Talk:/Medical Institutions in ancient india/conditions of life in ancient India/The Brahmanas

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

The Brahmanas


The Brahmanas (preceptor class) became the dispensers of religion, of laws and of medicine. They exhibited a superiority of intelligence which, with the exception of the Greeks, is in vain looked for in other ancient nations In ancient India, the Aryan literature was highly cherished and fully cared for by the princes and opulent individuals, for the patronage of literature and religion increased their temporal power and religious influence Such encourage�ment operated powerfully as an incentive to the study and literary exertion of Scholars. It was the endeavour of the influential class to encourage education and poetry as well as medicine and religion, the former enhancing the intellect of the rising generation and immortalizing in verse the grandeur of their patrons, the latter explaining the treatment of the body in health and disease and the means of ensuring happiness to the individual after death.


The first three classes of people were compelled to undergo a long period of rigorous studentship, the compulsion was not govern�mental but a far stronger one - the compulsion of religio-social convention. It was unthinkable for a member of these three classes, known as Dwijas or twice-born, to evade the obligation to study, which was enforced both as a matter of religious duty as well as social convention. Any violation of this obligation brought upon the offender the terrible penalty of being declared an out-caste (Vraatya) and debarred from all the privileges of a member of the Aryan community. As regards the members of the fourth class, whose business it was to serve the other three classes, the obligation to studentship as in the case of the three twice-born classes did not exist, but it would be a mistake to assume that the educational needs of this class were neglected. In fact with the exception of the Vedas, a member of the Sudra class could be and frequently was highly educated as any of the upper three classes, Vidura and Suta are but the supreme instances of the culture and enlightenment that prevailed in the whole class. The value of knowledge and consequently of education was fully realized by the early ancestors of our race whom we have come to know as Rsis or seers. In the words of one of these the great author of the Caraka Samhita.

�All ills of humanity are rooted in ignorance and all progress and happiness in unclouded knowledge.�


Knowledge was indeed so highly prized by these Rsis that they dedicated their whole lives to the pursuit of learning, living in forest hermitages away from the distractions of the world. It was their firm faith that if man was ever to attain immortality it was through knowledge alone. They loved knowledge above all things, above even kingship and wealth. Thus when Yama God of death gives the boon of an incredibly long life, with all the appurtenances of luxury and oppulence, to the young student, Naciketas the latter declines the gift with the saying that the soul of man is not satisfied by material acquisition and insists on knowing the answer to the riddle of man�s survival of his bodily death The wife of the sage Yajnavalkya speaks in a similar vein when her husband prior to leaving her, offers to bequeath her his earthly possessions.


Says �she If you give me the whole earth with its riches would it make me immortal?� on the sage replying that there is no hope of immortality through wealth the high souled Maitreyi announces that she has no use for such perishing gifts and wishes to be taught the secret of immortality.


Such then was the value our early ancestors as seen from the above-mentioned Maitreyi story, set on the acquisition of knowledge. They considered the achievement of knowledge and through it that of immortality or deliverance of the soul from the cycle of births and deaths, as the final end of human existence and human existence they regarded not as the expre�ssion merely of a coming together of material atoms but as the expression of a unique assemblage of body, senses, mind and soul as Caraka puts it. Consistently with this view of man's nature and destiny, the Rsis evolved a system of education which was education in the true sense of the word. It was an educ�ation, which had for its aim the educing or the drawing out of the latent capacities and potentialities of the whole man in the individual. It sought to build up the whole man and enable him to lead as good and useful a life as possible according to the existing conditions of lime and place. It was an education which aimed at securing for its votary his well-being both here and hereafter as is claimed for the science of Ayurveda by its author.


�It is the Science of Life which teaches mankind what const�itutes their good in both the worlds�.


No wonder then that education meaning as it did sole means of man's realization of his immortal destiny, was invested with the highest sanctity.


These ideals of education were translated into actual practice and during the long era of the golden age of Aryan culture extending over two thousand years an elaborate educational organi�zation was built up which succeeded in making the highest fruits of education available to the humblest member of the society.


This marvelous achievement was made possible not by recourse to State aid or compulsion but by the establishment of a religio-social convention which made it incumbent for every member of the Aryan community to receive a thorough education.


This fact of universal education and righteous living is amply borne out by the passage in the Chandogya Upanisadwhere king Aswapati of Kekaya claims that in my dominion, no villain, no drunkard, none who neglected his religious rites, none uneducated, no man incontinent and gay as libertine, no woman who was unchaste, existed."


As a matter of fact it was considered the religious duty of every father to educate his son. The Brhadaranyaka Upanisad lays down that. �Therefore they speak of an educated son as being condu�cive to the world. Hence the father teaches his son.�


The faculty that enabled the rich as well as the poor to launch on an educational career was the absence of the compulsion, to pay any fee at all or at least to begin with. At the end of his career of education, the disciple could, out of his own choice, make suitable payment of fee to his preceptor. In a society consequently where the love of knowledge and of service to the fellow man was held so highly, and every one was educated, it is but natural that the medical science should have drawn the flower of society to itself and should have made use of it for the advancement of human welfare.


This glorious state continued at least up to the seventh century A. D. and not only were the teaching institutions spread through the length and breadth of the country as the Chinese traveller Yuan Chwang has depicted, but more important still was the general attitude of the cultured classes in regard to the filtering down of the essence of culture to the millions of the masses with a purely philanthropic motive.