Throughout his life, Mahatma Gandhi gave emphasis to the notion that his twin principles of truth and nonviolence must be put in practice in every aspect of life as they have the strength to solve a number of human problems. His teachings were being practiced by his faithful disciples after achieving the political independence. The most prominent person in this regard is the leader and the spiritual heir of Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave (Bary, Hay, Weiler & Yarrow, 1958).
Vinoba Bhave is, thus, one of those great devout reformers of modern India whose selfless services have inspired the hearts of innumerable countrymen. At a very early age, Vinoba was determined to undertake a lifetime celibacy & selfless service to the needy. He was in search of a life in which he could synthesize both spirituality and practicality. When he discovered Gandhi, both of them worked for the regeneration and self-sufficiency of Indian nation (Mehta). Gandhi was so moved with the dedication of Vinoba that he praised Vinoba in these words, "At a tender age, Vinoba has acquired a degree of spirituality & ascetism that took me years of patient labour" (as qtd. In Mehta).
Vinoba Bhave (real name Vinayak Narahari Bhave), was born on 11th September, 1895 at Gagode, India. He is one of the most renowned Indian religious figures. He is one of India's most renowned social reformers and is also a widely respected and acclaimed disciple of Mohandas K. Gandhi. He is also the founder of the famous Bhoodan Movement ("Vinoba Bhave," 2012).
It was while studying Sanskrit in Banaras (Varanasi) that Bhave got the chance to become a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi. Bhave was such a tough follower of Gandhi that upon his request, he spent about 5 years in prison after resisting British wartime set of laws in 1940. Bhave was recognized by the majority of Indians as Gandhi's spiritual successor after his death in 1948. He was more interested in voluntary land revolutions than participating in politics. This was the reason why he founded the Bhoodan Movement (also known as land-gift movement) in 1951. For his movement, Bhave traveled thousands of miles of Indian land on foot so that he could collect donations of land to be redistributed to the landless later. The success of his land-gift movement is evident from the fact that Bhave was able to collect more than 4 million acres of land for redistribution to the poor and landless Indians by 1969. He also produced some excellent works including The Principles and Philosophy of Bhoodan Yajna (1955), Talks on the Gita (1960) and The Steadfast Wisdom (1966) ("Bhave, Vinoba," 2009). He was also given the noble title "Acharya" meaning teacher ("Vinoba Bhave," 2012). The Hindu tradition also refers to Vinoba as a saint. Even many of his critics considered him to be a moral idol. His personality was indeed a composition of "great compassion, selfless dedication, and relentless energy" (Shepard, 1987, p. 11).
A Distinguished Life
Bhave was born in an affluent Brahman family ("Vinoba Bhave," 2012). He spent some early years of his life at Wai. He belonged to a high-caste family where his father was a textile expert and his mother was a religious, charitable and kind. Vinoba's father had an earnest desire to send his sons to England where they could complete their higher education (Bary, Hay, Weiler & Yarrow, 1958, p. 924). However, Vinoba was different. He had started spending an ascetic life when he was just in his teen age. He abandoned his studies and was so severe in his ways that he burnt school certificates. His austereness is evident when he says, "They ask me, if my ceaseless wanderings are part of a religious pilgrimage, what is the God that I worship and why do I not go to the particular place where I may find Him? But I say that my God does not reside at any one place or point. My God resides in every human heart; He pervades the entire space and every object however small or big" (as qtd in Stiernotte, 1959, p. 136).
He read a public lecture by Gandhi in a newspaper who had arrived from South Africa to India some time ago (Bary, Hay, Weiler & Yarrow, 1958, p. 925). In his lecture, Gandhi had condemned the showy and flamboyant riches of the British officials in India and had called for a national freedom through passive and peaceful means (Shepard, 1987, p. 13). Vinoba felt so drawn and influenced Mahatma's moral and political fusion program that he packed up his bags and set for Benaras to join Gandhi's ashram at Sabarmati, near Ahmedabad in 1916 (Bary, Hay, Weiler & Yarrow, 1958, p. 925). According to Vinoba, Gandhi was a complete institution in whom Vinoba found "the peace of the Himalayas united with the revolutionary fervor of Bengal" (Shepard, 1987, p. 13).
