Comparison Between Buddhist and Muslim Education

Buddhist period 

Whenever an ideology crosses the extreme a new ideology emerges to counter it and history bears a testimony to it. In post-Vedic period, when Vedic caste system and ritual became all general in society ,its opposition started.  In 563 BC lord Buddha was born. He was the son of king Suddhodana and was brought up in a royal environment. When he was young he was deeply moved by worldly sufferings so he started meditation to find the solution for it. As a result of meditation he found the right path and propounded Buddhist religion, which  was based on compassion.

Lord Buddha delivered his first lecture at Sarnath at a distance of 8 KM from Varanasi. This deliverance of his first lecture is also known as the “Turning of the wheel of law” or “Dharam Chakra Pravartana. He was assisted by the kings and monarchs and in a very short time  many ‘Vihars’ were built up in different parts of the country.

These Vihars in the initial stage, were developed as the Centres of Buddha’s teachings, but later  started organizing education. Thus, during this period, a new system of education was developed by Buddhist monks (Bhikshu) which is known as the Buddhist system of Education.

One thing needs to be mentioned in this context , that is though Buddhist system of education emerged, Vedic system of education also continued. During Vedic period , gurukuls were generally set up in forests far away from habitation. But in Buddhist period “Maths and Vihars” were set up in capital cities , at commercial, trade centres and other important places. Buddhist never oppose gurukuls because opposition is strictly prohibited in Buddhism.

Characteristics of Buddhist system of education

A new system of education:

During Buddhist period a new system of education was developed by Buddhist monks (Bhikshu) which is known as the Buddhist system of education. The main features of the Buddhist system of Education may be summarized in the following sequences –

a)Control of Buddhist Sanghas over Education

  The first features of Buddhist system of education is that it was controlled by Buddhist sanghas and not by individuals.

b)Supported by kings (State):

Compared to Vedic period, Buddhist education was supported by the states, kings and monarchs. Huge donations in the form of money and land were made for the constructions and maintenance of Vihars.

c) Free Primary Education:

In Buddhist system of education the primary education was free whereas fees were charged for higher educations.

Structure and organization of Education

1)Primary education –

Primary education in Buddhist system of education was organized in Maths and Vihars. Duration for Buddhist period was 6 years.

2) Higher education –

On the completion of primary education an entrance examination was held for higher education. This education commenced generally at the age of 12 years and ended at the age of 20 or 25 years.

3)Bhikshu education –

After the completion of the higher education, students who intended to preach and spread Buddhist religion could join Bhikshu education. To join Bhikshu education one had to go under ‘Upsampada Sanskar’ , the duration of this education was approximately 8 years. He could then spread Buddhist religion and carry out teaching activities. Bhikshu who wanted to specialize in Buddhist philosophy and religion could pursue Bhikshu education for many more years.

Admission of students and Pabajja Sanskar 

1)Children of any caste were admitted in maths and Vihars, provided they were not sick, handicapped, impotent, thief or Convict. The age of initiation in primary education was 8 years. At the time of initiation Pabajja Sanskar was held. There is a detailed description of the Sanskar in the Buddhist scripture mahavagga.

2)Pabajja Means – Going out.

Since the child had to leave his home and parents to enter ‘maths’ to begin formal education, therefore the initiation ceremony held at the time of admission was termed as “Pabajja Sanskar”. First, His head was tonsured. He was then made to wear yellow and ‘staff’ was placed in his hand. Thereafter, he appeared before the Bhikshu, touched his feet and sat down in front of him.

3)There Bhikshu administered three oaths

a)I take refuge with Buddha, “Buddham Sharnam Gachhami”

b) I take refuge with Religion, “Dhammam Sharnam Gachhami” 

c)I take refuge with Sangh, Sangham Sharnam Gachhami”

Ten advices(Das Sikha Padani)  given to the students:

1)Avoid Violence

2)Avoid Stealing

3)Avoid Bad Conduct

4)Avoid untruth speech

5)Avoid Intoxicating Material

6)Avoid taking food at odd times

7)Avoid Backbiting

8)Stay away from dance and music

9)Avoid luxury goods

10)Renounce costly gift in charity

The students followed these ten advices, he was then admitted in ‘Maths and Vihars’ and was called ‘Sharman or samner.

