Home » Subject » History » Study Material » LEARNING AND EDUCATION


The highly esteemed Vedas have come to down to us. They existed for nearly 2000 years before they were known in India. It was the knowledge of acustics that enabled ancient Indians to orally transmit the Vedas from generation to generation. Institutional form of imparting learning came into existence in the early centuries of the Christian era. The approach to learning was to study logic and epistemology.

The study of logci was followed by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, one of the most important topics of Indian thoughts was pramana or means of reliable knowledge. The nyaya schools upheld four pramanas - perceptions of areliable by anology or comparison, word (Sabda), and pronounciation of a reliable authority such as the Vedas. The Vedanta school added one more to it i.e. intution.

It is probably while studying the process of inference that the schools of true logic arose. Ancient Indian postulated syllogism though not as accurate as that of Aristotle. Yet, they recognize some of the major fallacies of logic like reduction and absurdom, circular argument, infinite regression, dilemma, and ignoratio elenchi.

In the field epistemology, Jains contriubuted the most for the Jains there was not only two possibilities of existence and non-existence but seven more. Although the modern logicians might laugh at this pedantic system of ontological and epistemological reality they concede that the world is more complex and subtle than we think it to be.

Regarding institutional form of education the first was the guru-sishya system. According to sacred texts, the training of the Brahmin pupil took place at the home of a Brahmin teacher. In some texts the guru is depicted as the poor ascetic and it is the duty of the student to beg for his teacher. The first lesson that was taught to the student was the performance of sandhya and also reciting of gayatri.

The family functioned as a domestic school, an asrama or a hermitage where the mental faculties of the pupils were developed by the teacher's constant attention and personal instruction. Education, treatant as a matter of individual concern, did not admit of the method of mass production applicable in industry. The making of man was fegarded as an artistic and not a mechanical process. Indeed, the aim of education was the developing of the pupil's personality, his innate and latent capacities. This view of education as a process of one's inner growth and self-fulfilment evolved its own technique, its rules, methods and practices.

The thinking principle, manana sakti was reckoned higher than the subject of thinking. So the primary subject of education was the mind itself. According to the ancient Indian theory of education, the training of the mind and the process of thinking, are essential for the acquisition of knowledge. The chase counts more than the game. So the pupil had mainly to educed himself and achieve his own mental growth. Education ws reduced to the three simple processes of Sravana, Manana and Niddhyaasana. Sravana was listening to the truths as they fell from the lips of the teacher. Knowledge was technically called sruti or what was heard by the ear and not what was seen in writing.

The second process of knowledge called Manana implies that the pupil has to think out for himself the meaning of the leassons imparted to him orally by his teacher so that they may be assimilate fully. The third step known as Nidhyasana means complete comprehension by the pupil of the truth that is taught so that he may live the truth and not merely explain it by word. Knowledge must cultimate in realization.

The admission was made bythe formal ceremony upanayana or initiation by which the pupil left the home of his natural parents for that of the preceptor. In this new home he had a second birth and was called Dvijya. Twice-born.

Besides these regular schools of instructions, there were special institutions for the promotion of advance study and research. These are called in the Rig Veda as Brahmana-Sangha, Academies of learned most its discussions hammered into shape the very languageofthe country, the refined language of Sanksrit (Samkrata) as the Vehicle of highest thought. These Academics were called prisads, there is a reference to the Pancala parisad in the Upnishads, in whose proceedings even kings participated, learning was also prompted by discussions at public meetings which were a regular of rural life, and were addressed by wandering scholars known as Carakas, These scholars toured the country to deliver public discourses and invite discussion.

What might count as earliest literary congress of the world was the congress of philoshophers which was codification of Brahmanical philoshophy by discussing the subject under the direction of the master philosopher, Yajnavalkya. In these deliberations at the highest level, a lady- philoshopher named Gargi was a prominent participant beside men like Uddalaka Arni. Obviously, in those days women were admitted to the highest knowledge and did not suffer from any education disabilities. There was equality between the sexes in the filed of knowledge. The Rig Veda mentions women Rais called Brahmanavadinis.

To begin with, in ancient India, the main subject was the Veda. The teacher would instruct handful of students seated on ground. For many hours daily they would repeat verses after verses of the Vedas till they attainmastery of at least one of them. To ensure correctness of memory, the hymns were taught inmore than one way.

Soon the curricula was expanded. The limbs of the Veda or the six Vedangas were taught - the performance of sacrifice, correct pronounciation, knowledge of prosody, etymology, grammer, and jyotisha or the science of calender. Also in the post-Vedic era, teachers often instructed their students in the six schools of Philoshophy.

The writers of smititis maintain that young women of upper class updrewent this kind of training. This is a dboutful contention. Princes and other leading Kshatriyas were tained in all the manifold sciences to make them fit for government. Most boys of the lower orders learnt their trades from their fathers.

Some cities became renewned because of their teachers. Chief among them were - Varanasi, Taxila from the day of Buddha and Kanchi in the beginning of the Christian era. Varanasi was famous for its religious teachers. Taxila was known for its secular studies. Among the famous men connected with Taxila were Panini, the grammarian of the fifth or fourth century B.C. : Kautilya, the Brahmin minister of Chandragupta Maurya and Charaka one of the two leading authorities of Indian medical sciences. The institutions imparting vedic knowledge that exists even today. There were also universities like Taxila and Ujjain for medicine and learning incuding mathematics and astronomy respectively. In the south Kanchi became an important center of learning. Hiuen remarks that vallabhi was as great as Nalanda and Vikramashila.

Although the smirits maintained that a small number of students study under a single teacher, university turned towns came into existence like Varanasi, Taxila etc. At Varanasi there were 500 students and a number of teachers. The whole estalisment was maintained by charitable people Ideally, the teacher asked no fee, but the students repaid his debt by their service to the teacher. A Jataka story tells of how a teacher of Taxila treated well the students who paid him money while keeping other waiting. It is also interesting to note that in Taxila even married people were admitted as students.

Out of all the Universities, Nalanda and imposed structures. Eight Colleges were built by different patterns including one by the king of Sri Vijaya (Sumatra). One of the colleges was four storeyed high as stated by Hiuen-Tsang. Every facility existed for studying various kinds of subjects in the University. There were three great libraries as per Tibetan records.

Nalanda attracted students not only from different parts of India but also from Tibet and China. The standards of examination were stiff, and only those who could pass the test prescribed by the dvarapandita or the scholar at the gate were admitted to this university. Also, for being admitted to the university, candidates were required to be familiar with old and new books.

Nalanda was one of the earliest examples ofa residential cum-teaching institutions which housed thousands of monks devoted to learning, philoshophy and meditation. Over 10,000 students including teachers lived and studied at the university. The came from various parts of the world apart from India-Cental Asia, China and Korea.

Though Nalanda was primarily a Buddhist university its curricula included Hindu scriptures, Philoshophy and medicine as recorded by Hiuen-Tsang. Logic and exagetics wre pre-emenent because thes students were expected to enter into dialogue with visiting doctors of all schools. This compulsion of public debate made both teachers and students become familiar with all systems of thought in accurate summary.

The university had also succession of brilliant teachers. Dharmapala was a Tamil noble from Kanchi in the south. Janamitra come from another country. Silabhadra, the saintly guru of Hiuen-Tsang, came from Assam and he was a converted Brahmin. A great achievements of the University was that it was able to continuously rejuvenate Buddhism in far off countries. Tibetan records mention a succession of learned monks who visited their country. It is also said that Sudhakara Simha went to China and worked there on the translation of Buddhist texts.