A Pilgrimage To Pavnar: 125th Birth Anniversary Of
Posted by Kishan Laddha on Sep 23, 2019
Vinobaji, during Bhoodan movement in his 13 years 13 days long pilgrimage across India, would go to people and say “Jai Jagat”. People would wonder and ask it doesn’t make sense to say “Jai Jagat” to these villagers, they even didn’t visit nearest town, what would they know about the world? But Vinoba in the spirit of “yatha pinde, tatha brahmande” (universe resides within) would say- the message of "hail universe" would be taken across by the birds, the flowing river and the wind... During his travel more than 40 lac acres of land was gifted to him, to be distributed to landless laborers. The sole purpose of my life is to connect hearts, he would say.
On his 125th birthday some of us had an opportunity to be in presence of this saintly spirit at Brahm Vidya Mandir, Pavnar, founded by Vinobaji for awakening of highest truth (brahma) through collective sadhna. 36 sisters joined Vinoba in the beginning of this Ashram in 1960s, at present 20+ sisters reside together. I had my first introduction of this space through “Ram Hari”, a short film produced by Madhu in 2014. I might have seen it innumerable times, and the feeling I had, during this pilgrimage with him, Sheetal, Josephji, Rose Maria and Jayesh bhai is beyond words. Gopal Dada, teacher of Ishwardada used to say that Pavnar is my Mayka (maternal home) and I was wondering how it would unfurl for me.
Train journey, food and garbage bag: We took a train from Ahmedabad and on the way had Satsang with each other- Zankhana ben and Devendra bhai from ESI also joined at station. During our dinner, some brought home made food and shared with each other even with co-passengers. One of our neighbor joined in and later shared that his father would take him to listen to Vinobaji, he even attended the last journey of Vinoba to funeral ground, we learnt that he was a Vipassana teacher. And he was joyous finding and resonating with kinship shared through food for body, mind and soul with strangers.
In the train journey, Jayesh bhai keeps a garbage bag and a broom along with him, and this time again, as we had our dinner, he collected and put all the trash in that bag to dispose it properly.
Welcome @ Pavnar: morning of 10thSep we reached Pavnar, we were received by Rameshbhaiya, who seeded and nurtured Vinoba Vichar Pravah. In 1970s, inspired by Vinobaji, he became lawyer of society to ensure not a case from his region shall go to police/court but to be resolved by collective. And in due course he transformed multiple villages in difficult hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh. He and his team ensure food arrangement for hundreds of friends at Mitra Milan, hosted every year at Pavnar during 15-17 November. Along with him was Gangamma (80+ years inmate of Brahma Vidya Mandir), to receive us, only later I realized the Sadhna she had done at this holy space. She ensured all of us have tea/Ukala and breakfast, even though lunch preparations were going on, she arranged everything for us with immense love and untiring spirit.
The whole day we spent being part of discussions on preparation for Mitra Milan 2019 to be hosted during 15-17 November and to commemorate celebration of 125th birth anniversary of Vinobaji throughout the year. Representatives from across the country shared their ideas, plans and intentions. Afternoon session begin with “Har Desh me tu, Har Vesh me tu… (thy resides in every country, in every form…have many names but is one)” sung by one of the sister. Madhu spoke about various experiments going on in Maitri Space (ESI). Sheetal shared about how his last visit to Pavnar inspired and moved him to initiate Maitri Tunes. Jayesh bhai shared that the bhajan (Har Desh me tu) rejuvenated Gopal Dada’s spirit, and post 2013 Mitra Milan Gopal dada left his physical body in Pavnar (his Mayka). Jayeshbhai mentioned about the strength and resonance he feels with Pavnar, though physical visits and meeting with Didis are limited, their Sadhna and Blessing is consistently felt.
Post dinner Madhu Showed Ram Hari, in journey and few other short films. We could sense the joy Tais, Arun dada and Gautam dada felt. They shared their verbal blessing as well. Gautam dada offered Madhu to take all Vinobaji’s tapes, photographs, audios to use the way he wishes to. Such showering of faith.
11th Sep. birth celebration commenced with 4:30 morning prayer, followed by collective cleaning of the campus remembering one of the book of Vinobaji “Suchita se Aatmadarshan” (Self-realization through cleanliness). In morning session Usha Tai and Gautam dada shared their wisdom.
Once someone asked Vinoba, what is your life’s best creation? To that Vinobaji shared, Geetai . He added, it was completed in 1932 and after that until 1982, whatever was created was bonus. Usha tai further shared, Vinoba used to write in his young age, after reading his work, refining few times, on sensing completion he would either burn it in “Agninarayan” fire or will let it flow in Ganges, that the Geetai is ”Prasad” in form of pious flow and glorious light of the devotions he offered.
Vinoba was a poet, philosopher and a teacher, in essence he was a “Guna Samucchay” set of virtues such as Sheel, Pragya and Karuna. She mentioned about Vinobaji’s spirit of karma, akarma and vikarma. Karma is essential for five reasons: “Deh nirvah, Samajh Dharna, Srushti Samvardhan, Lok Sangrah and Chitta Shuddhi” to keep the body, to take care of society, to contribute towards the universe, to win hearts of people and to do inner cleansing. He would share that he got his first lesson in karma from Gandhiji when he first met him in 1916 and Bapu asked him to chop vegetables. He shares that in chopping those vegetables at Kocharub ashram, he found “Himalay ki Shanti and Bengal ki Kranti” peaceful revolution and revolutionary peace. To establish the spirit of Karma Vinobaji in his last phase of life when he was into deep exploration he didn’t say he is doing dhyan yoga/ chintan yoga but devised the term “sukshma” (subtle) Karma yoga.
