Gurukul system: An ancient system of education
School Shootings, Drug Addiction, overexposure to sex, smoking, alcoholism, raping women, committing suicide at a very young age, showing disrespect towards elders and other people in the society would have been avoided if a system like Gurukul system of education was adopted.
What is the modern education actually offering to the students?
Why are the well educated people still involved in immoral activities?
Why was the ancient Gurukul education successful? How did the Gurukul system keep its students away from all kinds of immoral activities? Why did they have special respect for people and animals living around them? Why were they so positive, brilliant and austere in nature?
Should we call those ancient Indians as complete humans?
Is it time to rethink and introduce an education system which is a blend of ancient and modern education?
Time has come to probe into the ancient system of education. First of all one should know how the Gurukul system worked. It was one such system that offered education to its students who had positive mental attitude. But where did positive mental attitude come from?
In Sanskrit language Guru means teacher or master and Kula stands for extended family. A type of school that is residential in nature.
The first lesson to gain positive energy and mental attitude came from the Guru himself. Gurus were involved in penance, reading vedas and performed dharmic activities(activities done for the good of mankind and not for himself). The dharmic lifestyle always has one ambition. Not to hurt anyone but to help many.
Hymns of the vedas did all the magic and the Gurus had the power to transform humans into positive minded people. And these positve minded people always thought good about the people and animals in the nature.
Man by birth does not possess the positve energy and mental attitude. It has to be introduced in him by a Guru. This was totally fulfilled by the Gurukul system of education.
And only sons of brahmins and kings had the chance to go to gurukul and attain higher levels of education during those times.
Friendly environment for children at Gurukul
Gururkul system of education is a simple concept where children learn under great scholars but they have to stay away from their parents. It is not the modern boarding school but a school that teaches moral values and imparts spiritual knowledge. A place where children learn to live in a green and friendly environment with no distractions around them. The small sacrifice made by parents pays great dividends later in their life.
Children learn to lead a simple life with little or no bad habits. Their memory gains great momentum to learn things. With the friendly environment and active teachers they are able to reach great heights and become good citizens of a nation. They become supporting pillars to elders in their family.
Ancient India had the Gurukul system of education supported by traditional Hindu residential schools of learning; typically it was a teacher's house or a monastery. The gurukulas usually existed in forests. Education was tremendously important for the society and was given to the 3 upper classes, namely Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors) and Vaishyas (businessmen). Since the occupations were based upon castes, children were initiated into the secrets of their traditional vocations from a very early age.
Admission and the life at Gurukul
Admission into the gurukul was not easy. A student had to convince his teacher that he had the required intelligence, desire, determination and qualities to pursue the studies. He had to serve him for a long time before he was admitted into the school and initiated into the subjects. Students in the gurukul were subjected to rigorous discipline. Sometimes when the Guru traveled to some other place the students had to accompany him. They had to live in a very austere environment. They practiced yoga, meditation and vedic hymns in Sanskrit language under the supervision of the master. They performed many menial jobs for the master's household. On some specific occasions they had to undergo fasting as a necessary means of purification and mastery of the body and mind.
Hinduism recognizes the importance of knowledge in the spiritual progress of man. Education was free, but students from the rich families paid Gurudakshina (master’s fees), a voluntary contribution after the completion of their studies. Teachers at Gurukul imparted knowledge of Scriptures, Religion, Literature, Warfare, Philosophy, Statecraft, Medicine, Astrology and History.
Nalanda, Ujjain, Takshashila & Vikramshila had universities that imparted higher education during the first millennium BC and the few centuries preceding it. Astronomy, Art, Painting, Architecture, Logic, mathematics, Grammar, Philosophy, Literature, Hinduism, Buddhism, Arthashastra (Economics & Politics), Law, and Medicine were amongst the subjects taught at these universities. For specializing in the study of medicine students went to Takshashiila, while Ujjain laid great emphasis on astronomical studies. Nalanda, was well-known as the biggest centre, and handled all the branches of knowledge. It was one such university where 10,000 students learnt at one time.
The current system of education in India, along with its western style and content, was introduced and founded by the British during Colonial rule. Traditional structures were not recognized by the British government during the Lord Macaulay’s reign and have been on the decline since.
Chanakya, a great scholar
Chanakya or Kautilya was a great scholar who lived during the period 370–283 BCE. He was a teacher to the first Maurya Emperor Chandragupta (between 340–293 BCE). Chandragupta Maurya was the first emperor in the archaeologically recorded history to rule the complete Indian Subcontinent.
Chanakya envisioned a society where people always respected the moral values and not much to the material pleasures. He knew that control over the sense organs was always essential for success in any endeavor. Spiritual development becomes essential for the internal strength and character for an individual. Material pleasures and achievements always become secondary to the spiritual development of the society and country at large.
Chanakya’s Nitishastra (Moral science Lessons) and Arthashastra (Financial Management Lessons) are the famous works which are of great value even to this day.
Books on Chanakya
Chanakya, in his Nitishastra(Moral science) has rightly stated:
Wise men should always bring up their sons in various moral ways, for children who have knowledge of Nitishastra (Moral science) and are well behaved become a glory to their family.
