Dr. V.K. Maheshwari, Former Principal

K.L.D.A.V(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

In India during the time of Buddha, there was a racial discrimination in the society. This discrimination was according to profession of man, and  according to birth. In the society there were four division of man of whom Brahman was superior. Brahmanism dominated the society and established their supremacy in the country. They enjoyed rights for religious training and education. But other category of people deprived of their religious and educational rights. At that time there were 62 heretical doctrines in existence and priesthood got upper hand. In this background a religious revolution started in ancient India in 600 B.C. and a new doctrine or system developed which is called Buddhist doctrine or Buddhist philosophy. It is to be said that on the foundation of Buddhism a new and special Education System originated in ancient India. Buddhism made a tremendous movement which played a valuable role in the development of Education System in ancient India or ancient Buddhist world. It is well-known that with the rise of Buddhism in India there dawned the golden age of Indias culture and civilisation. There was progress in all aspects of Indian civilisation under the impact of Buddhism  There arose many centres of learning which did not exist before

Aims of education

The goal of Buddha’s teaching-the goal of Buddhist education is to attain wisdom. In Sanskrit, the language of ancient India, the Buddhist wisdom was called ―Anuttara-Samyak-Sambhodi‖ meaning the perfect ultimate wisdom. The Buddha taught us that the main objective of our practice or cultivation was to achieve this ultimate wisdom. The Buddha further taught us that everyone has the potential to realize this state of ultimate wisdom, as it is an intrinsic part of our nature, not something one obtains externally.

The chief aim of Buddhist  education was all round development of child’s personality. This included his physical , mental, moral and intellectual development.The aim of Buddhist Education is to make a free man, a wise, intelligent, moral, non-violent & secular man. Students became judicious, humanist, logical and free from superstitious. Students became free from greed, lust and ignorance. Buddhist Education was wide open and available to the people of all walks of life. The principal goal of the Buddhist Education is to change an unwise to wise, beast to priest.

The Buddhist education system aimed at regaining our intrinsic nature. it also teaches absolute equality which stemmed from Buddha‘s recognition that all sentient beings possess this innate wisdom and nature. Buddha‘s teaching helps us to realize that innate, perfect ,ultimate wisdom .With wisdom, we can then solve all our problems and turn suffering into happiness.

In the Buddhist era, religion was given top priority and education was imparted through it. The chief aim of education was propagation of religion and inculcation of religious feelings and education served as a mean to achieve salvation or nirvana.

Preparation for life, there was a provision for imparting wordily and practical knowledge along with religious education so that when the students entered normal life they may be able to earn their livelihood.

The nature of mass education

In the early period Buddhist Education was limited within the monasteries and only for the members of the monastery. But later on it was open to all, even lay people got scope to have education in those institutions. In modern days Buddhist Education became wide open and embraced people of all walks of life. The aim of Buddhist Education is to change an unwise to wise, beast hood to Buddha hood.

Buddhist Education made revolutionary change in the society. The Buddhists in the world first made Education open to all. Students irrespective of caste, creed, religion got opportunity to have education which was denied by the superior class in the society. In India also, in Vedic Educational schools students from lower classes were refused to get admission.

The monasteries or Buddha Vihars were the chief centres of learning and only the Budhist monks could be admitted to them for education. Thus there was no planned arrangement for mass education as such during the period. It form this position it would be wrong to construce that the Buddhist monks were unmindful of the education of the people in general. So at the time of begging alms the monks used to remove the religious doubts of the people through their interesting conversation or short and alp lectures. Thus the people in general received moral and religious education from the monks.

Women education-

Women education during Buddhist period was at its lowest ebb, as the women folk were despised in the sense that Lord Buddha had regarded them as the source of all evils. So he had advised during his life time not to  admit women inmonasteries.but after some time due to the insistence of his dear pupil Anand, Buddha had permitted about 500 women along with his step mother for admission in the Vihars with many restriction and reservations.

when Buddhist monasteries had developed into colleges of international reputation, women did not receive any education because of their early marriages. In the early history  of Buddhism, however the permission was given to women to enter the order and gave a fairly good impetus to female education, especially in aristocratic and commercial sections of society. Large number of ladies from these circles joined the order and became life-long students of religion and philosophy. Their example must have given an indirect encouragement to the spread of education among lay women as well.

