Chùa Vĩnh Nghiêm

Early Buddhist Education and its Modern
Dr. Pranab Kumar Bar

Buddhist Monasteries become the Centre of Education :

After admission the students had to follow monastic rules along with their syllabus and they were classified according to merit. The period of Education was 12 years.

The teachers were the guardian of the students. They were responsible for physical, mental, spiritual and moral development of the students. Since Educational Institution (Monasteries) was residential therefore the relationship between the teachers and the students were very very cordial.

Buddhist Education gave emphasis on the moral, mental and physical development. The main stress was given to have a clear idea of Tripitaka. In the later period according to the demand of the society and professional Education art, sculpture, architecture, medicine also included in the syllabus. At the initial stage medium of Education was mother tongue, later it included Pali & Prakrit and in the following days Sanskrit also introduced. It is to be mentioned that Vedic subjects also included in the syllabus. This was a historic development.

Sangharamas the centre of Buddhist Education later developed into colleges & universities. Nalanda, Vikramsila, Sompori, Salban, Pandit Vihar, Taxila were the unparallel universities. Students from China, Myanmar, Thailand, Gandhara came to have their studies there.

The teachers were highly qualified. The aim of Buddhist Education is to make a free man, a wise, intelligent, moral, non-violent & secular man. Students became judicious, humanist, logical and free from superstitious. Students became free from greed, lust and ignorance. Buddhist Education was wide open and available to the people of all walks of life. The principal goal of the Buddhist Education is to change an unwise to wise, beast to priest.

At present Buddhist Education in China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Srilanka made tremendous progress with the introduction of modern subjects. They have made more facilities for the lay people. Education has been incorporated with modern facilities. Buddhist Education in Bangladesh is still in a traditional position and could not succeed due to financial assistance. So, it needs help and guidance from the Buddhist World.


Introduction :

Buddha, the founder of Buddhism was born in Lumbini present Nepal. In ancient days Nepal, Srilanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar was one country and known as Indian Sub-Continent. In Buddhist text it is known as Jhambudipa. Buddha attained enlightenment in Bodhgaya, Bihar presently situated in India. He spent 45 years after Buddha hood in different parts of India and propagated his religion. In India during the time of Buddha what was the condition of society. How education had come into assistance. There was a racial discrimination in the society. This discrimination was according to profession of man, and according to birth. In the society there were four division of man of whom Brahman was superior. Brahmanism dominated the society and established their supremacy in the country. They enjoyed rights for religious training and education. But other category of people deprived of their religious and educational rights. At that time there were 62 heretical doctrines in existence and priesthood got upper hand. In this background a religious revolution started in ancient India in 600 B.C. and a new doctrine or system developed which is called Buddhist doctrine or Buddhist philosophy. It is to be said that on the foundation of Buddhism a new and special Education System originated in ancient India. Buddhism made a tremendous movement which played a valuable role in the development of Education System in ancient India or ancient Buddhist world.


Centre of Education:

The main centre of Buddhist Education was sangharama (Monastery / Vihara, Temple) where monks and samanaras reside sangharamas were open to all. Here students from different caste, creed, colour and religion got free admission. Buddhism was a strong protest against orthodox Vedic (Hindu) religion and also Education System. Buddhism established democracy, universalism and monastic life. There was no racial discrimination and nobody was deprived of his rights. Buddhist Monasteries became the Centre of Education.


Admission :

The novices first entered into the Sangha (Bhikkhu Sangha), then had to follow the monastic rules and Sangha rules. Even today these rules are followed. There are many rules regarding food, dress, bed room, meditation, dedication and other rules as laid down by the Sangha. They had to undergo with physical exercise for maintenance of their health. They had to clean the campus, rooms, halls, serve the teachers (Achariya) and assist them in various field. This was the primary duties of the students. After admission students were classified according to their merit and put under the guidance of different teachers. They had to follow the advice of the teachers and obey them. In this way they had to pass twelve years in learning. Students put questions to the teachers; teachers answered the question and discussed matters related to their Education. Students had to perform daily routine works beyond learning.


Duties of the Teachers :

The duties of the teachers were imparting education to the students, writing Book, propagation of religion, discussion, and arrangement of debate for the clarification of serious subjects. The teachers were responsible for physical, mental, spiritual and moral development of the students. Teachers loved the students and helped them in every affair. They also took care of them during their diseases and agony. The teachers were responsible for their food, accommodation and other necessaries of livelihood. They kept eyes on the all round development of the students. Specially they were serious about the obeyance of the Sangha rules, meditation and concentration to their learning.

