My dear Pranav,
I was happy to learn from your grandpa that you read my letters with
interest. You wanted to talk to me rather than phone or write to
me. I like that. Seeing is believing. A lot more can be said face
to face. You will be surprised to know that Vinoba has written very
few books but he has given hundreds of talks and that all his
books are really compilations of his talks. The style, therefore is
more direct, which can be understood by villagers with whom he had
his talks face to face in all parts of India.
Another important point about Vinoba is that he always thought and
expressed himself in Marathi or Hindi. You will find quotations from
Jnaneshwar, Tukaram, Eknath and Ramdas in his speeches. They were all
saint poets from Maharashtra. He also quotes from Kabir, Mirabai,
Tulsidas, Thiruvalluvar, Andal, Mahadevi Akka, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Narsi
Mehta and other Bhakti poets from all over India. Besides Marathi, he
was well-versed in Sanskrit, Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Bengali, Oriya, Kannada,
Malayalam, English, French, Arabic, German and dozens of Indian languages.
He did his best to read all religious texts in their original
languages. He published books on the essence of the Bible, the Quran,
Dhammapada, Gurubodh, Tao, and Manusmriti. His abiding love and mastery
however was the Gita, the Upanisads and the Vedas.
According to Vinoba, the people who influenced him most were
Sankaracharya, Jnaneshwar, Mahatma Gandhi and his own mother. He
translated the Gita into Marathi. It is called Gitai or Mother in
Gita. He wrote it for his mother, as she did not understand
Sanskrit. Gitai is the most simple and beautiful rendering of the
Gita in the same meter in Marathi. It is considered a masterpiece
in content as well as style. Vinoba's talks on the Gita are rated
very high in the tradition of Sankarbhashya (Sankaracharya), Jnaneshwar (Jnaneshwar) and Gitarahasya
(Lokmanya Tilak). The Gita was his life breath.
Vinoba has gifted us with one beautiful thought by way of a simile. What is swas (breathing )in individual life is
viswas (trust )in social life.
Without trust in each other we cannot live together or even sleep.
We will be worried about safety. Do you not see prime ministers and
others surrounded by body-guards? But you have totrust the
body-guards. They can also kill, as they did in the case of Indira
Gandhi. Social life is impossible without trust, Real beauty, of course,
lies in the short pithy sentence where swas and viswas rhyme
beautifully. It is not possible to translate it into English.
Vinoba's speeches and writings are full of such pithy sentences. The more you
think about them, the more meaningful you find them. That is the
Upanisidic style. The risis stated the sutra or the precise word or
mantra. You have to think over it again and again. You find newer
meaning everytime. That is the way you keep yourself changing
continuously. Sutra or the thread of truth is permanent; each
generation, each individual has to find newer and newer meanings. This
was the open-ended Hindu style of thought. You will find it exciting,
Pranav, once you start reading more and more about it.
L. N. Godbole