Besides this, the rules of admission of women in Sangh were hard enough. Two years of probation was fixed for women-monks for their permanent membership .Strict rules were enforced for women monks. . The women monks were not allowed to meet any male monk in loneliness and their residence was arranged separately at a distant place. They were not given any permanent post in the sangh. Some monk could give her religious instruction twice a month in the presence of another monk. The assent of the whole Sangh was also considered essential. Moreover, they had to live separately, and they were instructed by a special monk twice in a month. They could not live lonely with the teacher too. Buddhist Sangh had given attention to the cultural development and social uplift of the women. Mostly women entered the Sangh out of keen interest and deep religious feelings. Some had also joined it to get rid of the troubles of the wordly affairs. As the Bhikshunis did not like to maintain inferior position, so they naturally were more interested in the studies leading pious life. Though, Buddhist literature does not speak much of the system of the education of Bhikshunis, yet there are some references of new comer Bhikshunis and taking charge of their education. It makes clear that there must have been some arrangement for their education.

There were Bhikshunis whose spiritual knowledge was very high and they could influence a good number of people..Many Bhikshunis took the duties of social services also. They serve the sick, orphans, etc., and considered it to be their prime duty. Some of them had studied the philosophy deeply and had become poetess and writers. . Some of them had studied even politics and took active part in politics of the day. Some of them had even gone to foreign countries to preach Buddhism. Sheelbhattarika, Prabhudevi and Viyanka were famous in those days as poets and writers. The sister of the Emperor Asoka Sanghamitra was very famous Bhikshunis, who had done remarkable services of Buddhism

Qualities and Responsibilities of the teacher-

The teacher himself must spend at least ten years as a monk and necessarily must have the purity of character, purity of thoughts and generosity. Both the teacher and student were responsible to the monastery. But regarding education, clothes, food and residence of the student monk, the teacher was fully responsible. The teacher was also responsible for any treatment of the student whenever he fell ill.

The duties of the teachers were imparting education to the students, writing Book, propagation of religion, discussion, and arrangement of debate for the clarification of serious subjects. The teachers were responsible for physical, mental, spiritual and moral development of the students. Teachers loved the students and helped them in every affair. They also took care of them during their diseases and agony. The teachers were responsible for their food, accommodation and other necessaries of livelihood. They kept eyes on the all round development of the students. Specially they were serious about the obeyance of the Sangha rules, meditation and concentration to their learning.

Both the teacher and the student were responsible to the monastery or the Buddhist order. But regarding education, clothes , food and residence of the student monk, the teacher was wholly responsible. The teacher was also responsible for any treatment of the student whenever he fell ill. The teacher used to bestow all the affection to his student and used to educate his through lecture and question answer method.

Buddhist philosophy admit the possible of attaining peace here and now, though, it start with a pessimistic note. Teacher, therefore, need not have any cry of despair. Bhikshus were the teacher. Buddhist vihar as or monasteries have their methods of Imitation and training for the apprentices. The preceptor must give his disciple, all possible intellectual and spiritual help and guidance. There was mutual esteem between the teacher and the pupil. There relations were like father and son. The teacher was regarded as spiritual father or intellectual father of the student.

During Budhist period the place of teacher in the scheme of education was very important. There were the categories of teachers – Acharyas and Upadhayas. According to Sutras Literature Acharya may admit according to his unfettered discretion, a number of pupils, who would have to live with him at this house, for a minimum period of twelve years. He would not accept any fees from the pupils under this instruction. The progress shown by pupil was the only factor that determined the continence of his apprenticeship.

Concept of Student

The teachers were highly qualified. The aim of Buddhist Education is to make a free man, a wise, intelligent, moral, non-violent & secular man. Students became judicious, humanist, logical and free from superstitious. Students became free from greed, lust and ignorance. Buddhist Education was wide open and available to the people of all walks of life. The principal goal of the Buddhist Education is to change an unwise to wise, beast to priest.

The teachers were the guardian of the students.  They were responsible for physical, mental, spiritual and moral development of the students. Since Educational Institution (Monasteries) was residential therefore the relationship between the teachers and the students were very very cordial.

The student was expected to serve his teacher with all devotion. On rising in the morning the student will arrange everything for the daily routine of the teacher. He will cook his food and clean his clothes and utensils. Whatever he acquired through begging alms, he would place before teacher. The student had to prepare himself to receive education at any time whenever the teacher required him.

