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Gandhi and Vinoba : A Unique Pair
21st October, 1990
My dear Pranav,
So far, I have always written to you about what Vinoba said or did and argued. I have not written adequately about the great influence of Gandhiji on Vinoba. Gandhi and Vinoba were a unique pair of very different men who became a continuum. Vinoba is called the spiritual successor of Gandhi.
What did Gandhi Think of Vinoba? Gandhi told C. F. Andrews as early as in 1971 (just one year after Vinoba joined his Satyagraha Ashram ay Ahmedabad), that "He (Vinoba) is a rare gem. He has come to enrich us (inmates of the then Satyagraha Ashram at Sabarmati, Ahmedabad) with his virtue. He has come not to receive but to give." This turned out to be prophetic. After Gandhiji's death, all Gandhian thoughts and ideas were enhanced and used by Vinoba through bhoodan, gramdan, trusteeship, etc. He gave deeper meanings to the actions and ideas of Gandhi.
What was Vinoba's attitude towards Gandhi? "It was indeed God's boundless grace that brought me to Gandhiji, impelled me to sit at his feet. It would be impossible indeed to try and describe what I have gained under him at the ashram. It gave me the eye to see. It has been the source of all my inspiration and vision. My inner self witnessed that I have striven conscientiously and diligently to act upon Gandhiji's path of non-violence to my best....Whatever of his thought and teachings I have been able to like and assimilate, I have been trying to practise in full awareness each and every moment of my life. I have no doubt that after his passing away, I am doing only his work. I also believe my line of thinking reflects his line of thinking in essence."
According to Rang Rao Divakar, another Gandhian, Vinoba was not a blind follower of Gandhi, nor even an obedient disciple or a devoted imitator.
Vinoba said, "Bapu (Gandhiji) never conceived himself in the role of a Guru nor did he consider anyone his disciple, although I attach great importance to the institution of Guru."
Once a friend asked Vinoba, whether he should address Bapu as Gandhi or Gandhiji. Vinoba said: " If you consider him as a human being, a human being worthy of respect, you should call him Gandhiji. If you think of him as a thought, it would be sufficient to address him as Gandhi. For me, Gandhiji is no longer a person, he is an idea. He is an idea personified...
"We must take from great men only their ideas. We must not become too attached to what is incidental in their lives. We should also derive from their words the noblest meaning they can bear. That is to say we should look for their subtle import. In this age of science the Manu of the Puranas, or even Marx, won't do. I submit in all humility that even Gandhi taken at face value, won't do."
Such were the two great sons of India whose existence stretched as continuum from 1916 to 1982, almost 60 years of this century.
With love,
L. N. Godbole