The Quest for the Royal Road: A Memorable Meeting

Published: 08.02.2016

I have met Vinobaji on two occasions. I met him for the first time in 1949 at Delhi and then again at Gopuri this year. The meeting at Delhi was of preliminary nature and it was brief, lasting just for an hour. Prior to that meeting, I had not known Vinobaji directly or indirectly. But both of us had started a padyatra-I was a Jain monk and he the spiritual heir of'Mahatma Gandhi. We met at the Gandhi Samadhi at Rajghat.

It is said that goodness cannot have mutual contact. If that is so, our meeting was an exception. Our relations became increasingly intimate from the day we met. Inspite of geographical distance, our inner closeness continuously grew. Our meeting at Gopuri took place in the same background. As Vinobaji is going deeper into the world of spiritualism, his heart is becoming purer, and his spiritualism acqualism acquires an added lustre. I do not know how, but Vinobaji had given me the impression that he was not affectionate, soft-hearted and sweet. How could any person be practical without these qualities? I had no doubt at all about his spirituality. During this meeting that impression was wiped out.

I was at the Sewagram Ashram. Rishabh Dasji Ranka and others said, "Please come to the ashram in the evening, and welcome Acharyaji." Vinobaji said,"Acharyaji would come walking. It would not be proper to go there by car to receive him. I shall also walk to welcome him."

We were going to Gopuri from Sewagram. We left after sunset. On the way, we had to stop at places where some of the activities of the Ashram were being carried on. It took a little more time. Gopuri was still two and a half miles away. Just about that time, we noticed a group of people approaching from the opposite side. I was astounded to see that Vinobaji, inspite of his physical weakness, was walking along with them.

We moved on towards Gopuri. Vinobaji held my hand. I said, "Your grip is very strong". He said, "It is no easy thing to hold someone's hand. One has to keep holding it." We entered Gopuri and were soon near the Vinoba Kutir. I said, "You have walked a long distance and you must be tied. You have now arrived at your place. We shall find our way." But he did not listened to me. We were to be put up in the Library Hall of Gopuri. We reached that place. As I stood there before him, he said "You are our guest. You have your seat. Then I shall leave." He left only after I took my seat.

Muni Champalaji, who is a missionary of service said, "You walked a long distance to receive us. It must have been really hard for you."

Vinobaji said, "Oh, brother, we are meeting after 25 years. It is a pleasure. Where is the question of trouble?" I told the workers, "Let us have our afternoon discussion at the Vinoba Kutir. It would be trouble for him walking down to this place again and again." I was waiting for their response. But in the meantime Vinobaji arrived. I said to myself that it should not be presumed about any dynamic spiritual person that he is not practical. Where spiritualism emanates in the real sense, it is impossible that the ocean of love should not heave. I personally experienced this during my visit to Gopuri.

We met several times during those three days. We had a frank exchange of views—from the individual to the universal. Our thinking was different in some matters, but in most matters we held similar views. Both in both cases, the same feeling of love and the same goodwill prevailed between us.

At the Individual Level

I said, "We were planning to be here yesterday evening, but could not make it for two reasons.

Firstly, the desire to experience the p,ast of Sewagram in the present held us back.

Secondly, we have heard that you go to sleep at 5.30 in the evening. Is there any particular reason for going to sleep to early?"

Vinobaji said, "There is a story about Sheikh Sadi. The king asked his advice. Sheikh Sadi asked the king: "Do you sleep at night or not?" The king said, "I sleep for six or seven hours." Sheikh Sadi said, "That is not enough. You must sleep at night for at least ten to eleven hours. Even during the day you must sleep as much as possible. The king wondered (what sort of a saint Sheikh Sadi was advising him to sleep." Sheikh Sadi said, "The more the king sleeps, the happier his subjects would be."

I said, "I can understand about the king sleeping so much. But why does not saint (like you) sleep so much? It is ordained that the person with mental equipoise should sleep for one prahara[1] that too during the third prahara of the night, meditate during the second prahara, sleep during the third prahara and study again during the fourth.[2]

Vinobaji said, "It is also said that everyone keeps awake during the first prahara of the night, the sex-indulgent keep awake during the second prahara, thieves keep awake during the third prahara and the yogis keep awake during the fourth prahara."

Study

We were discussing about the study of books, treatises ad scriptures. Vinobaji said in the course of that discussion, "I had indulged in that labyrinthine activity in my youth. I have read a lot, including works like acharanga, uttaradhyayana, kundkund, etc."

I asked, "Do you refer to such works even now?"

He said, "I have got to read i.' someone like you sends them to me."

I said, "Recently three treatises on the agamas have been published which have been compiled and edited here."