The Budhist system , enjoins upon the pupil the duty of serving this preceptor as a part of education. The pupils is to rise early in morning from the bed and give his teacher teeth-cleanser and water to rinse his mouth with; then, preparing a seat for him, serve him rice- milk in rinse his mouth with; then, preparing as seat for him, serve him rice milk in rinsed jug, and after his drinking it, wash the vessel and sweep the place. Afterwards he is to equip him for his begging round by giving him fresh undergarments, girdle, his two upper garments, and his alms- bowl rinsed and filled with water and then is to dress and equip himself similarly if he wants to accompany his teacher but must not walk too far from or near wants to accompany his teacher but must not walk too far from or near wants to accompany his teacher but must not walk too far from or near him. He is not to interrupt his teacher in speaking, even if he makes a mistake. There were also rules for the expulsion of a pupil by his teacher. In five cases a Saddhiviharika ought to be turned away; when he does not feel great affection for his Upajjhaya, nor great inclination towards him, nor much shame, nor great reverence, nor great devotion.

Sangha (Monastic) life was residential; therefore a cordial relationship between the teachers and the students grew up. Their relationship can be compared with the relationship of a father and a son. The teachers were the guardians and sincere for their mutual relationship, happiness, development and responsibilities.


Admission in monastery-monasteries was the centre for imparting education during the Buddhist period. For admission the student had to present himself before the teacher and request him for giving education. The teacher was fully responsible for education of his pupil. In turn, the pupil had also to be responsive to the instructions received from the teacher. The student was not at all accountable to any other Bhikshuk in the monastery.

The novices first entered into the Sangha (Bhikkhu Sangha), then had to follow the monastic rules and Sangha rules. Even today these rules are followed. There are many rules regarding food, dress, bed room, meditation, dedication and other rules as laid down by the Sangha. They had to undergo with physical exercise for maintenance of their health. They had to clean the campus, rooms, halls, serve the teachers (Achariya) and assist them in various field. This was the primary duties of the students     After admission the students had to follow monastic rules along with their syllabus and they were classified according to merit. The period of Education was 12 years.

. They had to follow the advice of the teachers and obey them. In this way they had to pass twelve years in learning. Students put questions to the teachers; teachers answered the question and discussed matters related to their Education. Students had to perform daily routine works beyond learning.

The teacher of a budhist monastery were empowered to expel any student on charge of misconduct or any type of  serious disobedience. However, the student was expelled only when it was definitely ascertained that he lacked faith and respect for the teacher and the other things related to the sanctity of the monastery. After the death of the teacher or when the teacher changed his religion or left the monastery for elsewhere, the students also deserted the monastery. The education of the concerned students ended then and there.

Pabbaja ceremony

Pabbaja was an accepted ceremony of the Buddhist monasteries. Pabbaja means going out . According to this ceremony the students after being admitted to a monastery had to renounce all his worldly and family relationship. An individual belonging to any caste could be admitted to a monastery and after being admitted he did not belong to any caste. ‘.After admission he had to change his old clothes and all old ways and the manners of living. For the Pabbajja ceremony the minimum age was eight years.

For pabbaja ceremony the individual had  to get his head fully shaved and put on yellow clothes. In this shape he was presented before the presiding Bhikshu. On  presentation this individual would pray for admission to the monastery. On his prayer the head Bikshu would administer three basic advices:

(1)   I take refuse with Budha.

(2)   I take refuge with religion.

(3)   I take refuge with the order.

The aspirant for admission used to pronounce these advices very distinctly. Then his admission was permitted. On being admitted the individual was called a Sharman.

Rules for shramner—

1. Not to kill any living being

2. Not to accept anything given to him.

3. Live free from the impurity of character.

5. Not to tell lie

6. Not to take food at improper time

7. Not to use luxurious things

Upasampada ceremony

After pabbaja the Buddhist monk had to undergo the Upasampada ceremony. This ceremony was different from pabbaja ceremony. . After the Pabbajja ceremony education continued for twelve years. When the student received twelve years education he had to undergo the Upasampada ceremony , that it is at the age of twenty years,Upasampada ceremony was performed. This ceremony was democratic in nature.  The Sharman has to present himself in front before all other monks of the monastery. One could be admitted for this ceremony only when the majority of the monks voted in favour of the same. After this ceremony the Sharman was regarded as full- fledge member of the monastery. On this occasion all his worldly and family relationships ended.


