Saturday, 7 January 2017

Gora and Vinoba and Prayers

Being an atheist, Gora didn't believe in prayer. He was present in a meeting led by Vinoba. He heard Vinoba's talk. But when Vinoba announced that there would be a prayer, Gora left that place.
Vinoba laughingly said, "Gora is the only person who takes God seriously. When I mentioned prayer, it made no impact on others, but Gora reacted immediately."

Thereafter, Vinoba introduced a mouna prarthana (silent prayer) instead of chanting of Bhagavad Gita in his prayer meeting, at the end.

Both Gandhiji and Vinoba had much affection for Gora, though they didn't approve of his atheism. They admired his concern for the down-trodden. He worked for the poor, the out-caste villagers. He preached rationalism to them, and worked to eradicate superstition. He trained them to be productive workers. He rehabilitated the so-called criminal tribals and prostitutes who were called devadasis and joginis.

Gora's wife, Saraswati and their nine children are all atheists. All the children have inter-caste marriages. Their names are also rational. The eldest son is Lavanam (salt)— he was born during Gandhiji's salt march. Samaram (war) was born during the war period. The ninth child was a girl, he named her 'now' (the ninth). They now manage the Atheist Centre, founded by Gora in Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh.

Kannan Thandapani Aparna - met someone who has shared a jail term with Gora. The jailer was a student of Gora and so, had a lot of respect for him. When he asked if Gora needed anything, Gora had apparently said that though he was an atheist, his fellow prisoners had the habit of praying - so he requested the jailer to make arrangements for their prayer.
Aparna Krishnan there was that mutual respect - the mark of a civilied world.
Raghunandan Tr I admire Gora. Meeting his family in Vijayawada, when I was a teenager, was one of the high points of my life. Those days, my sister Urmila Subbarao was the sub-Collector of Vijayawada. She was a heroine there, because of her work during the destructive cyclone in 1977. She also served as the Municipal Commissioner of Vijayawada city later. It was then, that I used to visit Vijayawada frequently and stay with her. I remember the names of Gora's children too. His thinking also had a deep effect on me and subconsciously drove me to atheism.
Aparna Krishnan Yes, the influence of the finest people on our fundamental thoughts is deep. It was after seeing the village people and their dharmam in practice that I put aside my agnosticism. That you met him would be a precious memory. I heard of him only recently in some readings, and the level of discourse and mutual empathy between a true theist and an atheist who was fundamentally deeply committed is something to learn from.
Raghunandan Tr I did not meet him, but his children, What really inspired me was that while they were committed atheists, they were tolerant. Besides, they were totally committed to their work of uplifting the poor. In doing so, their theory of change was not to rely on religion as spurring compassion, but to exhort people to eschew the passive acceptance of fate, which often is something seen in religious people. Now I know my choice of words might sound a bit sweeping, but this is the impression I got.

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