Vinobaji said, "when I was in jail, we had a Jain colleague. He gave me a book called chhahdhala to read. It was an excellent book."

"Yes, though a slim volume, it is a very good work."

Vinobaji said, "It would mean ill manners if I do not read the books given to me. But it is painful to read. Hence, I have got to find the middle path. I read some books and don't read others."

'You can never be ill-mannered." (peals of laughter fill the air).

Vinobaji asked, "What is the material of that band you put over your mouth?"

"It is made of cloth."

Vinobaji said, "In that case you must be washing it every day."

"There is a small piece of cloth inside which we clean. As far as I am concerned, I regard mukhavastrika[3] a symbol of restrained speech and courtesy. You find its description in the puranas as well. The Jain sadhus have been described there as mukhavastradharas[4].

Politics

Vinobaji's thinking is very clear. He has the capacity to carry the responsibility. But he takes upon himself only that responsibility which comes to him in the form of self-devotion. I asked him, "The Congress has split in two camps. The results are for us to see. Have you thought about it?"

Vinobaji said with great forbearance, "There was an English poet called Tennyson. He has written a poem in which a spring says, 'I have been flowing from times immemorial and I shall continue to flow. Men come and men go.' I am saying that there have been hundreds of rulers and ministers. They have come and gone. Their function is to come and go. Their coming and going makes no particular difference. Society was indivisible before and would remain indivisible. Similarly, it is only the Congress that has split. No particular damage has been done to the country on that account."

"Many of your colleagues and followers were in the Congress. If not to prevent the split, it was necessary to train them to avoid mudslinging."

Vinobaji asked, "Who are my colleagues?"

"You know it better yourself."

Muni Nathmalji said, "Who is not your colleague?" (Again the atmosphere was filled with pleasant laughter.)

"People had expected that you would say something on that matter."

Vinobaji said, "Why should I? Tulsidasji has said that speech is the embodiment of Saraswati. If it is deployed without reference to God or spiritual contemplation, one has to repent in the end. Hence, speech should be used only for a good purpose."

"But this was the matter of doing something good."

Vinobaji said, "there was a great leader and writer in Maharashtra-Lokmanya Tilak. He wrote continuously for 40 years. His articles were compiled and published in innumerable volumes. But they are not read to-day. His Gita Rahasya is a work of permanent value. Had it not been there, nothing by Tilak would be read. If this is so in the case of one of the greatest leaders of the country, what can be expected about others?

"Many people urged me to say something about the Congress split. If I agree to their request, I have to bear three responsibilities-responsibility to think, responsibility to take a decision, responsibility to give unsought advice. I cannot bear the burden of these three responsibilities."

"Badshah Khan also said nothing" I observed.

Vinobaji said, "It was up to him."

Muni Nathmalji asked, "Why don't you send your experienced workers into politics?"

Vinobaji asked Rankaji, "What do you say, Rishabh Das? Are you ready to go into politics?

Rankaji replied, "You are two great men seated before me. How can I ignore your command?"

Vinobaji said, "first of all, it is necessary to understand the form of our democracy. Democracy is like milk from dairy. In a dairy, milk is a mixture of the cows of all breeds. Therefore, it cannot be called absolutely useless. Nor can be called the best. In a democracy the people who get elected are neither the best type nor the worst type. In the days of royalty, it was said that if the king is good, his people are happy. If he is mean and vile, his people are unhappy. That is not the case in a democracy. In a democracy, it is all the middle rung. In a democracy, neither the best nor the worst people get elected. The best type of people do not get elected because they cannot spend money. Without spending money, it is not possible to get votes. I had read a Marathi poem. Its central idea was that we should not become victims of the vices of praising oneself speaking ill of others and uttering falsehood. I have added one more phrase to it that election is an exception to it. These days, elections are won only on the strength of these points. The best people cannot resort to them. The people would not even take their programme and election manifesto seriously. Just imagine that if I say that I shall not keep the army after winning the election, the people would say that what I say is correct, but they would not elect me, because they would want the army. Principles and ideals can be good, but elections cannot be won on their strength. That is the reason why good people cannot take part in elections. The best way is to educate people to understand the meaning of democracy. They should be told that those who get elected should be persons of good character. Democracy can be a better system if people are put up as candidates not on the basis of the party to which they may belong but on the basis of character. Therefore, priority should be given to awaken the public opinion.

Mahavira Jayanti

Vinobaji is a person given to spiritualism. Remaining within limits is being practical. Everyone has to accept the limits of place and time. Material limits too are inevitable for living. If one's emotions are boundless, those limitations would not limit one's outlook, his performance and accomplishments. They do not separate the realised truth from the rest of it.

