Monday, August 02, 2010

DEIVATHIN KURAL # 50 (Vol #4) Dated 02 Aug 2010.

DEIVATHIN KURAL # 50 (Vol #4) Dated 02 Aug 2010.

(These e-mails are translations of talks given by Periyaval of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, over a period of some 60 years while he was the pontiff in the earlier part of the last century. These have been published by Vanadi Padippagam, Chennai, in seven volumes of a thousand pages each as Deivathin Kural. Today we are proceeding from the second para on page number 281 of Vol 4 of the Tamil original. The readers are reminded that herein 'man/he' includes 'woman/she' too, mostly. These e-mails are all available at updated constantly)

389. In Dakshasila Buddhist University, individual teachers having some students of their own were having a set up as though there were a number Guru Kula-s co-located. They did not have a centralized federal structure. Comparatively, Nalanda was almost like the arrangement of a modern centralized University. The main draw back in Dakshasila was that, they were charging fees from the students. If they could not pay, they had to compensate in terms of physical labour. This arrangement cannot be considered as equal to Guru Kula-s, where they all had to anyhow assist in terms of physical labour, but there was no talk of any ‘DakshiNa’ till the student was able to voluntarily offer something, that too after all teaching was over! Though in Dakshasila there was a proper Buddha Vihara, capable of taking care of the teachers who were Bikku-s, collection of tuition fees was the system there. The fact that each instructor had a fixed set of students as his wards, so that he may be able to give individual attention, was the attractive feature here.
390. In Vaidic institutions where hundreds of students were studying, they may not have done ‘Biktchaa Charyam’, that is going around begging as a ritual, from a very young age. May be the senior students (who had graduated up to or those directly joining the ‘Upanishad / Vedanta Class’), were sent for ‘Biktchaa Charyam’. But others too would have been controlled and supervised in terms of what they see, read, speak and eat; without the sort of free for all situation that exists these days in the schools and colleges! More than anything else, in these institutions, importance was given to (what was given pride of place in the Guru Kula system and has been totally set aside these days in the name of ‘Secularism’), namely, Nitya Karma Anushtaanaa-s as required by your caste! This was the main live force behind Indian civilization giving it eternal validity!
391. When you look at the classic literature, history and stone carvings of Royal Declarations of that time, we find that the standards of both the students and the instructors were quite high. May be they were not at par with what was obtaining when the Guru Kula system was in vogue, but was still something to be proud of! The preceptors were well read with sterling character while the students were well behaved, respectful towards their elders, disciplined and keen on learning.
392. If there were some experts in one particular Saastra or craft or art, in some corner of India, students from two to three thousand miles away have travelled by walk or cart, leaving their families and relatives behind, for the sake of education, in those bygone days when there were no posts and telegraphs, let alone roads, railways or air travel! I will quote some examples later.
393. Throughout India, there were many such educational institutions closely related to Vaidic Dharma activities. I am going to talk about one such Educational Centre which used to be located in this very town of Kanchipuram. This was a famous centre for education of very high reputation for discussions, debates and demonstrations! Appar Swami, the famous Naayanmaar himself has praised the Kanchi as, ‘kalviaik karai ilaada kachchi maa nagar’, meaning ‘a place where the ocean of literary merits had no shores’! There is some special value in what Appar says. There are and have been some great Gnaani-s, great saints, Mahatmas of superlative renown. But, not all of them were scholars. There could be some who set aside all education as unnecessary, like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa recently. Some others may be those who have seen and experienced the far shores of all knowledge, like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s disciple Vivekananda! Appar was more like Vivekananda.
394. Before he returned to being a devotee of Siva, he had joined the Jains and was known as Dhramasena, a highly venerated SamaNa scholar. He had joined the Jains at their PaLLi at Thiru Paadiri Puliyur and learnt all their ideas, concepts and theories of that religion. In his Thevaram songs of deep devotion to Siva, we see utter simplicity as well as in depth knowledge of Upanishads and Saastraa-s! When such a walking, talking encyclopaedia of wisdom makes a special mention of Kanchipuram as a place of learning, you have to sit up and take note of it!
395. Kanchipuram was the place where there was the ‘Sarvagna Peetam’, which means, ‘the Throne of Omniscience’! That Throne was in a room with four entrances. There were many steps leading to the throne. There was a statue of a maid on either side of those steps. Those statues will ask you a question. You have to answer those questions, before going on to the next step. That is alright as the story goes. But, the point to note is that, you were accepted as all knowing and worthy to be respected as the person fit enough to be seated in that throne, only when you were capable of satisfactorily answering any and every question that may be put to you, by a team of all knowing Pundits! Our AachaaryaaL, Adi Sankara Bhagawat PaadaaL has ascended that Sarvagna Peetam, in Kanchipuram!
396. It is a historical truth that, Kanchipuram was famous as a centre of learning not only for Hinduism but Buddhism and Jainism too. There have been many great scholars from each of these religions from this place, Kanchipuram. Thingnaagar, Darmapaala are two Buddhist scholars from this place. MaNimekalai got Deeksha in Buddhism from AravaNa Adigal from here. This place was also known by the name of as Thiru Paruththikkunram and was a famous centre of learning for Jainism. There is an extremely crude non-Vaidic approach to the fierce form of the Goddess known as ‘Ughra Roopa’ of KaaLi, which is adopted by some sects known as Kaapaalika-s. They also were trying to establish themselves at this place Kanchi. But Adi Sankara is said to have pacified those fierce forms in to the Sri Chakra Yantra installed in front of Kamakshi Amman there. But these matters are a little out of the scope of the subject of ‘Education’ that we have been talking about! The point I was making was that, Kanchipuram has been a centre for learning in not only the Vaidic Brahminical Hinduism of Sanaatana Dharma, but also other Religions and sects, not exactly of mainstream Hinduism! But more than that, I have to tell you about my own discovery based on my research in to the subject of ‘Learning / Education’!
397. To talk about this research of mine, I started with how the Guru – Sishya relationship took shape in Guru Kulam and how the idea of education has gone through so many changes with the advent of Buddhism, Jainism, their universities and the changes brought about by the Britishers bringing in Christianity through their English based system of education! Thus it has taken all of these 397 paragraphs to get back to Kanchipuram! I am not going to delay talking about this discovery of mine anymore.
398. You might have or may not have heard of a word, ‘Gatika Sthana’ or ‘Gatikai’. Though I am smiling, I am saying this with pain in my heart! I am pained to note that we have lost all knowledge, not only about our past, but about our Saastraa-s, our educational methods, and the organizations that existed in this country for education! Not only that this knowledge is lacking in the common man but it is lacking in the so called knowledgeable people too! I asked a simple question to an assemblage of supposedly knowledgeable people, as to what they knew about ‘Gatika Sthana’? Some knew the meaning of the word as ‘Centres of Learning’ and many did not know even that! Those who knew the meaning of the word ‘Gatika Sthana’, did not know if in India, such institutions did exist or not! They said reluctantly in a hesitant drawl that, “We have heard that on the banks of the Godavari River, there were some educational institutions known as Gatika Sthana. We do not know more about that!” I thanked my stars for that reply, which correctly connected the word ‘Gatika Sthana’ with ‘Educational Institutions’! Let me tell you about what I discovered on this!
(To be continued.)



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