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ALPANA GHOSE

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 1/15/2016 |




India has a rich tradition of learning and education right from the antiquity. These were handed over generations to generations either through oral or written medium. The approach to learning was to study logic and epistemology. The study of logic was followed by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. 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 attain mastery of at least one of them. To ensure correctness of memory, the hymns were taught in more than one way.  This method of teaching was known as gurukul   teaching. The word gurukul means that teacher is the guru who takes charge of some young students who will stay with him and   help to guru in daily chores and learn by verbal   method. Gurukulas have existed since the Vedic age. Upanishads mention many gurukuls, including that of YajnavalkyaVaruni.  The famous discourse on Brahman, is mentioned to have taken place in Guru Varuni’s gurukul The gurukuls were supported by public donation.  Vedic school of thought prescribes an initiation (Upanayanam) to all individuals   before the age of 8 or latest by 12. From initiation until the age of 25 all    individuals are prescribed to be students and to remain unmarried. Students were generally from the higher cast of the society and after the upanayanam ceremony they were called Brahman. So only   upper      cast and rich   students could have the access of gurukul facility.  In ancient India in 600 B.C. a new doctrine developed which is called Buddhist philosophy. On the foundation of this philosophy a new and special Education System originated in ancient India. Buddhist Education was a strong protest against orthodox education system. Nobody was deprived of education due to caste  discrimination. This doctrine was very much adored by Swami Vivekananda. His was in all praise for Lord Buddha, in his words:” You see that non-killing of animals and charity towards animals was an already existing doctrine when he (The Buddha) was born; but it was new with him -- the breaking down of caste, that tremendous movement. And the other thing that was new: he took forty of his disciples and sent them all over the world, saying, "Go ye; mix with all races and nations and preach the excellent gospel for the good of all, for the benefit of all."  He died at a ripe old age. All his life he was a most stern man: he never yielded to weakness. I like his method of work, but what I like [most] in that man is that, among all the prophets of mankind, here was a man who never had any cobwebs in his brain, and [who was] sane and strong. When kingdoms were at his feet, he was still the same man, maintaining, "I am a man amongst men. (Complete works of Swami Vivekananda Volume 3, Page 527 )Those last dying words of his always thrilled through my heart. Buddha  was old, he was suffering, he was near his death, and then came the despised outcaste -chanda- he lives on carrion, dead animals; the Hindus would not allow them to come into cities -- one of these invited him to a dinner and Buddha  came with his disciples, and the poor Chanda,, he wanted to treat this great teacher according to what he thought would be best; so he had a lot of pig's flesh and a lot of rice for him, and Buddha looked at that.  The disciples were all [hesitating], and the Master said: "Well, do not eat, you will be hurt." But he quietly sat down and ate. The teacher of equality must eat the [outcaste] Chanda's dinner, even the pig's flesh.  He was already dying. He found death coming on, and he said, "Spread for me something under this tree, for I think the end is near." And he was there under the tree, and he laid himself down; he could not sit up any more. And the first thing he did, he said: "Go to that Chanda and tell him that he has been one of my greatest benefactors; for his meal, I am going to Nirvana." And then several men came to be instructed, and a disciple said, "Do not go near now, the Master is passing away." And as soon as he heard it, the Lord said, "Let them come in." And somebody else came and the disciples would not [let them enter]. Again they came, and then the dying Lord said: "And O, thou Ananda, I am passing away. Weep not for me. Think not for me. I am gone. Work out diligently your own salvation. Each one of you is just what I am. I am nothing but one of you. What I am today is what I made myself. Do you struggle and make yourselves what I am. . . ."These are the memorable words of Buddha: "Believe not because an old book is produced as an authority. Believe not because your father said [you should] believe the same. Believe not because other people like you believe it. Test everything, try everything, and then believe it, and if you find it for the good of many, give it to all." And with these words, the Master passed away. See the sanity of the man. No gods, no angels, no demons -- nobody. Nothing    of that kind, Stern,   sane, every brain   cell perfect and complete, even at the moment of death. No delusion .In my opinion -- oh, if I had only one drop of that strength! The sanest philosopher the world ever saw. Without the Buddhist revolution what would have delivered the suffering millions of the lower classes from the violent tyrannies of the influential higher castes? [The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda Volume 3 [Page : 528 ] (BUDDHISTIC INDIA)]

