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ASSOCIATES OF MAHATMA GANDHI > VINOBA BHAVE > MY DEAR PRANAV > Ahimsa - The Way of Living

Ahimsa - The Way of Living

5th August, 1990

My dear Pranav,

Another idea Vinoba propounds on the basis of Vedanta is that of Ahimsa (Non-violence ). In fact, his life story has been compiled by disciples and it summarises Vinoba's life in two words; Ahimsa / khoj (search for non-violence).

In his inimitable style, Vinoba puts to you the necessity of Ahimsa in the following words. Again you will see that he expounds it from the basic assumptions of Vedanta.

"Each one of us is in a body, and our body separates us from all other bodies. If I fall ill, I alone experience the illness. Another man may imagine my troubles, he cannot feel my bodily aches and pains. Neither can he reap the benefit of the sound sleep that I enjoyed last night. Since our bodies are separate, they are a source of our divisions....

"Because each one of us is bound to a body, we feel bound also to those with whom we have some bodily relationship: fathers, mothers, children. Around our bodies we build up circle of relatives. The caste into which I am born is mine too; I associate with it and keep others at a distance. This is the basic reason for all those divisions of race, caste, creed, language, province, nation etc., by which the world is broken into fragments. I put myself into group, in other words I put what is "mine" on one side and the rest of the world on the other. Then I go on enlarging my circle. As things stand, "I" am a human being so I exclude animals, birds, etc., from "my" group. I am an Indian, so I exclude other nations and peoples....

"Who am "I"? the ancient Hindu sages answered: I am Brahman" that is all inclusive, cattle and donkeys and all. This experience of the unity of life is termed Vedanta. It means that I must try to treat all beings with equal respect....This idea that equal honour is due to all is the basis of Ahimsa, non-violence....

"Ahimsa is a way of living. Vedanta is a way of thinking. Vedanta tells us what is; ahimsa conduct tells us how to act...How shall we understand this idea, I am Brahman and realise its meaning? I have ears, eyes, nose. I have a mind, sense and an intellect. And "I" am one who recognises these facilities, I am the "witness' (Sakshi) who observes them all. This "I" who recognises all this is other than mind....This is the method of Vedanta, to think of the self as the ' witness'. (1)

Once you start enlarging your definition of "I" you include more and more in it. In the end you include all life. That is where you become a greater and better human being.

Today, when we talk of ecology, when we study the interaction of all living things, it is basically an attempt to enlarge your idea of "I". We will achieve nothing so long as we do not have this inward experience, that inspite of all diversities of appearance, we are all one. The secret is to let "we" drive out "I". Let us at least say that "I" should be into "we". This was Vinoba's basis for all social service.

With love,

Yours,

L. N. Godbole