Letter 30

Acharya Vinoba Bhave

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Essence of Learning


26th August, 1990

My dear Pranav,

Vinoba was basically a teacher. He has given us a wonderful idea in his book on education.

He says that in all 14 languages listed in the Constitution of India there is no word for teaching. In English, there are two separate words "teach" and "learn". In Indian languages the root word is learn. For "teaching", derived words are coined on the basis of the root word "learn".

We can learn. We can help learning. In Indian languages, teaching is not a separate verb. Teaching expresses the ego of teachers. You cannot teach anyone, you can only make learning possible. These days, the word for teacher is facilitator. He makes learning possible.

It is not merely a matter of words or semantics. It is a matter of attitude. Vinoba further said there is nobody who is unlearned. Every one learns every day. There are no uneducated persons, there are many people who are not in a position to read or write. Reading and writing are facilities or tools for learning. They are not learning itself. They are very useful, but they are only tools. And in any event they are not the only tools.

We see so many people who cannot read or write. But they can grow crops. They can get better crops. They can repair cars, thy can drive cars. They can cook, they can carry loads, they can clean houses, roads, and so on. They can look after patients. They can grow trees, plants and tend gardens. In other words, they can "do" so many useful things. All these things are useful for all of us. How can you call them not learned? This is a crucial factor in our social attitudes.

Vinoba narrates an episode in the life of Prophet Mohammed. He was once in deep meditation. He wanted to see God. God wrote a letter to him. He was unlettered, and so he said, "I am an unlettered person." I want to see you. Then God gave him a Darsan. Mohammed told this story to his people and said, "Look if I had learned alphabet, I would have been happy with the letter, I would have missed seeing the God for myself." Vinoba narrated this story in a meeting for farmers. He said, "You physically cultivate your farms, you do the tilling to level the land, Sun shines on that land and then you wait to see God. How many of you have seen God? All of them raised their hands. There was not a single farmer who doubted whether he had seen God or not. When it rains, the farmers feel that God has not only come to meet them but to touch them. He touches them physically with thousands of drops of water in the showers of rain. They not only see God, they also feel Him. They are not in doubt about the existence of God. They are learned enough to know it. They experience God.

Vinoba expressed his thoughts, beliefs, arguments for the villagers in small or big meetings. He touched their hearts directly. He moved them. That was his work. That was his style as a public educator, an Acharya in the true sense of the term.

With love,


L. N. Godbole

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