The essence of Buddhism was all borrowed from the same Upanishads; even the ethics, the so-called great and wonderful ethics of Buddhism, were there word for word, in some one or other of the Upanishads.
(The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda Volume 3 [Page: 230] ) Vedanta in its application to Indian life’

Many people were attracted by his (Buddha) philosophy which was new to them. That is why many Buddhist monasteries grew up during Pala dynasty (that existed from 750–1174 CE). 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 cordial. The main stress was given to have a clear idea of various scriptures.  In the later period according to the demand of the society and professional Education:  art, sculpture, architecture, medicine were 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. Monasteries became   the centre of Buddhist Education later developed into colleges & universities. Nalanda, Vikramsila, Sompori, Salban, Taxila became unparallel universities. 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. Although a small number of students study under a single teacher Students from China, Myanmar, Thailand, and Gandhara came to have their studies there. Later these universities were preferred by students all over the world and other international scholars. Indian education in the ancient era contributed a lot for the growth of medieval education. Furthermore, the ancient education system popularized the elements of innovation, an appeal and incentive to improve traditional knowledge.

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.   Taxila was famous for   medicine and learning   mathematics and astronomy. There were two other   great universities grew up during Pala dynasty as Nalanda and Vikramashila.  These universities were called Maha Viharas (Pali for "Great Monastery”). Vikramaśīla  was the premier university of the   era. Vikramaśīla University was one of the two most important centers of Buddhist learning in India during the Pala dynasty, along with    Nalanda University.

FOUNDATION OF VIKRAMSHILA UNIVERSITY
The Vikramshila University was established by King Dharmapala  in the 8th century AD, which grew to become the intellectual center for Tantric Buddhism. In the beginning of the 11th century AD, during the reign of King Ramapala,  India of yesteryears was going through a transitory phase i.e. the early medieval period. The great dynasties were gradually giving way to the invaders from the West. The age was no longer The Golden Age. Political and social values were crumbling, as was the hold of the central political authority. This was the political setting when Dharampala established the Vikramshila, on the banks of the river Ganges in Magadha (now near Bhagalpur). A joint board of scholars governed the Vikramshila University. Shrigyan Dipankar Atisha, the renowned pundit and the scholar, was the key for establishing Vikramshila as a center of education. Vikramaśīla is known to us mainly through Tibetan sources, especially the writings of Taranatha, the Tibetan monk historian of 16th-17th Century AD. The entire campus was circular in structure spread out within a radius of nearly 150 miles. There were 53 rooms meant for Tantrik practice, another 54 for general use and 17 monastic cells opening into the verandahs. This University was established primarily to spread Buddhism. Vikramaśīla was one of the largest Buddhist universities, with more than one hundred teachers and about one thousand students. Highly qualified teachers were called Dwarpalas. Who used to sit on the gates to take the entrance test of the students seeking   admission.  Vikramshila University had four such gates on east, west, north and   south. Four eminent teachers of four different subjects were posted at the gates who took the interview of the students seeking admission to the university. Subjects like philosophy, grammar, metaphysics, Indian logic etc. were taught here.
                     
The center of the university once had a huge temple, adorned with a    life-size copy of the Mahabodhi tree. It is said that approximately 108 temples were constructed around it. Out of these, almost 53 temples were dedicated to the study of the Guhyasamaja Tantra.  The entrance of the main temple stood guarded by two     brilliant statues of Nagarjuna and Atisa Dipankar (the great scholar of the Vikramasila University) .This University   produced many eminent scholars who were often invited by foreign countries to spread Buddhist learning, culture and religion. The most distinguished and eminent among all was Atisa Dipankara.Vikramshila University prospered for about four centuries then was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji during fighting with the Sena dynasty along with the other major centers.

VIKRAMSHILA RUINS
At present only ruins of ancient university Vikramasila can be seen which is located at village Antichak about 50 km east of Bhagalpur Bihar and about 13 km north-east of Kahalgaon, a railway station on Bhagalpur-Sahebganj section of Eastern Railway. It is approachable through 11 km long motor able road diverting from N.H.80 at Anadipur about 2 km from Kahalgaon. Vikramshila also lies very close to Champanagar, another famous Buddhist destination in Bihar.

EXCAVATION
The remains of the ancient university have been partially excavated, and the process is still underway. Meticulous excavation at the site was conducted initially by Patna University (1960–69) and subsequently by Archaeological Survey of India (1972–82). It has revealed a huge square monastery with a cruciform stupa in its centre, a library building and cluster of stupas. To the north of monastery a number of scattered structures including a Tibetan and a Hindu temple have been found. The entire spread is over an area of more than one hundred acres.

