Buddhist Education System

8 minute read
Buddhist Education System

We might be living luxurious lives with all the gadgets, friends and lucrative jobs, but we often ponder over the thought of whether we really want all this or whether we have some other purpose of greater importance to fulfil. For centuries, philosophers have been concerning themselves with the reality of human existence and the thought of people giving away their lives in search of happiness. Concepts like morality, death, virtue, and the universe have been the core of their research. One such school of thought is Buddhism. Based on the teachings and life experiences of Lord Buddha, the school of thought has turned into a full-fledged education system. In this blog, we will shed light on the various aspects of the Buddhist education system. 

What is Buddhist System of Education?

Buddhist Education
Courtesy: Pinterest

Buddhist Education system was developed on the basis of basic life. This education is based on the moral, mental and physical development of a student. It also diverts students towards the Sangha rules and guides them to follow them.

Tracing back to the 5th century BC, Buddhist Education was originally taught by Lord Buddha and its key characteristic is that it is monastic and inclusive of all castes (the caste system was widely prevalent at that time in India). The central aim of the Buddhist Education system is to facilitate the all-round and holistic development of a child’s personality, be it intellectual and moral development as well as physical and mental development.

Features of the Buddhist Education System

Buddhist Education System in India is one of the most holistic education systems in the world. Here are the key features of Buddhist Education:

Admission & Learning Centers

Courtesy: Agencia EFE

Working somewhat like Plato’s Academy, the Buddhist monasteries or Viharas were the centers of learning where the monk was responsible for the teaching and intellectual upbringing of a pupil. To study in the monastery, the student had to willingly present himself to the teacher who in turn had to ensure the complete transformation of the pupil. The initiation of a child/student in Buddhist education is carried out through Pabhaija when the student takes the oath stating, “I take refuge with the Buddha. I take refuge with the religion. I take refuge with the order”.

The Buddhist education system was focused on mentorship as it would take 12-20 years for a pupil to reach the thinking level of the monk. The final ordination in Buddhism is known as Upasampada when the student is conferred as Bhikshu or Monk.

Also Read – Buddhist Councils: History, List and Teachings

Teaching Methods in Buddhist Education

Courtesy: DeviantArt

Following the Guru-Shishya model, the method of teaching was mainly verbal where discussion formed an integral part of the education. The students were evaluated on the basis of knowledge retention, application, and behaviour.

Learning the Teachings of the Buddha

Courtesy: The Myanmar Times

Further, the emphasis was placed on learning the teachings of Buddha through the scriptures called the Tripitaka. Written in Pali, the Sutta, Vinaya and Abhidhamma texts primarily collated the monastic rules, and teachings of Buddha and his followers. Renowned personalities from the domains of religion, medicine, military, etc were often invited to share their knowledge with the pupils at the monastery. This practice is prevalent in modern educational institutes and is known as ‘guest lectures’.

Role of the Teacher

The Buddhist Education System implements a unique focus on incorporating mutual reverence and affection between a teacher and their student. The pupils generally accompany the teacher everywhere carrying their seats, robes, teeth sticks and water. Teachers focus on imparting to students with etiquette, discipline, abstinence and simplicity. While formal education is focused on the relationship between a teacher and their students for a particular grade or period, the Buddhist education system emphasises ensuring a lifelong relationship between pupils and their teacher.

Buddhist School Education

Credits – Sprouts

Features of Buddhist Education System in India

Here are 8 most prominent features of the Buddhist Education system in India:

  1. The aim of education is to attain Nirvana and the entire system is set up accordingly.
  2. This kind of education is mainly attained at Mathas, Viharas and Monasteries and the system is managed by monks. The monastic life of the Shramanas and monks has always been a part of India therefore many students from countries like China, Japan, Korea, Java, Burma, Ceylon, Tibet, etc. come here to gain knowledge.
  3. This education system has a broad and positive vision towards teaching. Hence students belonging to all castes, religions and races are welcomed with equality in the Buddhist Education System. This is one of the major reasons why it became popular in India as the Brahmanical Education System was not this inclusive.
  4. Secular education is given importance along with religious and philosophical aspects.
  5. A harmonious teacher-student relationship is maintained. Teachers give equal respect to students and receive the same affection from the students. This helps in establishing a disciplined life.
  6. Basic essentials of life like Spinning, Weaving, Drawing, Medicine, etc. are a part of the curriculum. These basic skills help students to be independent.
  7. The process of learning is done via lectures, questioning and discussions.
  8. The Busshist Education System is designed to find concrete solutions to various problems of life.