While talking with Vinobaji, I felt I could freely accept that he was speaking the truth. Soon it was time of Mahavira Jayanti. I said, "Four years from now, there will be the twenty- fifth centenary of the nirvana of Bhagwan Mahavira. It has been decided to celebrate the occasion. It is the duty of the Jains. What would be your advice with regard to that celebration?"

Vinobaji said, "The Gandhi centenary came and went."

Muni Nathmalji said, "You must have made your own contribution towards it."

Vinobaji said, "I am free from that responsibility."

Muni Nathmalji asked, "But how can you have freedom from Gandhiji?

Vonobaji said, "I am free from Gandhiji also. Ever since I have begun the life of spiritualism, I have said goodbye to Gandhiji. Whatever I did for 50 years, I dedicated to God. Hence I am yogamukta-free from making any contribution. This is exactly what the Jains say."

The Nanak Jayanti was celebrated, so also the seventh centenary of Namdev. They were just the occasions. As such, these names should be remembered every day. But such occasions bring a sense of awakening. I had an occasion to speak about Mahavira when I went to Vaishali. I said, "All quarrels would be over if Mahavira is brought into our lives. There is scope for a quarrel when a person thinks that what he says is the only Truth and there is no Truth in what the other person says. If the element of Truth in what the other person says is grasped, there would be no cause for quarrel. Mahavira laid stress on satyagraha. Hence, first grasp the meaning of Truth and then become an upholder of Truth.

The Digambaras and the Sveig,mbdras have different ideas about Mahavira. One side says that Mahavira did not marry and the other side says that he was a married man and later renounced the world. When these two views are brought before me, I say that since I was not present at that time, I can give no opinon about it."

"The Government is also asking what should be done to celebrate the Mahavira Jayanti like the Buddha Jayanti?"

Vinobaji said, "You should say that those people (ministers and others) should begin living in simplicity and should become votaries of Truth."

A monk said, "Why did you not give this advice to the Government on the occasion of the Gandhi Centenary?"

Vinobaji replied, "Those who were celebrating the Gandhi Jayanti did come to me. I told them, 'After being burried, Christ resurrected from the grave in Jerusalem and announced that he had come out of the grave, and he would not be found there anymore. The same is true about Gandhiji. You are making his memorial in Delhi, but Gandhi says, 'I have already left Delhi, hence you would not find me there. You should go to the villages. You would find me in the villages."

Abandonment of Ownership (Visarjan)

The present problem can be described in two words- accumulation and want. The mountains are growing higher and the pits are becoming deeper. It is not possible to establish any similarity between them. Our legal system is making an attempt at bringing about an equation between them. But visarjan is necessary so that law can be mentally accepted.

I said, "We will like to know if you have any suggestion on visarjan."

Vinobaji said, "Visarjan is good-charity and renouncing are visarjan. I had written long ago an article entitled "Renunciation and Charity."

I said, "Charity reduces the interest on the capital and renunciation reduces the capital. Charity cuts the branches and renunciation cuts the roots. Some people cannot renounce. They are capable of giving charity. Buddha defined charity in the say way as did Shankara. Buddha described charity as sharing. Shankara also called it the same. Etymologically, the word dana (charity) means cutting and giving. Whatever is given in the spirit of both cutting and giving is really charity in the true sense. We have set up five or six ashrams in various parts of the country. One ashram is in Indore. It is called the Visarjan Ashram."

Muni Nathmalji said, "Some people tell our respected Acharya, 'Shankracharya travelled in South India' and so his four ashrams were established. Similarly, some centres must also be established in memory of your travels."

Vinobaji said, "we have already established five or six ashrams. You can have those ashrams instead of establishing new ashrams. I declare abondonment of my ownership over these ashrams."

Harmony Among Religions

In fact, there is only one dharma. This is because what is Truth is Dharma and what is Dharma is Truth. Dharma and Truth have been defined in innumerable ways. Dharma too became diffused on the basis of those definitions. Religions are many according to ordinary observers. According to genuine thinkers, inspite of innumerable forms of religions, their basic essence is one. Vinobaji is among those genuine thinkers who see no holes in the basic oneness of religions.

During the conversation I said, "My ideas about the unity among religions have been clear from the very beginning. During this travel, those ideas have become clearer. My entire travel has been called the Anuvrat Yatra. I have given the highest importance to humaneness wherever I went. My travel in the South has three main objectives-creating the atmosphere of humaneness, bringing harmony among religions and a revolution in religion. Revolution is necessary today even in the field of religion. It should not become a ritual. Once religion becomes ritual, its roots are crushed. Religion should be spiritually oriented. You also say that this is not the age of religion, but of spiritualism. Everywhere the people responded to all the three objectives of my travel. People were astonished that inspite of being the Acharya of a religious sect" I talked about humaneness instead of about my own religious sect.

