Talk:Student's life and discipline

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The Student's Life and Discipline

As we have already noted, the student lived in the closest association with the teacher. The seclusion of the forest colonies in which these educational institutions were situated did not allow any distractions of the life in a civic area. On the other hand their power of observation was greatly enhanced due to the nature of their surroundings which were full of life and seasonal changes.

Student's Daily Routine

The student who is healthy and has consecrated all his time for study, should rise at dawn. After having performed the necessary ablutions he should salute the gods, the seers, the cows, the Brahmanas, the guardians, the elders, the adepts and the teachers. Then he should seat at ease on even and clean ground. He should then concentrate his mind on the the aphorisms in order by repeating them over and over again. While studying he should understand their import fully, in order to correct his own faults of reading and to recognize the measure of those in the reading of others.

In this manner, an ever vigilant student should study continuously during noon, afternoon and in the night. He must go to bed after his master has laid down to sleep and must rise from bed before his master. His other traits should include:

  • Disposed to cleanliness.
  • Devoted to the preceptor.
  • Skillful and free from torpor or excessive sleep.

Dress, Diet And General Behavior

Thou shalt lead the life of a bachelor, grow thy hair and beard, speak only the truth, eat no meat, eat only pure articles of food, be free from envy and carry no arms.

He must keep his nails and hair clipped close, observe cleanliness, wear brown garments, devote himself to the vow of truth and celibacy and be ever prompt in making obeisance to his elders.

Beloved one ! As regards the method of study, listen as I describe it. The preceptor should impart instruction to the best of his ability, to the disciple who has approached him in a state of cleanliness wearing his upper garment and with an attentive mind at the appointed hour of instruction.

Being attired modestly and also differently from the preceptor, the disciple should serve the preceptor as he would a king. He should renounce ridicule, enmity, intoxicating drinks, meats and women. He should not call only by name or should amuse with things though good. He should not imitate even in ridicule a bad act done by the preceptor.

His Moral And Religious Life

Thou shalt be truthful and free from envy. Thou shalt behave and act with care, attention, undistracted mind, humility, constant reflection, ungrudging obedience and without arrogance.

The disciple should serve his master renouncing evil desires, greed, passion, pride, conceit, envy, harshness, slander, falsehood, indolence and other qualities which bring infamy upon oneself. The disciple should be righteous, self-controlled and free from greed, anger, passion, envy, ridicule etc.

Method Of Study

One should learn to recite word by word or verse by verse. Again they should be linked together properly as words, phrases and verses. Having thus formulated them, they should be repeatedly recited. One should recite neither too fast nor in a hesitant manner nor in a nasal twang but should recite bringing out each syllable distinctly without over-stressing the accents and without making any distortions of the eye-brows, lips and hands. One must recite systematically and in a voice not too high-pitched nor too low.

The student should prosecute his studies seating himself at ease on even and clean ground and concentrating his mind, should go over the aphorisms in order, repeating them over and over again, all the while understanding their import fully, in order to correct his own faults of reading and to recognise the measure of those in the reading of others. In this manner, at noon, in the afternoon and in the night, ever vigilant the student should apply himself to study.

Relation Between The Guru And The Disciple

A disciple was expected to do everything as per the guru's orders. Students dedicated themselves to their teachers and regarded them as their chief. Student's conducted themselves for the welfare and pleasure of their teachers. They stayed at teacher's abode. A student was expected to move about, lay, seat, take meals and prosecute his studies as per the wish of his teacher. He was not supposed to go out without taken permission from his teacher. He was expected to honor his teacher to the utmost level and finish his studies.

The teachers addressed their pupils as vatsa etc. and the pupil in turn calls his Guru as Bhagavan. Thus adjectives used for the teacher and the pupil in the texts are quite significant of the mutual relation of love and respect.


A class consisted of at best of six, eight or twelve pupils with one of them as a monitor, acting as a representative of the class with the master and as the deputy of the master with the pupils. He was generally the best pupil of the class. There is an instance to explain the same.

Class of the sage Atreya Punarvasu

Agnivesa questioned the tranqil sage Punarvasu seated at ease after having finished his prayers, concerning the entire subject of piles and few questions concerning fever. Sage Punarvasu Atreya while on a peripatetic tour during the latter month of the hot season, attended by his entourage of disciples, through the woodlands skirting the Ganges near the capital city of Kampilya in the country of Pancala, wherein resided the elite of the twice-born communities, thus observed addressing the disciple Agnivesa.

