Acharya Vinoba Bhave (1895-1982)

Vinayak Narahari Bhave, known as Vinoba, was born at Gagoda, in the Kolaba district of Maharashtra on 11 September 1895. Vinoba who was deeply attached to his mother, Rukminibai, inherited her austerity, asceticism and altruism. His father, Narahari Shambhurao, was an ardent advocate of western learning and science.

Vinoba was a brilliant student. He studied Sanskrit and became proficient in all Hindu scriptural books. He was a self-taught multilinguist.

Before Vinoba came into contact with Gandhiji, the perusal of the Dasabodh of Swami Ramdas and Tilak’s writings in Kesari made him resolve to dedicate himself to the service of the country. At Sabarmati he began to expound the Bhagavad Gita. About the Gita, Vinoba said, "In all my actions, Gita has been my guide".

Once he became an ardent follower of the eleven vows, included in Gandhiji's daily prayer, Vinoba shed the last trace of untouchability left in him. One day he consigned to the flames his sacred thread, which signified Brahmin superiority. In his famous Bhoodan campaign, Harijans had a special consideration. As most of them were landless, he decided to distribute one-third of his land gains among Harijans. His aim was to make universal brotherhood a living reality for the rich and the poor alike.

He was one of the moving spirits behind the Nagpur Flag Satyagraha. In 1930 he was arrested and sent to prison for participating in the Dandi march. In prison Vinoba dictated his Maxims of Independence.

The Sevagram School was the first experimental base for Gandhiji’s educational ideas, which Vinoba put into practice. After India became free he started the Sarvodaya movement for the establishment of equality. He fought for this until he breathed his last on 15 November 1982.

Of Vinoba, Gandhiji once said: "He is one of the Ashram’s rare pearls—one of those who have come not to be blessed but to bless, not to receive but to give".