This book is not
Vinobaji’s autobiography. He himself used to say that if he were to
sit down and write, the result would not be ‘the story of the self’1,
but a story of the ‘not-self’, because he was ‘Vinoba the
forgetful’. But he neither wrote nor dictated any such story of the
not-self. But during the course of his thousands of talks he used to
illustrate his topics by examples from experience, and these
naturally included some incidents from his own life. This book is
simply an attempt to pick out such incidents from various places and
string them together.
It follows that there are limits to what can be done. This is not a
complete life story, only a glimpse of it. There is no attempt to
give a full picture of every event, every thought, every step of the
way. It brings together only those incidents and stories which are
to be had in Vinoba’s own words. Some important events may therefore
not be found in it, and in some places it will seem incomplete,
because the principle followed is to use only Vinoba’s own account.
Nevertheless, in spite of these limitations the glimpses will be
found to be complete in themselves.
Children are fond of playing with a ‘jigsaw puzzle’, where a
complete picture, painted on a wooden plank, has been cut up into
small pieces of many shapes and sizes; the aim is to fit them
together in their proper places and so re-build the picture.
Sometimes the players make mistakes and insert a piece into the
wrong place, so that the picture is spoiled. The trouble is with the
child’s lack of skill, not with the original painter of the picture.
It is possible that in putting together these fragmentary ‘glimpses’
of Vinoba’s life similar mistakes may have crept in.
But then, as Jnanadev asks, how can one number the Infinite, or add
lustre to the Supreme Radiance? How can the mosquito grasp in its
fist the illimitable sky? As he goes on to say, there is one basis
on which it can be done. The work has been undertaken in a spirit of
utmost devotion on the basis of the ‘gift of fearlessness’ received
from Vinoba. Vinoba has both given and received gifts of many kinds,
but this gift of fearlessness which we have received from him is the
quintessence of his own quest for non-violence, and shows that the
quest was successful. There can be no doubt that these glimpses of
his life will inspire and strengthen us to carry on that quest with
enthusiasm. They are offered here in the name of the Lord.
The Hindi word for 'autobiography is atma-katha,
literally 'story of the self'.