The Core of Buddha’s teaching-the Buddha teaching contains three major points discipline, meditation and wisdom. Wisdom is the goal and deep meditation or concentration in the crucial process toward achieving wisdom. Discipline through observing the precepts, is the method that helps one to achieve deep meditation; wisdom will then be realized naturally. Buddha‘s entire teaching as conveyed in the sutras never really depart from these three points.

After getting education in the Buddhist schools, colleges and universities one can not do any injustice, tell a lie, commit theft, can not kill, can not be addicted in wine and make himself free from moral turpitude. In this way students become free from greed, lust, enmity and ignorance.

Buddhism encompasses the entire collection of works by Buddha Shakyamuni and is called the Tripitaka.This can be classified into three categories sutra, Vinaya (precepts or rules) Sastra (Commentaries) which emphasize meditation, discipline and wisdom respectively.

The monk and the students in Buddhist period were following the ‗simple living and high thinking‖principle.their lives were full of purity, nobelness, dutifulness and humanity and are suppose to follow the Astang Marg- the word Samma  means ‘proper’, ‘whole’, ‘thorough’, ‘integral’, ‘complete’, and ‘perfect’ –

1. Samma-Ditthi — Complete or Perfect Vision

2. Samma-Sankappa — Perfected Emotion or Aspiration,

3. Samma-Vaca — Perfected or whole Speech

4. Samma-Kammanta — Integral Action.

5. Samma-Ajiva — Proper Livelihood.

.  6. Samma-Vayama  — Complete or Full Effort, Energy or Vitality

7. Samma-Sati — Complete or Thorough Awareness.

8. Samma-Samadhi — Full, Integral or Holistic Samadhi.

Syllabus :

Buddhist Education system developed on the basis of some basic principles. This education gave emphasis on the moral, mental and physical development and also to divert the students towards the Sangha rules and guide them to follow it. The main stress was given to have a clear idea of Tripitaka which consists of Sutta Pitaka, Binoy Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka. The entire Tripitaka consists of Buddhas teachings, message, philosophy and rules for the Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunies.

The curriculum was chiefly spiritual in nature. It was because the chief aim of education was to attain salvation. So the study of the religious books was most important. This type of curriculum was meant only for the monks. Besides these spinning, weaving, printing of the clothes, tailoring, sketching, accountancy, medicines, surgery and coinage were the other subjects of Budhist education.

At the initial stage medium of education was mother tongue, later it included Pali and Prakrit and in the following days Sanskrit also included as a medium of instruction. Specially the Mahayana Teachers achieved distinction in practicing Buddhism in Sanskrit. A special Sanskrit Buddhist literature developed. Mention may be made here that at the hands of Nagarjun, Asanga, Basubandhu, Santideva, Aryadeva and Candrakisti Buddhist philosophy and literature made tremendous progress through Sanskrit.

In later period according to the demand of the society and professional education, art, sculpture, architecture, medicine also included in the syllabus. Buddhist Education came out from the religious arena and went out for the benefit of the mankind.

There were two types of education primary and higher education. In primary education reading, writing and arithmetic were taught and in higher education religion philosophy Ayurveda, military training was included. Everyone was free to choose his subject without any restriction.

Vocation education was not ignored during the budhist system of education. The monks of Vihar were taught spinning, weaving and sewing in order that they meet their clothing requirement. They were taught architecture as well. Education in architecture enabled them to build up new Vihars or repair the old ones. Similarly the householders following Buddhism but living outside Vihar were given training in different type of and also earn their livelihood.

It is to be mentioned that Buddhist Educational Syllabus included Vedic subjects also. In this way difference of Buddhist & Vedic Education wiped out and united. This was a historic development in the history of Education in India.

Teaching Method :

At first there was private and group teachings. Later it developed into class room. In due course Sangharamas developed into residential college and universities. In the history of Education those universities played major role in the propagation of Buddhism, Buddhist history, Art & Culture. In those universities world famous scholars like Atisa Dipankar, Silabrada, Santarakshit were the teachers. Many valuable books were written. We still remember the glory of the universities like Nalanda, Vikramsila, Sompuri, Salban, Jagaddal, Pandit Vihar, Taxila. The supremacy of those universities were unparallel. Students from China, Myanmar, Thailand, Gandhara and all parts of ancient India came to have their education in those universities. Buddhist Education is a combination between individual and classroom educatio

The main of the Budhist monks was to propagate Buddhism .Hence some Acharyas like Sariputta, Mahayaggalva, Aniruddha, Rahula, etc gave the importance to tours for educating peopleAfter completion of the education the student were encouraged to undertake long tours to gain the real and practical knowledge.

