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 we have some other purpose of greater importance to fulfill? 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.
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Goals of Buddhist Education System
The goal of Buddhist teaching is to bring everyone on the 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.
Buddhist Education System: Teaching Methods
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 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. 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. 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’.
Levels of Education
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.
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, tooth stick and water. Teachers focus on imparting students with etiquettes, 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 on ensuring a lifelong relationship between pupils and their teacher.
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.
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.
We hope this blog has given an insight into the key aspects of the Buddhist education system. Even though the teachings of this system flourished centuries ago, it still continues to enlighten us in the modern age of smart education. We at Leverage Edu understand the importance of mentorship and intellectual development of a student, which is why we are committed to helping you get the best education. Our experts connect you to the mentors from all over the world to help you land in the university and the subject combination of your choice.