Upsampada sanskara and admission to Bhikshu Shiksha

At the completing of higher education most of the students entered family life while a few joined Bhikshu education. Student were re-examined before being admitted to Bhikshu education they had to take oath of 8 more pledges besides ‘Das Sikha Padani’, thereafter they were admitted to Bhikshu education. This process was termed as “Upsampada Sanskar”. This Sanskar was performed in the presence of ten teachers. The prospective candidate wore the bhikshu robe, (Holding metal pot, kamandal and cheevar on his shoulder) and appeared before a panel of ten Bhikshus, wished them and sat down with folded hands. One of the Bhikhsu introduced the candidate to the panel. Other bhikshus asked questions from the candidate.

Education of Buddhist religion 

Although arrangements for the education of all the contemporary religions and philosophies were made in the Buddhist education but special emphasis was laid on the study of Buddhist religion and it was a compulsory part of the curriculum. First of all, Four noble truths (Char arya satya) discovered by lord Buddha were taught to students and then they were trained through the teaching of  the eight fold paths which include Right view, Right resolve, Right effort, Right occupation, Right speech,Behaviour,Right contemplation, and Right meditation.

Development of Knowledge 

Lord Buddha emphasized on the development of true knowledge. This was the most important aim and ideal of Buddhist education. However, his views about knowledge were somewhat different. In Vedic period the knowledge of Vedas was considered as true knowledge. But in Buddhist period the practical knowledge of the material world and of the four noble truths (There is suffering, there is cause of suffering, there is cessation of suffering, and there is a way to the cessation of suffering; nirvana could be achieved by compassion to humankind and not by meditation or worship) was regarded as the true knowledge.

Character formation

Buddhist religion places too much importance on self-control, compassion and kindness. Whosoever practices these ideal possesses good character.

Curriculum of primary education 

The duration of primary education was 6 years. First of all, student at this level were taught the 49 alphabets of Pali language. Thereafter, they were taught to read and write the language. Five different sciences namely – morphology, masonry, medicine, logic and spirituality were taught.

Curriculum of Higher Education –

The duration of higher education was generally of 12 years. During this period a general knowledge of grammar, religion, astrology, Ayurveda and philosophy was imparted to students. Thereafter, the specialization in specific field began. The curriculum of special education included Pali, Prakrit and Sanskrit languages along with their grammar and literature and such subjects as ‘Astrophysics, cosmology, jurisprudence, political science, economics, arts, agriculture, architecture, Ayurveda, Buddhist, Jain and Vedic Religions, theology, logic, philosophy and astrology.

Curriculum of Bhikshu Education – 

The duration of bhikshu education was 8 years but those bhikshus who intended to acquire higher knowledge in Buddhist religion could continue their education further. They were taught only Buddhist religion and philosophy and its curriculum included Tripitaks (Three basket) namely “Vinay Pitak, Sutta Pitak, and Avidhamma Pitak.

Imitation method of teaching.

It is a natural method of teaching and learning. During Buddhist period, this method was used specially at the primary level. Language teaching moreover begins by this method only. Teachers pronounced the word and students imitated them. Similarly teachers wrote the letters and students imitated them, this method was also used in activity oriented subjects.

Question-answer method .

It is also natural a natural method of teaching and learning. Children by nature are inquisitive. They keep asking question when, why and how and grown-ups satisfy them with suitable answers. The method was used during Buddhist period in the same form, students did ask questions monks did answer them.

Explanation method .

In this period the teachers used to explain the meaning of the lessons in details. This method was used specifically at the higher level of education.