Goals of Buddhist Education System

Buddhist Education System

Here are the goals of Buddhist Education System:

  • The goal of Buddhist teaching is to bring everyone on a common platform and help achieve the highest form of human satisfaction through knowledge, meditation and self-introspection.
  • Buddha argued that ultimate wisdom or Anuttara-Samyak-Sambhodi’ is not something that can be acquired but it is intrinsic to one’s nature and a person needs to delve into the realm of self to explore it.
  • The Buddhist education system gained popularity when it started imparting education to people from all races, across continents. It focuses on the moral, intellectual and spiritual development of a student so as to dive into the state of ultimate wisdom and equality.
  • One of the organized and effective education systems that continue to influence society in modern times, Buddhist thought was intended to bring harmony which is essential for the progress in all forms.   


The Buddhist education system was one of the first to introduce an organized curriculum with two levels of education namely, primary and secondary. This is also followed in the modern education system. While in primary education, the students were equipped with basic reading, writing, mathematics, and problem-solving, in the secondary level, this process was intensified. Philosophy, Religion, Medicine and Military training formed an integral part in secondary education in Buddhist pedagogy. 

Here are the major subjects in the curriculum of the Buddhist Education System:

  • Teachings of the Buddha
  • Ayurveda and Surgery
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Spinning, Painting, Weaving, Cloth Printing
  • Tailoring
  • Commerce-related subjects like Accountancy, amongst others.

Learning Methods

The way of learning used in the Vedic age was mainly oral and in the Buddhist Education System, students learn the content of copious subjects by rote. The teaching and learning methods used include debate, discussion, lecture, speech hearing, question-answer, deliberation, and the like. Further, the emphasis was laid upon thinking meditation and self-study. Many monastic schools and viharas incorporated the inductive method of logic or Hetu Vidya to train the intellectual skills of pupils. A balanced combination of theoretical and practical methods is utilised and with the help of monitorial methods, many good-performing students are also provided with the responsibility to teach and discipline other pupils.

Buddhism System Transformative Education

Credits – ColumbiaLearn

Buddhist Education System: How is it Different?

The curriculum of the Buddhist education system was free from communal narrowness and it focused on the development and promotion of art and literature. During the reign of Ashoka, Buddhism flourished and thousands of monasteries were built across the country. To improve education and encourage Buddhist schools of thought, scholarships, grants, and other benefits were made available to the students. Giving subsidies to the pupils and gifting lands and pensions to the teachers were some of the few steps which were taken in this direction. The upliftment of the monasteries by the ancient, medieval and modern governments has helped in building an organized system whose philosophies are taught in the leading universities of the world.

With three branches namely, Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana, the teachings of the school are revered among the greatest philosophies and have taken the form of a separate discipline. Further, the modern educationist considers the teacher-student relationship as the crucial element of the system which is also important for providing quality education and effective transmission of the discourse.

Also Read – Sects of Buddhism: History, Origin, Branches

Books on Buddhist Education System

Over the years, many experts have analyzed and simplified the working of this education system. Here are some of the best books that can explain you the essence of this education system:

Buddhist Education System Slideshare

Courtesy: Sudha Pandeya/Pathak, Slideshare


What is Buddhist system of education?

The aim of Buddhist education system is to enlighten students and help them attain wisdom. This education system provides an all round personality development including physical, mental, moral and intellectual development.

What was the duration of education in Buddhist period?

The period of education in Buddhist Education System is 12 years.

What are the main features of Buddhist education?

All the activities that are necessary for the survival are taught in Buddhist Education System including weaving, spinning, accountancy, painting, music, etc.

What are 4 types of Buddhism?

With time, Buddhism has been evolving. There are 4 main types of Buddhism:

1. Traditional Buddhism
2. Nikaya Buddhism
3. Mahayana
4. Vajrayana Buddhism

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That’s all about the Buddhist education system. If you want to read more articles like this, you can get Study notes on the Modern History of India here. Also, you can visit our general knowledge page on Indian History!

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