Medical Student's Life & Discipline
Students, also called as Brahmacāris, lived in the closest association with the teacher. The seclusion of the forest colonies, in which the educational institutions were situated, did not allow any distractions of the life in 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. Thus the life of a Brahmacāri was not easy, but a disciplined life of cleanliness and purity illuminated by a dominant love of knowledge and service.
Relation Between A Guru And A 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 master. Students conducted themselves for the welfare and pleasure of their teachers. They stayed at teacher's house. 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 taking permission from his teacher and expected to honor his teacher to the utmost level and finish his studies. The teachers addressed their pupils as "Vatsa" and the pupil in turn called his Guru as "Bhagavān". Thus adjectives used for the teacher and the pupil in the texts are quite significant which denote the mutual relation of love and respect.
Life Of A Student
The healthy student was expected to consecrate all his time for study. He should wake up at dawn. After having performed the necessary ablutions, he should salute the gods, seers, cows, Brāhmaṇas, guardians, elders, adepts and teachers. Then he should seat at ease on even and clean ground to study. In this manner, an observant student should study continuously during noon, afternoon and night. He must go to bed after his master or guru had slept and must rise from bed before his master woke up. His other traits should include:
- Inclined towards cleanliness.
- Devoted to the preceptor.
- Torpor free
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.
The verse above denotes the physical appearance details required to be followed by the pupils to keep up with the spirit of their purpose of study along with their mental and moral outlook. The The Brahmacāri was expected to 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. They performed their baths and prayers with the greatest scruple and kept their minds free from distracting thoughts and emotions. Thus a Brahmacāri must be easily recognizable from his dress and bearing. The idea of a uniform for students must therefore have been in vogue even in those days.
One of the main qualities required was that the disciple should be one offering respectful salutation to the master. They held their master in great reverence and listened to every word from him with respect and 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. The preceptor should impart knowledge, to the best of his ability, to the disciple who had approached him at the appointed hour of instruction. Being attired modestly and also differently from the preceptor, the disciple should serve the preceptor as he was a king. He should renounce ridicule, enmity, intoxicating drinks, meat and women. He should not imitate any inadequate act done by the preceptor.
We can deduce that the pupils were diligently observing physical and mental cleanliness and purity themselves. He must be obedient, modest, self-restraint and 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. This approach towards life was based on the sincere desire to attain knowledge and an unfailing faith in the wisdom and virtue of the master from whom he learnt his lessons. This was the spirit that dominated in the ancient method of education.
Moral & Religious Code of Conduct
Thou shalt be truthful and free from envy. Thou shall behave and act with care, attention, undistracted mind, humility, constant reflection, ungrudging obedience and without arrogance.
The lines above explains the code of conduct he was supposed to follow morally. 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 and self-controlled.
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 the kinds of luxuries and the company of women. He must not bear arms nor commit criminal offences. He must not be an absolute ignorant in regards to the happenings 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.
Manner and Time of Approach to the Preceptor
A religious and ardent attitude, without yet forsaking the democratic spirit, greatly added to the advantage that each pupil derived from his teacher. In education, the spirit of approach is everything. The reverence that characterized the pupil, during that period, induced him to pay intelligent and respectful attention to every word of the master. Sage Agniveṣa approached obediently to the sage Ātreya, 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 sacrificial fire. Agniveṣa, 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.
It is evident from the instances 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 oblations into the sacrificial fire, etc. The Guru is also observed to be sitting amidst fellow sages and men of learning. In certain discussions, the pupils as well as the sages present, participate and give 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. 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 just monotonous lectures 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.
Method Of Study & Teaching
Repetitive Method of Study
One should learn to recite word by word or verse by verse. Each and every sentence 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. A student should chant in a manner which brings 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 tone not too high-pitched nor too low. The student should study seating himself at ease on even and clean ground and concentrate over the aphorisms in order, repeating them over and over again, all the while understanding their import fully. He should focus on correcting his own faults while repeating the verses.
Discursive Method of Teaching
The monotony of the lecturing might 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 indicate that an aspirant should hear from, question to and serve his master with utmost obedience. This was also the method practiced by ancient Greece which was known as the Socratic method, now seen in the dialogues of Plato.
A class consisted of the 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 Ātreya Punarvāsu
Agniveṣa inquired with the sage Punarvāsu, seated at ease after having finished his prayers, questions concerning the entire subject of piles and few questions concerning fever. At that time, the Sage Punarvāsu Ātreya was on a peripatetic tour during the latter month of the hot season. It was attended by entourage of disciples. It was routed through the woodlands skirting of the Ganges near the capital city of Kampilya in the country of Pāncāla. In this area the residents comprised of the elite twice-born communities. Thereafter Punarvāsu, bestowed the science of life on his six disciples:
Addressing himself to the six choicest of his disciples headed by Agniveṣa, who were dedicated to study and meditation, the master Ātreya declared few things with a view to stimulate inquiry. This is how the medicine of knowledge spread through the world.
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 he was hungry, thirsty, diseased 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-days
- Immediately after taking meals
- On seeing anything marvelous
- Days when the master is uneasy
- When there occurs some distress to the cows, the Brāhmaṇas or the preceptor
- Full-moon day
Synopsis of Learning Period
Each educational 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 the places of pilgrimage or the places of religious and cultural centers, prompted by a desire to see the broad world. 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 complete human with all the attributes 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 the body. All this comprised the physical and ethical side and each practice was followed 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.
Degrees After Completion 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 Brahmacāri. After completing this education, the student was known as 'Adhyayanantagah'. He took leave from his master to enter into the next stage of life known as Gṛhastha, the married life. He may pay fees to his teacher as a token of gratitude before departing. He underwent a ceremony akin to modern convocation ceremony. He is then called a Snātaka; meaning baptized. He is then known as a real Dwija or according to some a Trija, a twice born or thrice-born.
There was a class of Brahmacāris who continued to pursue their studies further all through their lives and took a vow to that effect. They were known as Naisthika Brahmacāris 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 settled to any place or person long enough to get the utmost benefit for themselves or others. Such fickle students were known as Tirtha-Kākas.
- It means wandering crows.
- The Caraka Samhita published by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society, Jamnagar, India