Mahatma Gandhi established an Ashram on the banks of River Sabarmati in Gujarat, India, around 1917, and began to live there. He followed a simple lifestyle and practiced egalitarianism. Gandhiji always stood on his principle, to the end.
Mahatma Gandhi, an ardent devotee of the Lord, was in the habit of holding congregational worship along with Rama Nama bhajan. Finding the Ashram filled with peace and contentment many came to live with him. He undertook to guide the novices in adjusting themselves to the Ashram life. It was community living where all had to take part in the activities of the Ashram, i.e. cooking, cleaning, etc.
Acharya Vinoba Bhave was among the foremost disciples of Gandhiji. Even as a youth he felt attracted to Gandhiji’s principles and embraced the Ashram life. A great social worker, he took up the responsibility of Sabarmati Ashram after Gandhiji. He had the knack of convincing others of his principles and was capable of making them embrace it too.
In those days, the drainage system was not in good structure, and the process of draining had to be done manually in Sabarmati Ashram.
An old man attended to this work in Sabarmati Ashram. One day, this old man fell ill. As he could not attend to his duty he sent his grandson who was only ten years old to do this work. The little boy cleaned the toilet but found the bucket too heavy to lift. The boy was struggling to lift the bucket. Fear gripped the little one as he could not carry out the work. Vinoba Bhave who saw him struggle with the bucket felt touched. He at once lent a helping hand. He lifted the bucket and helped him clean the place. Only then did he feel at peace.
What a loving heart! But many did not approve his action, as “untouchability” was still prevalent in those days. This act by Vinoba Bhave was considered a breaching of caste rules. Therefore Bhave was not permitted inside the Ashram.
Gandhiji was not in the Ashram at the time and on his return the matter was reported to him. Everyone expected Gandhiji to admonish Bhave. But Gandhiji remained quiet for a while and then said, “What Vinoba Bhave has done is right. From now on, everyone should take up the work of cleaning the toilets.”
Children! Were not Gandhiji and his disciples filled with humility, love, sympathy and equality?