Review of Book – Talks on The Gita by Acharya Vinoba Bhave

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‘Talks on The Gita’ or ‘Gita Pravachane’ are a series of talks delivered by Acharya Vinoba Bhave in 1932 in Dhule jail where Vinoba had been incarcerated by the British for his participation in the freedom movement. In the note from the publisher of this book:

Vinoba agreed to give a talk every Sunday and delivered 18 talks on the 18 Chapters. P.S. Sane alias Sane Guruji, a great writer and freedom-fighter, wrote them down in long hand. There was no question of their being taped and their publication was also not thought of. In fact, Vinoba had given talks on the Gita many times in the past, but none of them had been published. However, Sane Guruji preserved the notebooks and the talks were published first in his weekly newspaper, and then in the form of a book in 1940 when Vinoba was in jail even before he could find time to go through them for necessary editing.

It is not an academic treatise on the Gita. These are the talks given before ordinary individuals from different walks of life. It was Vinoba’s firm conviction that the Gita is meant to spiritualize human life; to transform and make it divine. That is exactly what these talks too are meant to bring about. 

As mentioned in the publisher’s note, Talks on the Gita is different from other books or discourses available on Bhagavad Gita. In this book, there is no verse to verse translation, neither there is any explanation of every verse in detail. Hence the lectures or talks given by Vinoba Bhave on Gita are very simple and easy to understand for even those who haven’t read Bhagavad Gita earlier.

Vinoba Bhave played a very important role in Indian Freedom struggle and was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. In these talks in 1932, he inspired the residents of the jail and his fellowmen to fight for the nation and motherland.

His explanation of Karma and Vikarma in 5th chapter, how to obtain focus of mind in 6th chapter, meaning of Bhakti in chapters 7-12 are easy to follow. He explains these concepts by showing us practical day to day life scenarios. He has also tried to convey his points through stories of Hindu Gods and Godesses. For example, Pundalik was serving his parents and Lord Vitthal came to his home to grant him a boon for his devotion to his parents. When Lord Vitthal knocked on Pundalik’s door, Pundalik was busy serving his parents and hence threw a brick at Vitthal to offer him a place to stand. Lord Vitthal was pleased with his devotion and henceforth remained at Pandharpur. This story explained by Vinoba explains the concept of dharma – Pundalik’s dharma  was to serve his parents and hence Lord Vitthal (Vishnu) wasn’t offended.

Vinoba explains that Lord is everywhere around us in nature, animals, human beings. Chapter 7 and 9 of Bhagavad Gita give his manifestations in the world, but the Lord is not limited to those manifestations and his everywhere and in everything. But the best message that I could get from this book was in the second chapter itself when Vinoba Bhave explains the Sankya system in very simple language. He says –

Three cardinal principles have been enunciated in the Second Chapter—

        (i) The atman (the Self) is deathless and indivisible.

        (ii) The body is insignificant and transient.

        (iii) Swadharma must be followed.

Out of these, Swadharma is in the nature of duty to be performed while the other two principles are those that need to be understood.

 He further explains after this what is Swadharma, how to realize the atman and how we cherish the body even though the body is insignificant and full of dirt.

I would highly recommend this book to everyone, specially if you haven’t read Bhagavad Gita till now and are looking for a book that could explain the message of Bhagavad Gita in simple manner.

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