Muni Nathmalji said, "Our respected Acharya even says that he is first a human being and then a man of religion, after that he is a Jain and after that a Therapanthi.

"That has paved the way for the unity of religions. Even the people of the state like Kerala, where a large section of the population is communist, felt that they too needed such a religion."

Vinobaji said, "You have talked about harmony among all religions. From whatever reading of scriptures I have done, I have felt that Mahavira gave us the intermediary point of view. He said that everything is not right if it is considered only in one aspect. Nobody's word should be challenged, because in a sense, it may also be right. If perspective is different, the naya (view-point) is different too. Mahavira's non-violence has been regarded as the best, but non-violence was always the best course. Even in the Vedas it has been said that "We should comment from the point of view of the friend."[5]

This too is a form of Mahavira's non-violence. But his particular characteristic is in what he said about seeing and thinking objectively and from the intermediary point of view. If anyone approached Mahavira for metaphysical discussion, he talked to that person in the light of his (that person's) faith and veer him round. He never imposed his principles on anyone. I am asked why are the Jains few in numbers? I tell them it is sensible to be few in numbers. Sugar is sweet. When mixed with milk, it mingles its identity with milk. When sugar is mixed with milk, people say that milk is sweet. But actually that is the sweetness of sugar. The Jains also mix with others and silently turn them sweet.

In Maharashtra, at one time when a child was sent to school he was first taught to pay his obeisance to Ganesha. The children were not Jains but the teachers were Jains. Hence, the second thing taught to the child was to pay obeisance to the Siddhas. That practice continues till today. By giving importance to others, the teachers taught with such dexterity that the sanskaras of what they taught sank deep into the minds of the children. Today, the Jain religion is less prevalent, but its existence is ineffaceable even after mingling with other religions. It is a mistake to multiply only the numbers. It is a secondary matter.

Sarvodaya and Anuvrat

Sarvodaya is the representative organisation of Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent programme. Vinobaji is the main figure, who conveys the ideas by arousing consciousness. Anuvrat campaign is also a campaign of non-violent programmes. Both proceed in the same direction. Hence, the question of their going together often arises.

There is also another reason for this. There are countless workers who are associated with both these activities. They are keen that these two activities should get closer. Only with that thing in mind, Vinobaji clarified some points in that connection. In my view, they are of great significance, because they are very clear as well as useful.

Vinobaji said, "Some people ask me how the workers connected with sarvodaya and anuvrat could be mutually complementary? I think both of them have their own limitations and they should realise their respective limitations. Their helping one another, while remaining within their own limits, by itself is a matter of satisfaction. It would be wrong if the sarvodaya workers expect the anuvrat workers to take to rural work or make them fill their forms. I do not consider it a right thing. The sarvodaya workers should only expect the anuvrat workers to try and convince the people about the concept oigramdaan. Similarly, the anuvrat workers also should not expect the sarvodaya workers to propagate the ideas of anuvrat. Their only expectation should be that the sarvodaya workers follow the path of anuvrat. The minimum limit of being complementary is only that the anuvrat workers should be satisfied if the sarvodaya workers follow the path of anuvrat."

Our discussions were very prolonged. I have narrated only some parts of it. There was satisfaction on both sides on account of that discussion. Neither I nor he felt contented. Not knowing when we would meet again, we let our discussions cover many aspects. I can see that during this discussion, Vinobaji's inner-self has found expression in the form of a pure stream.

Footnotes
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Sources

Title: The Quest for the Royal Road
Authors:
Acharya Tulsi
Publisher: Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
Edition: 2013
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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharanga
  2. Acharya
  3. Agamas
  4. Anuvrat
  5. Bhagwan Mahavira
  6. Buddha
  7. Consciousness
  8. Contemplation
  9. Dana
  10. Das
  11. Delhi
  12. Dharma
  13. Digambaras
  14. Gandhi
  15. Gandhiji
  16. Gita
  17. Indore
  18. Jayanti
  19. Kerala
  20. Kundkund
  21. Maharashtra
  22. Mahatma
  23. Mahatma Gandhi
  24. Mahavira
  25. Mahavira Jayanti
  26. Muni
  27. Naya
  28. Nirvana
  29. Non-violence
  30. Puranas
  31. Rishabh
  32. Sadhus
  33. Sadi
  34. Samadhi
  35. Saraswati
  36. Sarvodaya
  37. Tilak
  38. Uttaradhyayana
  39. Vedas
  40. Veer
  41. siddhas
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