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Chapter 10: My Work Has Just Begun

Speaking in Ahmedabad amongst fifty thousand people, I had said that Mahatma Gandhi used to listen to the story of Rama every day. Vinoba Bhave, one of his disciples, but a very scholarly person, used to read the Ramayana, the story of Rama. It is read in every house in India, the drama of Rama is played in every town, city, village, every year. Rama is in every Hindu’s heart center.

I said in the meeting that Vinoba was reading the story of Rama and there comes a passage where Rama’s wife, Sita, is stolen. Just to leave some clues as to what direction she has been taken, she went on throwing her ornaments along the way. Indian women have many ornaments, and she was a queen so she had enough ornaments. And it was bound, she felt - it was certainly logical - that Rama would find these ornaments and they would give him a clue to the direction. And if he found more, that made it more certain: if he found more he could reach to where she was being taken.

He found precious diamonds, emeralds, rubies and he asked his brother Laxmana, “Do you recognize, are these ornaments my wife’s? I cannot recognize them myself because whenever I am with Sita, she is so beautiful that I get lost into her. I don’t pay attention to her ornaments, so I cannot be certain that this ornament belongs to her. But in this thick forest, who is going to throw rubies and diamonds and ornaments made of all kinds of precious stones? Laxmana, perhaps you can find.”

Laxmana said, “Please forgive me, because I have never seen Sita, except her feet, because I used to touch her feet every morning.” Your elder brother’s wife in India is thought to be equal to your mother. “And I have never seen her face, I have never seen above her feet. Yes, if we come across the ornaments she used on her feet, I will recognize them immediately.”

Gandhi was a little puzzled. He said to Vinoba, “I don’t understand. First, I cannot understand Rama, that he lived for so many years and he could not recognize the ornaments of his own wife. But perhaps he was still in his honeymoon, Sita may have been very enchanting. But why Laxmana never saw Sita?”

Vinoba produced an argument which is not in the story, the argument is Vinoba’s: he produced an argument that Laxmana never saw Sita’s face because he wanted to remain celibate. He wanted to remain unimpressed by Sita’s beauty because he was under a strict discipline. And Gandhi accepted the idea that it was because of a strict discipline; that Sita is so beautiful, perhaps looking at her he may get interested passionately in her. Gandhi accepted the idea. Not only that, it was because of this argument he gave Vinoba the title of acharya. Acharya means “the master mind.” He said, “The explanation that you have given makes you a master. I could not have conceived that this would be the explanation.”

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