Thereafter Punarvasu, bestowed the science of life on his six disciples:

  1. Agnivesa
  2. Bhela
  3. Jatukarna
  4. Parasara
  5. Harita
  6. Ksarapani

Addressing himself to the six choicest of his disciples headed by Agnivesa, who were dedicated to study and meditation, the master Atreya declared few things with a view to stimulate inquiry. This is how the medicine of knowledge spread through the world.

Manner and Time of Approach to the Preceptor

Approach of Sage Agnivesa

Having approached obediently, the sage 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. Agnivesa, choosing the right moment inquired to his preceptor very humbly with folded hands about the characteristics of all kinds of parasites infecting the human body, their cause, habitat, form, color, name, effects and treatment.

Discussions As per Caraka

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 Guru 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 pupils in the evolution of the final and correct appeasement of a subject and in the formulation of right decisions on mooted points.

Statute for Students

We can deduce 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. They yet never hesitated to state their position in case of doubt and ask for further clarification. 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 was the 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 characterized the pupil at that period induced him to pay intelligent and respectful attention to every word of the master.

Discursive Method of Teaching

The monotony of the lecturing will bore many students to the educational institutions. In ancient times, this boredom was avoided by the question and answer method known as discursive method. The scriptures also lay down that an aspirant should hear by obedience by questioning or by service. This was also the method practices by ancient Greece which was known as the Socratic method, now seen in the dialogues of Plato.

Physical Appearance of a Pupil

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 recognizable from his dress and bearing. The idea of a uniform for students must therefore have been in vogue even in those days.

Code of Conduct for a Student

In his daily conduct he was required to observe strict rules. His obedience and submission to the Guru were expressed in his behavior 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 his habits. Thus the life of a Brahmacari was not easy, but a disciplined life of cleanliness and purity illuminated by a dominant love of knowledge and service.

Period of Medical Education


The course of medical education continued for a period of 7 years and during that period he was supposed to follow the routine of a Brahmacari. After completing this education the student was known as 'Adhyayanantagah' takes his leave to enter into the next stage of life known as Grhastha, the married life. He may pay fees to his teacher as a token of gratitude before departing. He undergoes a ceremony akin to modern convocation ceremony. He is then called a Snātaka; meaning baptized. He is then a real Dwija or according to some a Trija, a twice born or thrice-born.

Naisthika Brahmacaris

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, 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 get the good benefits for themselves or others. Such fickle students were known as Tirtha-Kākas.[1]

Synopsis of Learning Period

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 neighboring places either for purposes of practical study and demonstration or for discussions and conferences with other sages and institutions. 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 centers. 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 human 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 also. 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. The student was helped to abandon bigotry and cultivate broader vision. Thus moral and spiritual progress paved the way to the building of character and the real ideal of education was realized.


There were certain days observed as holidays, when the students were to abstain from study. There was a general injunction advising a student not to resort to study while in hunger or thirst or disease or indisposition. One should not study when he is overpowered by hunger, thirst, disease, dejection etc. One should not conduct the studies even during the following circumstances:

  • Unseasonal lightning
  • When the quarters are lit up with a lurid glow
  • While a conflagration is in progress
  • During an earthquake
  • At festive-tide
  • Time of meteoric showers
  • During eclipses of the sun and moon
  • New moon day
  • During the two twilights
  • Eighth day of the dark- half
  • Last two days of the fortnight
  • Same days of the bright half
  • Two twilights of the day
  • Days of unseasonal lightning and thunder of clouds
  • Occasions of calamity to the sovereign or to the sovereignty of the realm
  • While going to cremation ground
  • Times of war
  • Great festival days
  • Sight of any unnatural phenomena
  • Holy days
  • Cloudy and rainy days
  • Days when the sun is not seen
  • Great festival-day
  • Immediately after taking meals
  • On seeing anything marvelous
  • Days when the master is uneasy
  • When there occurs some distress to the cows, the Brahmanas or the preceptor
  • Full-moon day



  1. It means wandering crows.
  • The Caraka Samhita published by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society, Jamnagar, India