THE MONASTERY
The monastery, or residence for the Buddhist monks, is a huge square structure, each side measuring 330 meters having a series of 208 cells, 52 on each of the four sides opening into a common verandah. A few brick arched underground chambers beneath some of the cells have also been noticed which were probably meant for confined meditation by the monks. The main stupa, built for the purpose of worship, is a brick structure laid in mud mortar which stands in the centre of the square monastery. This two terraced stupa is cruciform on plan and about 15 meters high from the ground level accessible through a flight of steps on the north side. On each of the four cardinal directions There is a protruding chamber with a pillared antechamber and a separate pillared mandapa in front. In the four chambers of the stupa were placed colossal stucco images of seated Buddha of which three were found in situ but the remaining one on north side was possibly replaced by a stone image after the clay image was somehow damaged. About 32 meters south of the monastery on its south west corner and attached with the main monastery through a narrow corridor is a rectangular structure identified as a library building. It was air-conditioned by cooled water of the adjoining reservoir through a range of vents in the back wall. The system was perhaps meant for preserving delicate manuscripts. A large number of antiquities of different materials, unearthed from this place in the course of excavation, are displayed in the site museum maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.

THE MAIN STUPA AT THE CENTER
The Stupa is a sacred solid structure raised over the body remains or belongings of Buddha or a distinguished monk; or to commemorate any event associated with them. But some stupas are merely symbolic made for worship by the monks. Others are miniature stupa erected by a devotee in gratitude of fulfillment of his desire. The Vikramshila stupa built for the purpose of worship is a brick structure laid in mud mortar and stands in the centre of the square monastery. This two terraced stupa is cruciform on plan and about 15 meters high from the ground level. The lower Terrance is about 2.25 meters high from the ground level and the upper terrace is at a similar height from the lower side. At both terraces there is a circumbulatory path, the lower about 4.50 meters wide and the upper about 3 meters wide. The main stupa placed over the upper terrace is accessible through a flight of steps on the north side on each of the four cardinal direction. There is a protruding chamber with a pillared antechamber and a separate pillared mandapa in front, placed beyond the circumbulatory passage. In the four chambers of stupa were placed colossal stucco images of seated Buddha of which three were found in Situ but the remaining of the north side was possibly replaced by a stone image after the clay image was somehow damaged. All the Stucco images are unfortunately broken above the waist portion. The images are placed over a brick pedestal having traces of painting in red and black pigments. The walls and floors of the chamber and Antechamber were plastered with lime.
    
THE WALL CARVINGS OF VARIOUS DEITIES
The walls of both the terraces are decorated with mouldings and terracotta plaques which testify the high excellence of Terracotta art flourishing in the region during Pala period (8th to 12th century A.D). Over the plaques are depicted many Buddhist deities like Buddha,AvalokiteshvaraManjisri, Maitreya, Jambala, Marichi, Tara and scenes related to Buddhism in addition to some social  scenes and a few Hindi deitie like VishnuParvati, Ardhanarisvara and Hanuman. In Addition many human figures like that of Asceitc,Yogi, preacher, drummer, warier, archer, snake charmer etc. and animal figures like Monkey, Elephant, Horse, Dear, Boar, Panther, Lion, wolf and birds are depicted.The Architecture of the Stupa and the Terracotta plaques bear great resemblance to the somapura mahavihar, Paharpur (Bangladesh) which, too, was founded by the same king Dharmapala. On plan both are very much alike with the significant difference that Somapura is centered on a central temple rather than a stupa. Vikramasila monastery is also larger and has fort like projections on its outer wall.

RESTORATION WORK
Vikramaśīla was neglected for years which contributed to extensive damages to the monument A.S.I. is now planning to develop the excavated site of Vikramshila University. From the year 2009, there has been considerable work in maintaining and beautifying the place to attract tourism. There has been inflow of western tourist as well, during their river cruises on the Ganges River.

RELEVANCE OF ANCIENT SYSTEM OF EDUCATION TO MODERN EDUCATION SYSTEM.
What is the modern education actually offering to the students? Why there are School shootings, drug Addiction, overexposure to sex, smoking, alcoholism, raping women, committing suicide at a very young age, showing disrespect towards elders and other people in the society are increasing many folds day by day? Why are the well educated people still involved in immoral activities? Why was the ancient Gurukul education successful? How the Gurukul system did kept its students away from all kinds of immoral activities? Why did they have special respect for people and animals living around them? Why were they so positive, brilliant and austere in nature?

