Thus Spoke Mahapragya - Vol.1: 19. Small Vows of Truth

Published: 14.04.2011

Small Vows of Truth

The entire world is like a mirror where everybody's reflection is seen. We are able to see the reflection, but not the source of the object, which is causing this reflection. Even from a Jain point of view, we only hear the reflection of the sound but not the sound itself. Even when we see, we see the reflection but fail to see the source which is causing this reflection. It is very difficult to see the main source. It is only with complete dedication and devotion that we will be able to see the real source.

At Raj Ghat (memorial of Mahatma Gandhi), a major event was to take place. It looks as though the cool breeze that was flowing had stopped for a moment to witness this major event. It was the union of the two great personalities. From one end came Acharya Tulsi and from the other end arrived Vinoba Bhave. This memorable moment would always go down the history as an important event.

Anuvrat and Land Gift movement

Meeting between Acharya Tulsi and Vinoba Bhave was a memorable one and it was the union of sacrifice and donation.

On one hand we had the path of sacrifice as Anuvrat Movement (movement started by Acharya Tulsi) and on the other hand we had the path of donation as Bhoodan Yatra (movement started by Vinoba Bhave who travelled on foot with the specific purpose of asking the people to gift away their excess land). It was the union of sacrifice and contribution. Both play an important role in the society. Violence was increasing everywhere as a result of the shortage of cultivable land. This let to the Bhoodan Yatra.

On one hand the naxalites population and their terrorism was increasing at a very fast pace. The Land Gift movement started by Vinoba Bhave was a very effective solution to this problem. On the other hand the problem of unethical values was increasing and Acharya Tulsi brought about the revolution in the form of Anuvrat. This union of contribution and sacrifice is a rarity in its own. Where there is sacrifice, there cannot be donation and where there is donation, there cannot be sacrifice.

During the conversation Vinoba Bhave said that he has accepted one vrata (vow). People were surprised and were eager to know which vow Vinoba Bhave had adopted. Vinoba Bhave further said that the shraman (Jain ascetics) tradition of pad-yatra dates from the ancient days. He had adopted their way of living in his life. His Bhoodan Yatra (Land-Gift Movement) would be carried further by pad-yatra (walking the length of India) as it was a very powerful medium to reach the masses.

Acharya Tulsi said that the movement started by Vinoba Bhave would help him to connect the masses and its popularity was already growing. A poor man who doesn't have a meal to eat, clothes to wear or a hut to live this movement would enable him to own a piece of land. It would fill one big necessity in his life and serve a means to earn his livelihood. When we were travelling from Madhya Pradesh to Rajasthan, we stopped on the way to drink water. Some group of people came forward and said “Swamiji. We do not have water to drink, land to till and bread to eat. How do we live? They pleaded us to help them to arrange for their livelihood so that they can get means to live.

It was a big problem. We need food to eat and for food we need land. It is the greatness of the Mother Nature that the land is giving people food to eat. Vinoba Bhave's efforts will surely yield results. He too commended about the work carried out by Acharya Tulsi. He asked him a question. “Acharya Shri! I have read about Anuvrat and its code of conduct. They are good. They can be very useful for an individual, society and even nation. I have a question in this context.”


It is important that a person understand the meaning of the word in the context it is spoken.

He further asked “Acharya Shri! How is Anuvrat of Truth(small vows of truth) possible? I don't think so this is possible. It is possible for one to take vows of non-violence (Anuvrat of Ahimsa). But 'truth' is in its entirety and it cannot be broken down. Truth is one of the five great vows, which a Jain monk follows. Acharya Shri clarified to the question raised by Vinoba Bhave. This clarification is very important and must be understood clearly. Acharya Shri said “The word 'truth' has various meanings and one needs to think deeply to understand this. The meaning of this word differs based on the context. It is very important that one understands the context in which the word is used.” Even in the poetic literature if one doesn't understand the usage of the words with respect to the context, then its meaning can be totally different.

A man was eating his food. He said 'Saindhav Anay Saindhav Lao'. 'Sendhav' means salt and it also means horse in Sanskrit. The person who heard this bought a horse. The person had asked for salt, but he was given a horse. If one doesn't understand the meaning of the word without knowing the context then it can lead to blunders. When it is used in the context of eating, it would refer to salt. Hence one must understand the context in which the words are used.

Anuvrat and Truth

In the context of Anuvrat, truth means true statement.

What Vinoba Bhave is saying is that Anuvrat of truth (small vows of truth) is not possible. Truth is in its entirety and it cannot be broken down further. However in the context of Anuvrat, truth means speaking the truth. Hence Anuvrat of Ahimsa (non-violence) and Anuvrat of speaking the truth (Vows of speaking the truth). In this context the meaning of 'truth' is not the eternal meaning. Vinoba Bhave was convinced with the reply and the atmosphere of discussion became very healthy and fruitful.

I also wrote an article in which I have elaborated further that the truth associated with Anuvrat is not the universal truth. However it relates to the truth in speech. For example a man can say that he cannot escape from telling small lies, but he will not tell a big lie. In every day context you can escape from small lies. For e.g. if you want to go somewhere you can say “We will go there.” If you are not able to go there, you can say that “We cannot go there. My health is not alright or I have a headache.” One should not tell big lies which can harm others. This is the meaning of Anuvrat's truth.

Here the meaning of the word truth is not the eternal meaning. Mahatma Gandhi had said about this eternal truth that “Truth comes first followed by non-violence”. God is the Truth. This truth is an eternal truth which signifies your soul. The truth, which Anuvrat talks about, signifies the truth in speech. Hence the truth has been bifurcated into two types one which is eternal and indivisible and one which signifies the truth in speech and is divisible. The discussion went on for a long time on various topics and lot of people actively listened to the discussion. The entire discussion has been documented in “Mera Jeevan: Mera Darshan”.

During the first conference on Anuvrat, many questions were asked about Acharya Tulsi. Who he was? Where did he come from? Where is his ashrama? When he first met Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru all the newspapers carried headlines about Acharya Tulsi. When Jawaharlal Nehru came to Sapru House and gave a statement. This statement became the headlines of many newspapers and this event was even aired by Radio. After this Acharya Tulsi became the most talked about personality. When Acharya Tulsi met Vinoba Bhave, lot of eminent personalities from the Buddhist community had gathered and they too enquired about Acharya Tulsi. They said that they knew who Vinoba Bhave was; they also knew that he was the disciple of Gandhiji and was staying in Pavnar Ashram, but they didn't know anything about Acharya Tulsi. At that moment I had the difficulty as to how to answer so many questions.

The curiosity and awareness among the people about Acharya Tulsi increased and they wanted to know where he was born? How was his childhood? When did he become a monk? Why did he start the Anuvrat revolution? I could not avoid so many questions that were asked and we have to answer them.

On a 24th January


Mahapragya ne Kaha - Vol.1 Translated by:
Rakesh Kumar Jain Online Edition: 2011

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Tulsi
  3. Ahimsa
  4. Anuvrat
  5. Anuvrat Movement
  6. Gandhi
  7. Gandhiji
  8. Madhya Pradesh
  9. Mahatma
  10. Mahatma Gandhi
  11. Non-violence
  12. Pandit
  13. Pradesh
  14. Raj Ghat
  15. Rajasthan
  16. Sanskrit
  17. Shraman
  18. Soul
  19. Tulsi
  20. Vinoba Bhave
  21. Violence
  22. Vrata
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