The Wandering Sannyasi

Acharya Vinobha Bhave

Our forefathers had made provision to enable villagers to have access to kinds of knowledge which no one is the village possessed. This is the tradition of the wandering Sannyasi. The Sannyasi travels continually among the villages for the greater part of the year, remaining in one place only for the four months of the rainy season. The villagers thus get the full benefit of his knowledge. He can teach them both the knowledge of the world and knowledge of self. A Sannyasi is a walking university, a wandering Vidyapith, who goes at his pleasure to each village in turn. He will himself seek out his students, and he will give his teaching freely. The villagers will hive him clean, pure `sattvik' food, and he will need nothing else. They will learn whenever they can. There is nothing more tragic than that knowledge should be paid for in money. A man who possesses knowledge hungers and thirsts to pass it on to others and see them enjoy it. The child at the breast finds satisfaction, but the mother too takes pleasure in giving suck, for God has filled her breasts with milk. What would become of the world if mothers began demanding fees for feeding the babies?

Nowadays, in a city university, nothing can be had without at least one or two hundred rupees. But the `knowledge' which is purchased there for money is no knowledge at all : knowledge bought for cash is ignorance. True knowledge can only be had for love and service; it cannot be bought for money. So when a wise man travelling from place to place, arrives at a village, let the people lovingly invite him to remain a few days, treat him with reverence and receive from him whatever knowledge he has to give. This is quite a feasible plan. Just as a river flows of itself form village to village, serving the people; just as the cows graze in the jungle and return of themselves will full udders to give the children milk, so will wise men travel of themselves from place to place. We must re-establish this institution of the wandering teacher.

In this way, every village can have its university, and all the knowledge of the world can find its way into the villages. We must be re-invigorate the tradition of the `vanaprasthashram' so that every village gets a permanent teacher from whom no great expenditure will be incurred. Every grihastha's home must be a school, and his field a laboratory. Vanaprastha must be a teacher and every wandering Sannyasi a university. The students are the children and young people who give an hour or two to learning and spend the rest of the day in working. This seems to me to provide a complete outline of education from birth to death.

Our Jagadguru of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetha has, been for the last forty years moving from village to village mostly on foot, occasionally in the palanquin, the usual mode of conveyance adopted from ancient times. Latterly he has dropped even this mode of conveyance and always goes on foot. He holds the strong conviction that walking is least harmful to the insects and other being on the road, especially as ahimsa of an absolute kind is enjoyed by our Dharma for Sannyasins. Even to the most obscure corned of a village in our State he has gone and stayed and met and conversed with the people from the humblest to the highest in society. His stay in every village has been a source of inspiration, illumination and instruction to the people. He is a walking Encyclopaedia of variegated knowledge, such as History, Archeology, sociology, not to speak of our religious literature and branches of learning. Conversation with him has been a liberal education. By his stay every villager becomes a better, person mentally, morally and spiritually. Every man, woman and child has received his blessings and enjoyed the delight of words falling from his lips. The person stricken by sorrow has received consolation and courage from his sympathetic look and words. Those who come complaining with difficulties in life were encouraged to meet the situations with golden words of advice. The village institutions have received help and encouragement. The yield from the lands have become better. Timely rains have gladdened the hearts of peasants. In fact wherever he went he has spread joy, comfort knowledge and spirituality.

(The wise words of Acharya Vinoba Bhave truly picture our Jagadguru. Like him, our Jagadguru is a pedestrian by conviction).