Once, Gandhiji was having a conversation with his friend C F Andrews, in his Kochrab Ashram in Ahmedabad. The Kochrab Bungalow, owned by Gandhiji’s barrister friend Jivanlal Desai, had been converted into an ashram.
A young man having a lean figure and a small beard crossed the pair. Upon catching sight of the young man, Gandhiji said to Andrews, “Deenbandhu… look at this dynamic young man. He has joined the ashram not to seek blessings, but to shower it with his own blessings…”
The young man was Vinayak Narahari Bhave, later known as Vinoba Bhave, the National Teacher of India and the spiritual successor of Mahatma Gandhi.
Upon his arrival from South Africa, Gandhi had set up an Ashram in the Kochrab bungalow in 1915. Vinayak was then a student in Kashi, who was profoundly influenced by Gandhiji’s speech.
Since then, Vinayak threw all his certificates into the fire while on his way to appear for the intermediate examination at Bombay and desired to devote himself to the freedom of the country by following the ideals of Gandhiji.
Young Vinayak wrote an emotional letter to Gandhiji about his decision.
He was completely overwhelmed when he received a response from Gandhiji, asking him for a meeting at the newly set up Kochrab Ashram.
When young Vinayak reached Kochrab ashram to meet Gandhiji, he was told that Gandhiji awaited him in the kitchen. With much trepidation in heart and an anxious mind, young Vinayak entered the kitchen only to see Gandhiji busy in chopping vegetables.
Completely mesmerized as he stood in the presence of his idol, Vinayak could not believe his eyes.
He did not utter anything for a long time. Gandhiji smiled at his and comforted Vinayak by welcoming him while cutting vegetables.
It was 7th June 1916 – an auspicious day in the annals of Indian history, as an outstanding Guru was meeting a competent disciple to carry forward the mantle of ideals propounded by the Guru. And the guru was none other than Gandhi himself.
Gandhiji was also highly impressed with Vinayak’s indomitable courage, his spirit of devotion and dedication and above all his steep knowledge of mathematics and philosophy.
As a result, young Vinayak was awarded full-time membership of Gandhiji’s Ashram.
Later on, Gandhiji relocated his Ashram on 17 June 1917 to the banks of river Sabarmati. It is believed that sage Dadhichee, who had donated his bones to make ammunition to fight against demons, had performed “yagyan” on the banks of the Sabarmati long ago.
So, by establishing an ashram on the banks of the Sabarmati, Gandhi was carrying forward the pious consciousness and thoughts which would0 purify the flow of civilization and humanity.
Gandhi picked Vinayak to assist him in his noble endeavour. Within no time, Vinayak earned the affections of everyone in the Ashram.
Vinayak would recite verses from the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, give lectures on philosophy and teach the youngsters apart from working in the kitchen and cleaning toilets along with Gandhiji.
Vinoba walked more than 36,500 miles. He was gifted with 40.4 lakhs acres of land by the people of India. Bertrand Russel called him as the “walking messiah and saint” and requested him to join the anti-nuclear march in London in 1962.
While Vinoba was touring various parts of India, he spent a few days in the company of Hallam Tennyson, the grandson of English poet Alfred Tennyson.
After accompanying Vinoba, Hallam Tennyson quoted, “The modern world has made many a progress but is devoid of true saints. Vinoba is one saint who can guide us.”
Vinoba was truly a saint and an able inheritor of Gandhiji’s spiritual legacy.
The author is a public policy analyst and can be reached at 9868766705.