“He who is possessed of supreme knowledge by concentration of mind, must have his senses under control, like spirited steeds controlled by a charioteer” says the Katha Upanishad. From the Vedic age downwards the central conception of education of the Indians has been that it is a source of illumination giving us a correct lead in the various spheres of life. Knowledge says one thinker, is the third eye of man, which gives him insight into all affairs and teaches him how to act.
India has a rich tradition of learning and education right from the beginning of time. There are Shastra’s and Sutra’s which detail the duty of a teacher and student. Ancient Education System in India is based on making of Man and not for just survival. The making of man was regarded as an artistic and true purpose of education. It was sought as the means of self-realization, as the means to the highest end of life. viz. Mukti or Emancipation. Ancient Education System in India is also to be understood as being ultimately the outcome of the Indian theory of knowledge as part of the corresponding scheme of life and values. The scheme takes full account of the fact that Life includes Death and this form the eternal truth. This gives a particular angle of vision, a sense of perspective and proportion in which the material and the moral, the physical and spiritual, the perishable and permanent interests and values of life are clearly defined and strictly differentiated. Education must aid in this self-fulfilment, and not in the acquisition of mere objective knowledge. 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 pupil had mainly to educate himself and achieve his own mental growth.
Ancient Education System in India had three simple process – Shravana, Manana and Niddhyaasana. 1) Shravana – listening to the truths as they fell from the lips of the teacher. This knowledge was technically called as Sruti (what was heard by the ear and not what was seen in writing). This is because the pronunciation is of utmost importance. If the pronunciations of the words differ, then the true meaning of the phrase or word will also differ.
2) Manana implies that the student needs to interpret himself the meaning of the lessons imparted by the teacher so that they may be assimilate fully. Reflecting upon what has been heard (shravana). This is to remove any doubts about the knowledge that has been received via shravana.
3) Nidhyasana means complete comprehension of the truth that is taught so that the student may live the truth and not merely explain it by word. Knowledge must result in realization; meditating upon the essence of what has now been intellectually understood until there is total conviction.
Ancient Indian schools known for their excellence
In the words of the poet and Nobel prize laureate Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) -
“A most wonderful thing was notice in India is that here the forest, not the town, is the fountain head of all its civilization. Wherever in India its earliest and most wonderful manifestations are noticed, we find that men have not come into such close contact as to be rolled or fused into a compact mass. There, trees and plants, rivers and lakes, had ample opportunity to live in close relationship with men. In these forests, though there was human society, there was enough of open space, of aloofness; there was no jostling. Still it rendered it all the brighter. It is the forest that nurtured the two great ancient ages of India, the Vaidic and the Buddhist. As did the Vaidic Rishis, Buddha also showered his teaching in the many woods of India. The current of civilization that flowed from its forests inundated the whole of India.”