Time has come to probe into the ancient system of education. First of all one should know how the Gurukul system worked. It was one such system that offered education to its students who had positive mental attitude. But where did positive mental attitude come from? The first lesson to gain positive energy and mental attitude came from the Guru himself. Gurus were involved in penance, reading Vedas and performed spiritual activities done for the good of mankind and not for him. Such   lifestyle always has one ambition. Not to hurt anyone but to help many. The Gurus had the power to transform humans into positive minded people. And these positive minded people always thought welfare of the people and animals in the nature.

Gururkul system of education is a simple concept where children learn under great scholars but they have to stay away from their parents. It is not the modern boarding school but a school that teaches moral values and imparts spiritual knowledge. A place   where children learn to live in a green and friendly environment with no distractions around them. Nobel laurite Rabindranath Tagore also had the same idea, he   was dissatisfied with the western model of education introduced into India during the British rule and the emphasis on learning English language and the western subjects, felt that the gurukul system had several merits and could prove useful in  educating the children of India in natural surroundings and building their character and sense of appreciation. He wrote," My view is that we should follow the ancient Indian principles of education. Students and teachers should live together in natural surroundings, and the students should complete their education by practicing brahmacharya. Founded on the eternal truths of human nature, these principles have lost nothing of their significance, however, much our circumstances might have altered through the ages." He also felt the need to protect children from disturbing influences, a problem which the gurukuls took care in ample measure.  He wrote, "The human mind is in the embryo stage in childhood and school boys should live in surroundings which protect them from all disturbing forces. To acquire strength by absorbing knowledge both consciously and unconsciously should be their sole aim, and their environment should be adapted to this purpose."

The small sacrifice made by parents pays great dividends later in their life. Children learn to lead a simple life with little or no bad habits. Their memory gains great momentum to learn things. Students learn the significance of co-existence with nature. Better concentration on their studies. Body feels lighter and memory is enhanced because of the fresh air from the surrounding greenery.  Parents do not have to monitor their daily activities when children reach the age of adolescence because they will be capable of choosing the right way of dealing with people. With the friendly environment and active teachers they are able to reach great heights and become good citizens of a nation. They become supporting pillars to elders in their family.  ;

ACCEPTABLE FEATURES OF EDUCATION OF VEDIC PERIOD AND MODERN EDUCATION.
There is a wide gap of Education between Ancient Indian Education and Modern Indian Education. Still there are several elements of ancient education which can find room in modern education both in theory and practice. Those are: Idealism, Discipline, Teacher – Pupil Relationship, Subject of studies, Teaching Method, Simple Life of Students, All Round Development, Equality of Opportunity.

AMALGAMATION OF EASTERN CULTURE AND WESTERN METHODS.
India surpasses the World by no small measure on issues of culture and knowledge. It is one of the oldest living cultures in the whole world, despite hit after hit on it in the past during alien rule.  When it comes to advancement in knowledge and science it is the west that has led the world. Looking at the mechanism of expansionism and spreading out, the west has always had the upper hand. Importance of knowledge in education cannot be denied. Purpose of education has unfortunately been misunderstood to mean acquiring as much academic knowledge as possible, leading towards award of degrees. But equally important is inculcating skills in all the vocations according to aptitude of different individuals through practical training for overall development of nation. Training in different vocations should be given when minds of individuals are still in formative stage. Training becomes necessary for applying knowledge in real life. There is no doubt that modern education has given to India the key to the treasures of scientific and modern democratic thought. It is the west that has led the world in advancement in technology and science. It opened up the doors for liberal and rational thinking. It widened the mental horizons of Indian intelligentsia during nineteenth century. However, somewhere it got derailed and now the system of education at all the stages, from preliminary through secondary right up-to the college stage makes mind just a store-house of knowledge and discourages creative thinking. India surpasses the west on issues of culture for building an ideal structure for education, an amalgamation of eastern culture and western methods, liberal thinking and advancement in science and technology of the West would be the best for future generations.. The world is now a global village. Thanks to revolution in areas of information, communications technology and travel apparatus. It will be good if the forces of both – culture and systems – could be combined and a charter of an ideal education blueprint could be evolved for future generations.. Why not we combine the forces of both these, Culture and Mechanics for future generations. Technology advances have brought us to a stage where every concept is an option! Why not cash upo.
The  End

[ALPANA GHOSE]


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