Eastern Philosophy Promotes Creative
Action in the Social and Political Realms 
 
 
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
 
 
 
Vinoba Bhave (1895-1982)
 
 
 
The life of Vinoba Bhave and the example left by him contain a key to the building of a new and better civilization.  
 
Born in India on September 11, 1895, Vinoba was a spiritual heir of Mohandas Gandhi and seems to have been wiser than his master.
 
In his youth, Vinoba asked Gandhi to accept him as his spiritual son. Gandhi answered with these words:
 
“Your love and character overwhelm me and I accept the role. A truthful father should produce a more truthful son than himself. In your case, through no effort of mine, I see that this has already happened.”[1]
 
A biography published by the government of India says that although Gandhi was much older and more experienced than his disciple, he regarded Vinoba as spiritually superior to himself.[2]
 
Using non-violent methods, Mohandas Gandhi formulated the project of political independence of India. He created a victorious movement of freedom from British domination. To reject, however, is easier than to build. In the struggle for independence, the creative aspects of Gandhi’s philosophy received less attention and made relatively little progress. 
 
For Vinoba, the main priority was constructive action from the beginning. He created a vast movement for social reform whose propelling force consisted in the feelings of compassion and brotherhood.
 
In numerous regions of India, Vinoba obtained land donations from big owners for the creation of co-operatives and productive communities in rural areas. Vinoba inspired people “to make a gift of land, gift of labour, gift of money, gift of tools, gift of knowledge”. In terms of land, five million acres were distributed among poor rural communities.[3]
 
The spiritual and social philosophy of Vinoba is far from limited to the Indian context. Its point of view is universal. In any country or culture, the basic challenge is not in struggling against that which we do not like or consider unfair. Such a task is of secondary importance. The main duty of good-willing persons is to organize the effective building of that which is good, true and morally beautiful, and to establish a historical and social trend that goes away from conflict and toward solidarity.
 
A creative process is largely silent, while destruction makes noise. Vinoba may be more advanced than Gandhi as a soul, yet his life did not create the same amount of noise and crisis.
 
Vinoba said:
 
“Love is more powerful than hatred.  Harmony is more natural. Spirit can move mountains. (…) The principal task (before the nation) is to purify the atmosphere of hatred which has pervaded the country. It is not possible to do that with forces of counter-violence and stronger hate. Love alone can purify it. The power of the State cannot bring it about. Only the people outside the official world can do it. The State can keep them. But the burden lies upon the people themselves.” [4]
 
In the absence of optimism and generosity, the “struggle against injustice” can only talk about problems and mistakes, producing more anger than justice.
 
The automatic mutual opposition of political and social organizations reduces the chances of a change of view. It destroys the feeling of respect for truth and establishes a sort of trench warfare in which the apparent dialogue is but a void ritual, and no one really believes in it.
 
The constructive effort prevents the mistake of fighting one form of selfishness with another form of egocentrism. A project based on solidarity fights the wrong thoughts by replacing them with right thoughts, and has Ethics as its foundation.
 
Criminal actions must be punished.  Every fraud has to be unmasked. It is necessary to ascribe due responsibility to thieves and corrupt individuals, making sure the law is enforced. It is also important to go beyond the justice of punishment. The patient intention of building correct social relations generates an enduring balance on the basis of one’s inner syntony with the ideal of human progression and perfection.
 
According to Vinoba, the building of good will is almost always more important than talking about mistakes and failures. Every vibration attracts similar vibrations: to think about Ethics makes Ethics grow. One correct action inspires another right action and thus a trend is generated. He wrote:
 
“The light cannot see darkness because it lights up all it looks at. In the same way the good man sees only goodness around him. But he does not live in a fool’s paradise, for his work rouses, sows, and gathers the goodness he wills to see everywhere.” [5]
 
The notion that there are opposite interests between different human beings or social sectors is false, and Vinoba wrote:
 
“The principle of Sarvodaya is that the good of all is contained in the good of each. It is impossible for the real interests of anyone person to clash with those of others. There is no opposition between the real interests of any one community, class or country. The very idea of conflicting interests is a mistaken one; one man’s interest is another’s, and there can be no clash.  But if we look upon evil as our good, and consider that our welfare consists in what is really injurious, then our ‘interests’ will come into conflict.” [6]
 
Through self-knowledge, human beings learn to transcend the struggles produced by the egocentric illusion.
 
Vinoba wrote these words on the conditions necessary to real learning:
 
“The gift of education is not a matter for pride, in fact an essential condition for being able to receive it is that we should grow in humility.  In our ancient books vidya (education) is equated with vinaya (humility); vinaya, in Sanskrit, is a synonym for education, and a student who had completed his studies was called vinit – perfected in humility. This humility is the fruit of true education. The teacher must be ready at all times to serve his students in humility; the students must learn humbly from the teacher. Teacher and student must each regard the other as a fellow worker.” [7]
 
The correct state of the soul is found within each individual. No political or religious leader can cancel the need for an arduous struggle of each human being with himself, in order to obtain eternal wisdom.
 
The pilgrim who expands his contact with the inner source of unconditional happiness becomes free to build in the external world that which is good and true, and which reflects the state of his soul. Such a construction begins on the plane of thought and feeling, before unfolding on the level of outward action.
 
NOTES:
 
[1] From the text “Acharya Vinoba Bhave (1895-1982), a Philosopher with Reborn Ideas”, issued by the Research and Reference Division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India, on 16 November 1982, with five pages. I received the article in 1983 from the Embassy of India in Brazil, upon request. See page 3.
 
[2] Document mentioned in the previous note, see the same page 3.
 
[3] “The Intimate and the Ultimate”, Vinoba Bhave, edited by Satish Kumar, Element Books, Great Britain, 1986, 113 pp., see p. 2.
 
[4] From the document “Thoughts of Acharya Vinoba Bhave”, issued by the Research and Reference Division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India, on 13 November 1982, 4 pages. I received a copy of it in 1983 from the Embassy of India in Brazil, after requesting information on Vinoba. See p. 1.
 
[5] From “Thoughts of Acharya Vinoba Bhave”, text by the Research and Reference Division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India, 13 November 1982, 4 pages, see p. 4.
 
[6] “The Intimate and the Ultimate”, Vinoba Bhave, edited by Satish Kumar, Element Books, Great Britain, 1986, 113 pp., see p. 41.
 
[7] “The Intimate and the Ultimate”, Vinoba Bhave, p. 21.
 
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The above article is available in Portuguese language at our associated websites under the title of “Vinoba e a Vontade de Construir”.   
 
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