Talk:/Medical Institutions in ancient india/student's life and discipline/Manner and Time of Approach to the Preceptor

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Manner and Time of Approach to the Preceptor


'�Having approached obediently, the worshipful Atreya as he was seated in the northern region of the Himalayas surrounded by an assembly of sages after he had concluded his daily austerities and tended the sacrifical fire.�

"The sage who was seated at ease after having finished his prayers and was intent upon teaching at the appointed time�.


�Agnivesa, choosing the right moment inquired as follows":


�Agnivesa addressed the master who was seated in an attentive mood and glowing like fire�.

"Saluting the sage who was undeluded of mind and who was resplendent like fire, Agnivesa said (to him)."


"Agnivesa, having approached obediently and after making salutations, said."


Agnivesa choosing the right moment told this to the preceptor very humbly".

Agnivesa addressed the master Punarvasu, who was seated

in an attentive mood amidst the sages, glowing like fire after completing his daily sacrificial rites."


Agnivesa, touching the feet of the worshipful Atreya, here, asked concerning the characteristics of all kinds of parasites infecting the human body, their cause, habitat, form, color, name, effects and treatment."


Agnivesa with folded hands asked Punarvasu who was surrounded by sages,


"It is evident from the circumstance described in Caraka that the first consideration was paid to cleanliness and purity of body and mind, on the side of both the Master and the pupils. The pupil approaches his master and beseeches instructions on the various aspects of the science only after the Gun has finished his ablutions and religious rites such as feeding the sacrificial fire etc The Guru is also observed to be sitting amidst brother sages and men of learning. And in certain discussions the� pupils as well as the sages present, participate and give out their���� opinions until in the��������� end, the master surveys the whole range of the subject in its various aspects and gives his final verdict on the�������� subject under discussion. Thus in Caraka on the subject of the��������� Category of Taste, we find various theories propounded first by those present and the summing up and the final decision declared by the master at the end. Thus the matter was not one-sided and monotonous lecturing by the teacher, oblivious to the various requirements of the varied mental grades of intelligence of the students composing the class. There was a cooperative effort, an intelligent participation by the pupil in the evolution of the final and correct appraisement of a subject and in the formulation of right decisions on mooted points It follows that the pupils were diligently observing physical and mental cleanliness and purity themselves. They performed their baths and prayers with the greatest scruple and kept their minds free from distracting thoughts and emotions. They held their master in great reverence and listened to every word dropping from his mouth with respectful and intelligent attention, and yet never hesitated to state their position in case of doubt and ask for further clarification and light. The student whenever he approached the master prostrated at his feet. One of the main qualities required was that the disciple should be one

offering respectful salutation to the master. He must be obedient and modest. He must have self-restraint and must fold his hands before his master. He must not be arrogant or boastful and must deport himself with modesty and self-effacement. He must be given to simplicity both in dress and manner. Certainly the attitude of mind that such conduct required was one of the great and sincere thirst for knowledge and an unfailing faith in the wisdom and virtue of the master at whose feet he learnt his lessons.


This is a spirit that dominated in the ancient method of education.


A religious and ardent attitude without yet forsaking the democratic spirit greatly added to the advantage that the pupil derived from his teacher. In education, the spirit of approach is everything. The reverence that characterised the pupil at that period induced him to pay intelligent and respectful attention to every word of the master.


The monotony of the lecturing will bore many a student to the educational institutions. In ancient India this boredom was avoided by the question and answer method known as discoursive method. The scriptures also lay down that an aspirant to knowledge should hear by obedience by questioning or by service.


In a class it was the monitor known as the foremost pupil that put respectfully questions with a view to the edification of the class as well as the world in general. This was also the method obtaining in ancient Greece known as the Socratic method, now seen in the dialogues of Plato.

The physical appearance of the pupils was in keeping with the spirit of their mental and moral outlook. The Brahmacari was required to grow his beard and hair and wear brown garment. He must be diligent in the observance of cleanliness and clip his nails and hair. Thus a Brahmacari must have been easily recognisable from his dress and bearing. The idea of a uniform for students must therefore have been in vogue even in those days.


In his daily conduct he was required to observe strict rules. His obedience and submission to the Guru were expressed in his behaviour towards him. He must make respectful salutations to him and seat himself before his Guru occupying a lower position and at some distance. In his diet he has to eschew meat and intoxicating drinks. He must avoid all kinds of luxuries and the company of women. He must not bear arms nor commit criminal offences. He must not be an absolute ignoramus as regards the things of the world either. He was required to know how to adjust to the needs of time and place. He should avoid excess of sleep and indolence and be alert and active in hjs habits. Thus the life of a Brahmacari was no easy one, but a disciplined life of cleanliness and purity illuminated by a dominant love of knowledge and service.


The course of medical education ran through a period of 7 years and during that period he was styled Brahmacari. After completing this education the student who is known as �Adhyayanantagah" takes his leave to enter into the next stage of life known as �Grhastha", the married

life. He may pay as a token of gratitude, to his teacher his fee before departing and he undergoes a ceremony akin to modern convoca�tion ceremony. He is then called a �Snataka" meaning baptised. He is then a real Dwija or according to some a Trija, a twice born or thrice-born.


There was a class of Brahmacari who continued to pursue their studies further all through their lives and took a vow to that effect. They were known as Naisthika Brahmacaris, or life-long scholars who dedicated their whole lives to the pursuit of knowledge.

There were some as in all times, who were of unsteady mind, who went about from teacher to teacher, from one institution to another and never stuck up to any place or person long enough to be of any profit to themselves or others. Such fickle students were known as Tirtha-Kakas" meaning wandering crows".


Every institution was a residential one, which assured close contact between the master and the pupils and engendered a spirit of mutual understanding, accommodation and love among the young students. They accompanied the master on his sojourns to neighbouring places either for purposes of practical study and demonstration or for discussions and conferences with other sages and institutions. Again after the course of studentship the young men invariably visited either by way of pilgrimage or prompted by a desire to see the broad world, the places of religious and cultural centres. Thus their mental vision was broadened and a universal and humanistic outlook inspired their every thought and action.


The main ideal of the instruction was to develop a full man in the student. For that, hard life was prescribed and it was keenly observed that the student became more and more self reliant. Great attention was paid to the preservation of cleanliness of the mind and body. All this comprised the physical and ethical side and no pain was spared to develop the intellectual side too. With this purpose in view, debates on scientific subjects were often held to develop and test the power of reasoning Impetus was given to the spirit of inquiry and research and the student was helped to abandon bigotry and to cultivate broadness of vision. Thus moral and spiritual prog�ress paved the way to the building of character and the real ideal of education was realized