Jayprakash Narayan on Vinoba Bhave

During Gandhi’s life Vinoba’s name was not much known even in India. Today, however, the remotest villages resound with the words ‘Vinoba’ and Bhoodan. Even outside India, well-informed circles have sat up to take notice of the ‘walking saint’ and his land gift mission. Many thinkers in the West have seen in Vinoba's message a solvent for the war of ideologies that has become the despair of the human race.

Though he gave up college, Vinoba has remained a student all his life. Unlike Gandhi, he is an erudite Pandit of Sanskrit, Philosophy and religious literature of the world. He has studied the Koran in Arabic which language he learnt only to be able to read that holy book in the original. He knows the Bible and Christian religious literature as well perhaps as a Doctor of Divinity.

I shall not forget the occasion when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, the leader of the Montgomery, Alabama, movement of non-violent resistance to racial segregation, met Vinoba with his wife. Jim Bristol of the Quaker Centre, Delhi, it was, I think, who in introducing Mrs. King spoke of her proficiency in music and suggested that she might sing some hymns and Negro spirituals for Vinoba. Everyone was delighted at the suggestion. I looked at Vinoba and wondered if he knew what the Negro spirituals were. We were all startled, most of all the Americans, when Vinoba, as if in answer raised is ever downcast eyes towards Mrs. King and intoned softly, "Were you there, were you there, When they crucified my Lord?" When Mrs. King sang that spiritual, it had an added poignancy for us.

Vinoba is a linguist. Besides Sanskrit, Pali and Arabic, he knows English well, reads French, was recently learning German, and knows all the major Indian languages. He loved mathematics. His quest for knowledge is insatiable. But it is not knowledge as ordinarily understood. Most knowledge he regards as superficial and is interested in seeking after the fundamental truths of life. He has an uncanny capacity for separating the chaff form the grain and going to the root of the question. I have not met another person with a keen razor-like mind as Vinoba.

From the first day of contact Vinoba remained steadfast in his loyalty and devotion to his chosen master, though it would be doing an injustice to him to regard him as a disciple in ANY NARROW SENSE FO THE TERM. It was clear to those who came to know him even during Gandhi’s life time that he possessed a mind and character, an originality and above all, a spiritual quality, that were destined to take him beyond the limits of a mere follower – no matter how brilliant – and make him a master in his own right. Those who have followed closely Vinoba’s work and thought know how great have been his won experiments with truth and how significant his contributions to human thought. Particularly significant has been his development of the theory and practice of satyagraha beyond the stage where Gandhi left them.

Gandhi had vision of a new social order. A non-violent society based on love and human values, a decentralized, self-governing, non-exploitative, co-operative society. Gandhi gave that society the name of Sarvodaya – literally, the rise of all i.e. a society in which the good of all is achieved. Gandhi did not live to put his concept into practice. Nothing was more natural than that the task should have devolved upon Vinoba.

..It must be said that it (bhoodan) is the first attempt in history to bring about a social revolution and reconstruction by the means of love. Vinoba is doing a path finding job in this field. The results of his experiment may have a far-reaching impact on a world that is so torn with hatred and charged with violence.

One final word about Vinoba is essential so that he may be truly understood. Vinoba is not a politician, nor a social reformer, nor a revolutionary. He is first and last a man of God. Service of man is to him nothing but an effort to unite with God. He endeavours every second to blot himself out, to make himself empty so that God may fill him up and make him his instrument.

The talks of such a man of self realization on one of the profoundest spiritual works of all times should be of inestimable value to all - irrespective of race, creed or nationality.