
clear as you grow and think. Take your name, for example; Pranav or
Aum is the original expression of brahman. It is called the first
Mantra. It is a symbolic expression common to all religions born in
India. All our prayers and religious ceremonies start with aum.
It is the beginning of the Vedas. It has three different syllables. A, U and
M. The beginning and end of the Sanskrit (Nagari) vowels is A and M,
(Ah). The Vedas consist of all alphabets (Aaksharas) and each
alphabet is a Mantra. If you make words out of them it is your
commentary on them. It is not original. Akshara (letter) is that
which does not diminish. Aksharas are original. Words and sentences
are commentaries or interpretations given by others (3). So how do
you propose to put meaning into these three syllables? It is upto
you. Your parents have given the mantra to you. You have to search
for its meanings.
That reminds me of a beautiful story which Vinoba narrated in his early
writings. You do use a dictionary when you come across a difficult
word. Don't you? What does a dictionary give to you? Does it give
meaning? No. It gives another word which is possibly simpler or
better known. It gives a synonym. Vinoba said that in Sanskrit the
word for horse is ashva. What is the meaning of ashva? No, not a
horse. The meaning is grazing or running a race. What you get in a
dictionary is a similar word. You don't get meaning in a dictionary.
You have to search for it in life. You have to search for it in
living. This is the beginning of education or learning.
In Sanskrit, there is no direct word for teaching. The right word is "learning". The
teacher makes learning possible. The meaning of a word is to be
learned by you. It is to be searched for in real life. We use a
lot of words, but we do not always understand them. We do not
experience them. And unless we experience them they do not become a
part of our understanding or knowledge. Take the simple word fear.
Unless you see something fearful or a car passes very near you and
your hairs stand on their ends you do not understand what fear is.
Otherwise you will go on using more and more words, but not more
full meaning. Understanding a meaning alone changes you. You will not
change. You will not grow. You will only use more words.
Let me end this letter with a small story. Vinoba says Prajapati (creator of the world) gave a mantra,
"da". Devas interpreted it as "daman", to rule. Asuras
interpreted it as "daya", compassion. Manushyas interpreted it as "daan",
giving (4). Each one is right according to his light. No one is
wrong. This is the beauty of our great Hindu Tradition. There is no
one correct answer. All answers have an equal right to exist. All
of them have equal justification. There need not be any conflict
about the "right" meaning.
L. N. Godbole