.Conferences were arranged on every full moon and 1st day of month in the Budhist sanghs. The monks of different sanghs assembled and put forward their doubts freely. The attendance of every monk was compulsory in such conference.On the beginning and close of every month learned people used to assemble together. This type of assembly together was a very important part of Budhist education. The purpose of this assembly was to maintain the moral standards of all the monks, because the total education was based on morality. It was compulsory for all the monks to be present in this assemble so much so that even ill monks used to try to attend it anyhow. If due to illness it was not possible for monk to come, then assembly was held near his residence. This assembly was quite democratic and it has immense moral impact on all concerned. In order to win discussion or Shastrartha and impress the general public, it was necessary to improve the power of discussion. This was also needed to satisfy the critics and opposing groups and establish ones own cult. Thus, rules were framed for discussion. : The importance of discussion encouraged the logic in the Budhist period. The controversial matters could not be decided without logical argument. Logic was also useful in the development of the mental power and knowledge

-to established the disputes point the following evidences of eight kinds were required theory, cause, example,parallelism, contradiction, evidence, argument and induction. the important of discussion encouraged the logic in the Buddhist period. The controversial matters could not be decided without logical arguments.

The curriculum was spiritual in nature. The aim of education was to attain salvation. So the study of religious books was most important. Sutta, Vinaya and Dhamma Pitak were the main subjects prescribed for study. Budhist education aimed at purity of character. Like Vedic education it was training for moral character rather than psychological development of the students. One has to attain the stage of Bodhisattva. Mental and moral development was emphasized:

The method of teaching was mostly oral in nature.  Though the art of writing had been well developed up to Budhist period yet, due to shortage and no availability of writing materials, verbal education was prevalent as it was in Vedic age.  The teacher used to give lessons to the novices who learnt them by heart. The teacher used to put questions on the learning the lesson by heart. Teacher gives lecture on good behaviour and required topics and students  were listen with attention    In early days teaching was a hearing system. The teachers gave lectures; students heard it and kept it in their memory. In due course it developed into dialogue and comparison method. The teachers used to teach the students on the basis of telling stories, arranging dialogue. Sometimes debate and discussions were arranged to give idea of the subject matter as well as determination of truth, subsequently writing system introduced.Afterwords students were expected to memories the same. The teacher educates the students through lectures and question answer method. Attendance of every monk was compulsory. The medium of Buddhist education was the common language of the people.

some Buddhist monks are more interested in isolated spiritual meditation in lonely forests and caves. Only those monks were considered fit for lonely meditation who had fully renowned the worldly attraction and had spent enough time in the Sanghs has gained the efficiency for solitary meditation.



1. Well organized centers- Buddhist education was imparted in well organized centers, monasteries and Vihara which were fit places for the purpose.

2. Cosmopolitan-Buddhist education was free from communal narrowness.

3. Simple and austere-Bhikshus led a life of austerity and simplicity.36

4. Total development- Buddhist education laid much emphasis on the physical mental and spiritual development of the students.

5. Disciplined Life- both the teachers and students led disciplined life.

6. Ideal student teacher relationship.

7. Interational importance- Buddhist education helped to gain international importance it also developed cultural exchange between India and other countries of the world.


1. Buddhist education could not give the proper attention to the occupational, industrial and technical education.

2. It gave severe blow to the social development because it derided family ties. Leaving their family life Buddha Bhikshus devoted their whole lives to sangh and Buddhism.


In the ancient period Buddhist Monasteries and in the later period Buddhist Universities played major role in developing Buddhist Education. In the institutions teachers were highly qualified and sincere to their duties. The main aim of Buddhist Education is to make a free man, an intelligent man, a wise, moral, talented, non-violent and secular man. Buddhist Education make man judicious, humanist, logical and free from superstitions

It is a matter of  great pride that Buddhist Education crossed Indian Sub-continent and expanded upto China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, Srilanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodian, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, with the rise and development of Buddhism in those countries. In those countries Buddhist Education has made tremendous progress with the inclusion of modern subjects in the syllabus. Today in order to make more popular more useful and modern subjects have to be included such as English, Science, Medicine, Engineering, Commerce, Computer and Information Technology. We are happy that the name of the countries which I mentioned have made tremendous development of Buddhist Education with the inclusion of modern subjects. They have made more facilities for the lay students. i Buddhist Education syllabus shall have to be incorporated with modern subject.




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