Lecture method 

In higher education institutions, great scholars of different subjects were invited to deliver lectures and to clarify the complex concepts in their respective subjects thereby enriching the knowledge of students.

Demonstration and Practice method

It is the higher form of imitation method. During Buddhist period this method was used in teaching, like fine art, masonry, vocational subjects and medical science. Teachers first demonstrated the act and students imitated it, practiced it and acquired proficiency in it.

Teaching institutions 

Primary and higher education both were organized in maths and vihars. These maths and Vihars were primarily the religious Centres and were governed by Buddhist sanghs but they had also started, they had also started organizing education and thus became the Centre of learning.

Examination and degrees

Examinations during Buddhist period, were not conducted in the manner in which we conducted at present. At the primary level the concerned teachers did examine the students and if satisfied did declare the students successful. No certificates were awarded to successful candidates at this level. At the higher level a panel of teachers did examine the students orally and the successful candidates were awarded degrees.

Main Educational Centres of Buddhist period

1)Taxila University

2)Nalanda University

3)Vallabhi University

4)Vikramshila University

Muslim Education 

Salient features of Muslim education:

Education in medieval India is a great epoch of Indian education. The Muslims attached great importance to education. It is written in the holy Quran’, “It is better to educate one’s child than to give gold in charity.” Knowledge was considered to be the best friend of man.

Aims of Muslim Education

1)The main aim of Islamic education was the propagation of Islam. One who propagated Islam was called Ghazi or Martyr. Islamic literature, Islamic history and Islamic philosophy were taught in Maktabs and Madarsahs. The ultimate aim of Islamic education was to get ‘Nijat’ (Mukti). 

2)According to prophet Mohammed, knowledge is nectar and salvation is impossible without it. Muslim rulers encouraged students by making them commanders of the army (Siphasalar) or judge (Qazi) in civil administration or minister (Vazir) in the executive department. 

3)Jaffar, in his book ‘Education in Muslim India‘ writes “Learning was held in esteem and the learned were loved and respected all over the country. Expansion of Islamic Kingdom, development of character were among the other chief aims of the education.


At primary stage knowledge of Reading and Writing were emphasised. In the course of study persian books like Gulistan and Bostan of Sheikh Sadi were also prescribed. Recitation of Quran was also taught. At the secondary and higher secondary stage Grammar, Natural sciences, History, Military education and Vocational education included in the course of study.

 Educational Institutions:

When a child is four years, four months and four days old, an auspicious day is God’s blessings. The ceremony in case of girls was called ‘Zarifshani. Primary education was given in Maktabs. These Maktabs were of four types:

1) Persian schools

2) Persian-Quran schools

3) Quran schools

4)Arabic schools

Secondary education was imparted in ‘Madarsahs’. College level education was imparted in Madarsah -i- Alias. Each big town had at least a Madarsah-i- Alias. Jaunpur, Lahore, Multan, Delhi, Ajmer, Lucknow were popular centres of higher Muslim education.

 Teacher-Pupils’ Relationship:

During medieval period, the teacher was very much respected. There was intimate and cordial relationship between the teacher and the pupil. Guilty students were given severe corporal punishment. Intelligent and students of good character were highly rewarded. Students who acquired special knowledge in religion, were given the degree of ‘Alim’.

Muslim institutions 

Mohammad Ghori is known to have built many schools. Akbar was considered to be the most intelligent among Muslim rulers.

  1. Arabic university at Deoband was established during Muslim period. Agra, Delhi, Ajmer, Bengal, Bijapur, Bidar, Gujarat, Golkunda, Hyderabad, Jaunpur, Khandesh, Malwa and Sialkot emerged as important centres of Muslim education.
  2.  Although Gupta period was known for scientific progress but Muslim period has also marked its literal progress in the history.”
  3. It was the Mughal period in which many Hindi epics were translated from Sanskrit to Persian. Prince Dara Shikoh was among the prominent translators of Hindi epics. Muslim education was dominated by two languages , example- Persian and Arabic.