At the Ahmedabad ashram, Vinoba spent 5 years with his spiritual teacher. He was a great learner and impressed his other fellows at ashram with his religious erudition and commitment to hard work (Shepard, 1987, p. 13). Due to Vinoba's distinguished portrayal of asceticism and dependability, Gandhi asked him to go to Wardha in central India in 1921 and open a new ashram (Bary, Hay, Weiler & Yarrow, 1958, p. 925). In due course, Vinoba also got the opportunity to lead a number of nonviolent action campaigns supervised by Gandhi and eventually spent much time in jail. Due to his devotion and dedication, Vinoba was greatly admired by Gandhi. At one point, Gandhi was reported to comment that Vinoba's understanding of Gandhian thought is far better than his own understanding. His regard for Vinoba was became clearly evident when he chose Vinoba over Nehru in 1940 to be the leader of a national protest campaign intended to object the British war policies (Shepard, 1987, p. 13). Gandhi praised Vinoba's qualities in these words, "He is one of the few pearls in the Ashram. They do not come like others to be blessed by the Ashram, but to bless it, not to receive, but to give!" (as qtd. In Narayan, 1970).
Gandhi's teachings influenced Bhave to such a highest degree that he chose for him a life of asceticism that was dedicated towards improving the life of Indian villagers ("Vinoba Bhave," 2012). During the eras of 1920s and 1930s, Bhave was put behind bars more than a few times ("Vinoba Bhave," 2012). In the earlier phase of 1940, civil disobedience movement was started by Gandhi. He thus decided that Vinob? would be the first satyagrahi to court arrest (Bary, Hay, Weiler & Yarrow, 1958, p. 925). As mentioned above, he served a 5-year imprisonment for his nonviolent resistance to British Raj ("Vinoba Bhave," 2012).During these years in prison, Vinob? who was already an expert in Sanskrit, decided to learn Arabic and the Dravidian languages of South India. When Gandhi was assassinated, people started looking Vinoba as the legatee and descendant of Gandhi in the dominion of nonviolent theory and practice (Bary, Hay, Weiler & Yarrow, 1958, p. 925).
The First Satyagarhi
In October 1940, Vinoba Bhave's name was echoed not only all over India but internationally too, for the first time. Without asking the Indian nation, the British Government had drawn the country into the Second World War. The Indian National Congress was, thus, left with no other option than to launch a non-cooperative movement against the British Raj and show its disfavor for involvement in the War. The Congress Working Committee decided to consult Mahatma Gandhi to guide the Indians concerning the scheme of civil resistance. Mahatma considered every aspect of the circumstances and decided that no mass civil disobedience would be feasible in such a scenario. Instead, he made his mind up for an individual satyagarha movement. Considering the political situation in the country, Gandhi put the emphasis on the quality instead of numbers. Thus, he chose Vinoba Bhave as the first satyagarhi (civil resister) followed by Jawahar Lal Nehru. However, he didn't announce Bhave's name and decided to visit him in Pavnar to get his permission (Narayan, 1970). He seek for his consent in the following words, "The Congress has asked me to launch a struggle against the British Government and has left the mode and time of the movement to me. I propose to begin with individual satyagarha and I have your name in mind as the first satyagrahi" (as qtd. In Narayan, 1970). Vinoba's reply was in affirmative.
Vinoba Bhave and the Gandhian Movement
Vinoba moulded the Gandhian ideology in his own manner and informed the Indian people that India has reached its goal of Swaraj (Independence). He emphasized that the new goal of Gandhians must be the creation of a society dedicated to 'Sarvodaya' (Welfare of All). Afterwards, the Gandhians Movement became popularly recognized as the Sarvodaya Movement. Vinoba, thus, turned out before the nation as the chief exponent of the Sarvodaya Movement. He carried out the Gandhi's nonviolent…