Relation between the Teachers and the Students :

Sangha (Monastic) life was residential; therefore a cordial relationship between the teachers and the students grew up. Their relationship can be compared with the relationship of a father and a son. The teachers were the guardians and sincere for their mutual relationship, happiness, development and responsibilities.


Syllabus :

Buddhist Education system developed on the basis of some basic principles. This education gave emphasis on the moral, mental and physical development and also to divert the students towards the Sangha rules and guide them to follow it. The main stress was given to have a clear idea of Tripitaka which consists of Sutta Pitaka, Binoy Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka. The entire Tripitaka consists of Buddhas teachings, message, philosophy and rules for the Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunies.

In later period according to the demand of the society and professional education, art, sculpture, architecture, medicine also included in the syllabus. Buddhist Education came out from the religious arena and went out for the benefit of the mankind.

At the initial stage medium of education was mother tongue, later it included Pali and Prakrit and in the following days Sanskrit also included as a medium of instruction. Specially the Mahayana Teachers achieved distinction in practicing Buddhism in Sanskrit. A special Sanskrit Buddhist literature developed. Mention may be made here that at the hands of Nagarjun, Asanga, Basubandhu, Santideva, Aryadeva and Candrakisti Buddhist philosophy and literature made tremendous progress through Sanskrit.

It is to be mentioned that Buddhist Educational Syllabus included Vedic subjects also. In this way difference of Buddhist & Vedic Education wiped out and united. This was a historic development in the history of Education in India.


Teaching Method :

In early days teaching was a hearing system. The teachers gave lectures; students heard it and kept it in their memory. In due course it developed into dialogue and comparison method. The teachers used to teach the students on the basis of telling stories, arranging dialogue. Sometimes debate and discussions were arranged to give idea of the subject matter as well as determination of truth, subsequently writing system introduced.

At first there was private and group teachings. Later it developed into class room. In due course Sangharamas developed into residential college and universities. In the history of Education those universities played major role in the propagation of Buddhism, Buddhist history, Art & Culture. In those universities world famous scholars like Atisa Dipankar, Silabrada, Santarakshit were the teachers. Many valuable books were written. We still remember the glory of the universities like Nalanda, Vikramsila, Sompuri, Salban, Jagaddal, Pandit Vihar, Taxila. The supremacy of those universities were unparallel. Students from China, Myanmar, Thailand, Gandhara and all parts of ancient India came to have their education in those universities. Buddhist Education is a combination between individual and classroom education.


Contribution of Buddhist Education :

In the ancient period Buddhist Monasteries and in the later period Buddhist Universities played major role in developing Buddhist Education. In the institutions teachers were highly qualified and sincere to their duties. The main aim of Buddhist Education is to make a free man, an intelligent man, a wise, moral, talented, non-violent and secular man. Buddhist Education make man judicious, humanist, logical and free from superstitions. After getting education in the Buddhist schools, colleges and universities one can not do any injustice, tell a lie, commit theft, can not kill, can not be addicted in wine and make himself free from moral turpitude. In this way students become free from greed, lust, enmity and ignorance.

Buddhist Education made revolutionary change in the society. The Buddhists in the world first made Education open to all. Students irrespective of caste, creed, religion got opportunity to have education which was denied by the superior class in the society. In India also, in Vedic Educational schools students from lower classes were refused to get admission.

In the early period Buddhist Education was limited within the monasteries and only for the members of the monastery. But later on it was open to all, even lay people got scope to have education in those institutions. In modern days Buddhist Education became wide open and embraced people of all walks of life. The aim of Buddhist Education is to change an unwise to wise, beast hood to Buddha hood.


Buddhist Education & Modernization :

It is a matter of great pride that Buddhist Education crossed Indian Sub-continent and expanded upto China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, Srilanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodian, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, with the rise and development of Buddhism in those countries. In those countries Buddhist Education has made tremendous progress with the inclusion of modern subjects in the syllabus. Today in order to make more popular more useful and modern subjects have to be included such as English, Science, Medicine, Engineering, Commerce, Computer and Information Technology. We are happy that the name of the countries which I mentioned have made tremendous development of Buddhist Education with the inclusion of modern subjects. They have made more facilities for the lay students. it is my suggestion that Buddhist Education syllabus shall have to be incorporated with modern subject. In Bangladesh, Buddhist Education is still concentrated in the monasteries. Because of financial assistance it could not precede upto expectation. Buddhist Education in Bangladesh needs help, assistance and guidance from the Buddhist World.

(作者系Vice-President of A.C.R.P. & W.C.R.P. Bangladesh Chapter)


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