Below are a few more sentences from his moral science lesson. It gives us an idea of the value given to basic education and scholars at that time.
Those parents who do not educate their sons are their enemies; for as is a crane among swans, so are ignorant sons in a public assembly
Many a bad habit is developed through over indulgence, and many a good one by chastisement, therefore beat your son as well as your pupil; never indulge them ("Spare the rod and spoil the child").
Let not a single day pass without your learning a verse, half a verse, or a fourth of it, or even one letter of it; nor without attending to charity, study and other pious activity.
Though men be endowed with beauty and youth and born in noble families, yet without education they are like the palash flower(parrot tree flower), which is void of sweet fragrance.
The beauty of a cuckoo bird is in its notes, that of a woman in her unalloyed devotion to her husband, that of an ugly person in his scholarship, and that of an ascetic in his forgiveness.
Importance of Vedas taught at Gurukul during the ancient times
Fourth international Vedic Conference conducted by National Institute of Vedic Sciences (NIVC) at Mulbagal in Karnataka proved useful in many ways. Western countries have shown more interest in learning the ancient Indian books, the Vedas.
At the conference, Doctor Thorton showed the images of 7 chakras within the human body, captured using modern sensors and Thermal Imaging technology. He stated that in depth study of these chakras could be useful in prevention of killer diseases like Cancer at their initial stages. He opined that Indians could do better if they went for an in depth study and research related to the Scientific aspects hidden in Vedas.
Pros of a Gurukul system
- Fear of god is the gateway to knowledge. So, the lessons of spirituality leads to hunger for knowledge and a better lifestyle.
- Students learn the significance of co-existence with nature. Better concentration on their studies. Body feels lighter and memory is enhanced because of the fresh air from the surrounding greenery.
- Parents donot have to monitor their daily activities when children reach the age of adolesence because they will be capable of choosing the right way of dealing with people.
- Students will not have a chance to watch the sex and voilence on TV, at home and surroundings. This keeps the mind cool and more productive as they donot think about those unproductive and destructive subjects.
- Well disciplined, more active and with better knowledge about warfare techniques and weapons if he joins an Army, Air force or Navy.
- More useful and productive people for the nation when they come out of Gurukul. Respect for women and elders at home is seen and they become good citizens and great personalities.
vivekananda (author) from India on September 04, 2017:
Ancient time Gurus were more than today's teachers. They had great meditative powers and knew the secrets of the universe and all living beings.
Rakesh on May 04, 2016:
Yes very nicely explained.. Modern education is only about material study. Vedic education was material as well as soul study.
Tapas patra. on July 14, 2012:
After some decade we will forget what is Indian culture,tradition due to
western culture . As soon as possible it should be change though our child by GURUKUL system.
vivekananda (author) from India on July 13, 2012:
Yes, of course. the government grant is needed for this system. Indian government has to support, if we want to keep this system alive. The rich temples, industrialists and businessmen can also extend their helping hand. The vegetables needed for daily use in the Gurukul should be grown in the land provided. Religious Institutions have to take care of the gurus and monitor them.
ajay on July 13, 2012:
friends don't think vedas only recite shlokas of spirituality and not maths or science. ancient vedic students studied subjects like maths,astronomy,astrology,sculpture,logic,tactics,strategy, sanskrit grammar,medicine,surgical science,yoga,philosophy,metaphysics e.t.c nalanda university( in 427 ad) a vedic education university provided 64 subjects in total. even today vedic maths is 1700% faster,accurate,logical,easier and interesting than modern maths( according to a survey) for eg: 54316 x 31609 can be solved within 20 seconds that too mentally(no use of paper and pen) and the answer can be easily checked too.
ajay on July 13, 2012:
excellent article while reading half itself i understood it's greatness my doubt is cleared thanks but i have another doubt first thing i have heard it is totally free if students wish they can give some guru dakshina(fees) not money (minted gold or silver coins were used) some fruits rice grains e.t.c if the child is poor he is exempted from fees will modern day teachers agree to that? unless government undertakes it and pay fee to teachers. do you think modern teachers have the capacity to teach vedas as they have studied modern education? please give me the answer to these questions.
vivekananda (author) from India on December 30, 2011:
This system has already been accepted in some parts of India now. But not totally accepted by government. People who sent their children to Gurukul have seen better results from their children. In modern day universities children are prone to hypertension. But students at Gurukul don't face such problems. They have the power to grasp more knowledge in less time. The students in universities couldn't match these Gurukul students in both capability to remember things as well as talent and intelligence. But as you said it looks a bit uncivilized. But later benefits are huge. We will have a great satisfaction that our children are well behaved and have respect for everyone in society, along with the vast knowledge of the subject they have learnt.
Recently, in many places of South India they have started this system of education. Please read this article from times of India.
R. J. Lefebvre on December 30, 2011:
The environment you discribe may be of value for children who may be subject to an extremely adverse upbringing, contrary to a civilized existence. The best route for a childs future is to experience a diverse 'positive' environment that opens the doors of their future and choices of what lifestyles meet their personalities and personal strengths.