Gautam Bajaj: When he was 13 he started walking with Vinobaji during Bhudan movement and when it completed he was 26, he would share that he studied with walking university of Vinoba. When someone would ask him if he knew Gandhiji, with a chuckle on his face, he would say that he can’t say that but Gandhiji knew him for sure, as he mentioned about him in one of his letter to wife of Jamanalalji Bajaj (his grand father).
Taking Ushatai’s sharing Gautam dada built further on Karma. It is essential to have the foundation of karma laid in spirituality, else as the spider get stuck in its own web, an individual can also get stuck in web of his Karma. He shared when Vinobaji met Gandhi, from day one he started learning Gujarati so that he could understand Gandhi in his mother tongue. When Gandhi completed his autobiography “my experiments with truth” he gave it to Vinoba to go through. After few days, they chatted and Vinoba shared with Bapu that this book wouldn’t harm anyone, if not benefit. To that Gandhiji shared in Gujarati “aapana baddhu kaamo nu parinam mindoo che” (end result of all our work is zero), “aapne to seva kari ne chutiae” (we do our work and let it flow), he paid special attention on this word “chutiae”.
He added further, Vinobaji used to share that its essential to disengage and see the work from distance. As a painter moves away to look at the painting from distance, one shall also keep timely breaks and see work with equanimity. Gautam dada shared that during Bhudan movement when it was at its peak, whenever there is any mention of word “Bhu….” He would guess its Bhudan while at times it was Bhutan. Yet, Vinoba would sleep effortlessly and as an observer he (Gautam) would wonder that how come this person is so detached / unaffected / untouched and would bow to Vinoba’s equanimity
Jayesh bhai specially requested her to share during this session. She shared, though she feels awkward to share again today as she has already shared yesterday, “why to say no to something that can be done by me” and with that she honored Jayesh bhai's request. I was moved at her simplicity and the invitation to possibilities. She penned down a book “Vinoba – Antim Parva” in this she wrote various conversations Vinoba had in his last 12 years of his life.
She mentioned that Saintliness of a saint blossoms in adverse situations. And she used to wonder when adverse time would come to Vinoba, and those last few years, particularly during the emergency time was when she witnessed the all the virtues Vinoba would mention about “Stithpragna”. Once a follower of Vinoba who turned to be a big critic (in her views), visited Vinobaji. He wrote extensively fake stories of Vinobaji. Everyone in the Ashram wouldn’t think high or even would have unequanimous feelings about this critic, but Vinobaji called him inside his room and first thing he asked “Did you eat ?” to this this critic started crying like a baby – confessing himself while Vinoba was pouring his love. Vinobaji used to say “Satya Swayam Siddh hota hai” Truth is self-testified.
Few more friends shared on the forum. Rose Maria was also asked to share how is she connected with Vinoba. She shared about her spirit of being a pilgrim and that during the walk, she connects with nature, mother earth and herself. She had done a Dandi walk for 24 days without phone/money and during the walk her feet developed blisters. Someone asked her, how do you feel? She shared, I am praying with each step that may pain of all pilgrims come to us with each step she is taking and that mother earth is blessing her.
It was my maiden visit to Pavnar, I feel deeply indebted to this space. Every day I read “Maitri” magazine published here and that my daughter is named Maitri by our eco system. Every morning my day begins with her and ends with her. The wisdom (Pragya), relentless hard work and humility with which Maitri magazine is published and shared is an inspiration. And the word Maitri has become a pilgrimage to me. I met Usha tai for the first time in 2013 and after almost six years as I met her, she recognized and with immense love recalled my name. On day two she gifted he compilation “with thee”.
Visiting Vinobaji’s room with Sheetal, Madhu, Josephji and Jayesh bhai – through Ram Hari, I might have visited this space many times but in person a physical visit melted my heart and answered prayers while I felt nurtured and enriched, I believe the intention of cultivating Maitri deepened.
Simple practices touched me deeply: such as plastic bag carried by Jayesh bhai, Josephji coming in action as soon as we reached kitchen – he picked up a cloth and started cleaning utensils within few minute of our arrival. I learnt how Himalayas and his spirit of pilgrim makes home wherever he visits. Sheetal bhai sharing his songs and bhajans and even inviting sisters to join in – co creating http://www.movedbylove.org/projects/tunes/Maitri Tunes alive. Madhu bhai shooting interviews of elders while Jayesh bhai effortlessly building bridges across spectrum.
On 12th early morning we reached Nagpur and had a very early morning tea at a tea stall outside airport. As soon as tea was done, Jayesh bhai got in action and pursuing him for 15 minutes everyone cleaned the vicinity making it cleaner. What started in train, continued at airport as well and would continue forever!
At Wardha Ashram, one of the message remained alive with me : “Let noble thoughts come to us from all sides”! On the way back, had an opportunity to reflect the pilgrimage with Jayesh bhai and it felt as if 40 out of 50 hours were consciously immersed in constant Satsang, reflection and an opportunity to invite noble thoughts within while deepening the spirit of Jai Jagat!