Essay on Ancient Buddhist System of Education

The history of education in Buddha period is interrelated with Story of monasteries and ‘Vihars’ because there were no independent educational institutions or centres, other than those religious centres. Only monks and shramanas were authorised to impart education to the people.

buddhist monk teaching children «

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Thus, the monasteries and ‘Vihars’ took the place of sacrificial altars and as a result, these places became the centres of cultural life. Thus, the methods of these monasteries and ‘Vihars’ were the educational methods of that time.

Rules and regulations of Buddhist monasteries and ‘Vihars’ were not framed by Lord Buddha. They had been taken from Hinduism and the various sects of Sadhus and nuns so they resembled ‘vedic’ systems.


Rules of Admission of Buddhist System

Admissions into Buddhist monasteries were based more or less on the rules and regulations observed by Gurukulas as in Vedic period. Like the students of ‘Vedic’ period, here also the students had to present themselves before the teacher to ask for the admission.

Like the ‘Upanayan’, ‘Pabbaja or pravrajya’ is to go out. The boys went out of their families and joined the monasteries. Everyone had the opportunity to undergo ‘Pabbaja’ and become a ‘Buddhist’ monk. After admission into ‘Sangh’ they could remain a monk.

They had to change the former caste, dress, character, etc. Though theoretically, all the castes were allowed to get admitted into the monastery but practically and mostly the people of higher classes were admitted there.


However, it is also true that some of the monks were derived from the lower castes. At the time of entering into the ‘Sangh’ the disciple must have attained the age of 8 years and during this period the new monk made his preparation for the sangh-life. Afterwards at the age of 20 years, he accepted ‘Upsampada’ and became full-fledged member of the ‘Sangh’.

The System of Pabbaja

At 8 years of age, one could go to any ‘Vihar’ or ‘Sangh’ according to his own will. With head shaved and a yellow cloth in hand he went to the principal monk and requested him for admission in ‘Sangh’. He thus surrendered himself fully. The monk caused him to put the yellow clothes on and surrendered to the three words of shelter in a loud voice-

I go into the shelter of Buddha.


I seek the shelter of Dharma.

I enter the shelter of Sangh.

After taking the above three vows, one became entitled admission. No one could get admission into the ‘Sangh’ without consent of his parents Patients of infectious diseases like Leprosy. T B., Eczema, etc. and Government servants, slaves and soldiers were not allowed to be admitted into ‘Sanghs’. However, there was no discrimination of any kind on the basis of caste or creed.

Rules for the Students

Now the admitted student was called “Samner”. He had to follow the following rules

1. Not to kill any living being.

2. Not to accept anything given to him.

3. Live free from the impurity of character.

4. Not to tell a lie.

5. Not to use any intoxicating thing.

6. Not to take any interest in music, dance, play show, etc.

7. Not to take food at improper time.

8. Not to speak ill of any body.

9. Not to use luxurious and scented things.

10. Not to accept the gifts of gold or silver, etc.

The ten rules were essentially observed by the new monk. The ‘Upajsata’ i.e., the teacher took all responsibilities up to the age of 20 years when he became mature and capable for accepting ‘Upsampada’.

For the teacher, he was ‘Sadvi Biharak’. Lord Buddha himself taught that teacher should recognise his taught (Sadvi Biharak) as his son and the taught (Sadvi Biharak) should recognise the teacher (Upajsaya) as his own father.


After completing the education for twelve years, the ‘Monk’ had to undergo the ‘Upasampada’ ritual at the age of 20 years and then he became the permanent member of the ‘Sangh’.

Limited period, ‘Upsampada’ was permanent. It was for the whole life. Celibacy or chastity was considered essential for Brahmanic education. While among Hindus those observing celibacy for the whole life were; in ‘Buddhistic’ education it was a common feature. In this respect, Buddhistic education was more austere than Brahmanic education.

At the time of ‘Pabbaja’ the new monk of 8 years would go to the teacher and say with folded hands, “You are my teacher (Guru)”. Thus, their relationship was established. The ‘Upsampada’ was performed before the entire ‘Sangh’. Therefore, ‘Upsampada’ was given unanimously or on the decision of the majority.

Restrictions on Admission

In ‘Buddhist’ education also, like ‘Vedic’ education, the eligibility and the competence of the entrant was taken into account. A candidate could not be admitted into ‘Sangh’ in the following conditions:

1. Without the permission of his parents.

2. Patient of any infections or serious disease.

3. Convict of any serious moral sin.

4. Under any legal responsibility and who was not free from legal bondage.

5. Not found generous and laborious during the probation period, which sometimes were four or five days

Thus Buddhist sanghs did not intend to destroy the family system. No one was admitted into ‘Sangh’ without the due permission of his parents. Similarly those who wanted to get rid of their social, moral and economic obligations were not admitted.

Moreover, only those were allowed admittance who was healthy both mentally and bodily. Hence Buddhism spread rapidly and in an organised manner, in so many countries of the world.

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