Vinoba Bhave, born Vinayak Narahari Bhave and often called Acharya (In Sanskrit and Hindi means teacher), is considered as a National Teacher of India and the spiritual successor of Mahatma Gandhi. He was born in Gagode, Maharashtra on September 11, 1895 into a pious family of the Chitpavan Brahmin clan. He was highly inspired after reading the Bhagavad Gita, one of the holiest Hindu scriptures at a very young age. He was associated with Mahatma Gandhi in the Indian independence movement. In 1932 he was sent to jail by the British colonial government because of his fight against British rule. There he gave a series of talks on the Gita, in his native language Marathi, to his fellow prisoners. These highly inspiring talks were later published as the book “Talks on the Gita”, and it has been translated to many languages both in India and elsewhere. Vinoba felt that the source of these talks was something above and he believed that its influence will endure even if his other works were forgotten. In 1940 he was chosen by Gandhi to be the first Individual Satyagrahi (an Individual standing up for Truth instead of a collective action) against the British rule. Bhave also participated in the Quit India Movement.
Vinoba’s religious outlook was very broad and it synthesized the truths of many religions. This can be seen in one of his hymns “Om Tat” which contains symbols of many religions. He was also a scholar of many languages. Vinoba observed the life of the average Indian living in a village and tried to find solutions for the problems he faced with a firm spiritual foundation. This formed the core of his Sarvodaya (Awakening of all potentials) movement. Another example of this is the Bhoodhan (land gift) movement. He walked all across India asking people with land to consider him as one of their sons and so give him a portion of their land which he then distributed to landless poor. Nonviolence and compassion being a hallmark of his philosophy, he also campaigned against the slaughtering of cows. Vinoba spent the later part of his life at his ashram in Paunar, Maharashtra. He controversially backed the Indian Emergency imposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, calling it Anushasana Parva (Time for Discipline).
He died on November 15, 1982 after refusing food and medicine few days earlier. Some Indians have identified this as sallekhana. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna posthumously in 1983.