My dear Pranav,
Vinoba had one life-long idea in all his speeches: insistence on
physical labour by everyone. This was a legacy from Gandhiji. In
ancient times Manu, the first law giver of the world, has downrated
manual labour in the Smrti. You will therefore find in India that
our brahminical education system has always given very low rating for
actual manual or physical work. The more one is educated the more
one dspises physical work. This attitude continues till today. It was
Gandhiji who wanted to establish the dignity of labour in our social
Washing your own clothes, cleaning your own utensils, doing all your
things by yourself is considered below one's dignity. This attitude
was attacked by Gandhiji in his Ashrams. Vinoba carried it further;
he took up the job of cleaning latrines even in jail. This was
revolutionary idea then, it is revolutionary even today. He attacked
untouchability and the aversion for physical work in one stroke.
Vinoba believed that physical labour, bread labour, is something which each one of us
must do every day. The Upnisads have said, "Annam Bahukurvit."
Increase the production of food. Let this be your vow. The same
idea is stated by St. Paul. "He who will not work, neither shall he
eat." This is necessary for health and also for the control of
emotions. Physical labour is great equaliser.
Vinoba wanted schools to have half-time for labour and half time for
learning other things. He wanted teachers to set an example to their
students. He thought village power, people's power. With the power of
knowledge wielded by a teacher can withstand the destructive power of
Vinoba wanted teachers to evolve into an Acharya-kula. Their power of
knowledge would emerge when they unite. If they divide themselves,
then their power will be dissipated. The answers to the problems
facing India can only be given by teachers. But such teachers must
first renounce politics. They should not be members of any political
party. According to Vinoba, "party" takes care of only some 'part'
of society. A knowledgeable man, a teacher must think of the whole
and not of a part. He must avoid party politics. The teacher must
throw in his lot with the common man and Lokaniti (people's power ).
Unless he renounces politics he cannot influence politics. He will be
effective only when he rejects the values of the power structure and
chooses those of the people.
It is difficult, Pranav, for most people to understand this perception: that
unless you renounce politics you cannot influence it. But Acharyas
like Vasistha were the Kulgurus of Dasratha and Rama. They wer
respected for their knowledge, their sage advice, and were acceptable
to all. They held no political power. Many amongst us who view
India with western eyes find it difficult to understand this role.
Mahatma Gandhi, Jayaprakash Narayan, Vinoba were such Acharyas. They
never held political posts. They refused the values of the power
structure. But they tremendously influenced India.
Vinoba wanted this role of Acharyas to be institutionalised by forming an
Acharyakula. He wanted teachers to play this role. He wanted teachers
to define Dharma or the context for politicians to behave within