Buddhist Philosophy of Education

What is Buddhism?

Buddhism, in a single, is a middle way philosophy based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautam founder of Buddhism. It doesn’t have recognition, with God, soul, spiritualism, ritualism and rebirth. The next feature of Buddhist philosophy is transistor. Buddhism is also known as Non-soulisim (Anatamabad) since it does not regard the soul as the central point. In fact, suffering is inevitable part of out life and is always present in human being. Rationality is necessary to get rid of the sufferings.

Nothing is eternal and nothing is permanent as well as everlasting because the things in the world are dynamic. Everything needs to be destroyed one day. One should not leave action on the belief of God. Morality and immorality depend on the conduct of a person. A man is responsible himself towards the morality and immorality activities. He gets result according to his own choice of path. A man can get education on the basis of supreme truths. Ignorance, thirst and indulgence are the causes of sufferings. A literate person is far from these sufferings. Thus the real knowledge is possible in accordance with the four noble truths.

Buddhism philosophy is not spiritual and materialistic. To get perfect spiritual peace, a person needs help of materialist means, environment and other people. Spiritual can not be achieved through giving pain to the body and without eating anything. Spiritual can achieved through being healthy and eating food. Good thought can not enter into the evil mind. Such kind of mind aimlessly wanders like that of unconscious animals.
One can walk on the right path by accepting and removing own mistakes. No one can go ahead on the right way by criticizing other people. One can bring improvement in himself/herself being friendly and kind. Buddhism is a philosophy or religion based upon the teachings of Siddharth Gautam(566-486 B.C.)

Life Sketch of Lord Gautam Buddha

Lord Gautam Buddha is the founder of Buddhism. He was born in 563 B.C. at Lumbini, of Kapilvastu Nagar which was the kingdom of Nepal destined for a privileged life. According to legend, before his birth Gautam Buddha had visited his mother during a dream, taking the form of a white elephant. So during his birth celebrations, a seer announced that this baby would either become a great king or a great holy man.

During the first 16 years if his life, Gautam received an education in policy of state administration and also in military science. At the age of 16, his father arranged his marriage. Therefore he was married to a girl named Yashodhara. After marriage he looked after the state affairs for the three years.

Although his father ensured that he was provided everything he could want or need, he was troubled and dissatisfied. Therefore, at the age of 29 he was taken on four subsequent visits outside of the palace and the various places in the city in the chariot. During his visits to various places, he came across an old crippled man, a sick man, and a dead body. These three sights created disinterestedness in him for the world. Therefore, he left his family and went to some spiritual guides for seeking deliverance from birth, death, and diseases. Finally he got enlightened after having long mediation under Bodhi tree. Then he set journeys with his disciples to various parts of the world preaching his sermons.
Passing sights

The passing sights lead Siddhartha to recognize the reality of death and suffering and the cyclical nature of human existence (sansara). Therefore, he left the palace, abandoned his inheritance and became a wandering monk seeking a solution to an end of suffering.

He began with the Yogic path although he reached high levels of meditative consciousness, he was not satisfied. So he abandoned painless and realized power of the middle way; which is an important idea in Buddhist thought and practice. To seek moderation and avoid the extremes of self indulgence (Aaskyti) he left everything. At  the age of 35 he was enlightened, awakening to the true nature of reality which is Nirvana(Absolute Truth) and finally he became the Buddha.

“Buddha” derived from the ancient Indian language of Pali and Sanskrit means “one who has awakened”.  It is derived from the verbal root “budh” meaning “to awaken” or to be “enlightened”, and to “to comprehend”. The Buddha taught that the nature of reality was impermanent and interconnected. We suffer in life because of our desire to passing things.

Liberation from suffering may come by training the mind and acting according to the laws of Karma(cause and effect) i.e. with right action, good things will come to you.

Four Noble Truth or The Four Arya Satya

Buddha’s first sermon at Benares contained contained the essence of his message. He taught there the “Four Noble/ supreme Truths”.

1. Life is suffering(dukkha)

The word is full of miseries. Suffering is everywhere sickness and death are what they are; human life is impermanent and transient. The pain associated with these and other parts of life is due to a subjective dislocation, an attitude that takes things the wrong way that wants thins to be different. Dukkha has the connotation of losing one’s center or balance, like a bone that has come out of joint. Dukkha is the suffering of existence that is not what it should be, that is out of thump, i.e. missing the point.

Human sufferings

Suffering is the ultimate truth of humans that can’t be avoided. The sufferings are:-  birth, sickness, old age, and obviously death. If we want something from others, seek for love. We want to be something and want to get something in future. Pain, grief, sorrow, despair, love, family, relation etc. are also sufferings.

Sickness and death are what they are, human life, human life is impermanent and transient. But the pain associated with these and other parts of life is due to a subjective dislocation an attitude that takes things the wrong way that wants things to be different. Body, perception, feeling, emotions and ideas or thoughts are human sufferings.

2. There are causes of suffering self-centered carving)

There is a cause for a person’s miseries which is attachment or misplaced desire(tanha) rooted in ignorance. The cause of suffering is the need to refer all things to ourselves. According to Buddha there are five skandhas or types of grasping that give us trouble. They are:-

– The grasping of body or concern over this body that I call mine, ‘my body’.
– Perception or concerns with my way of seeing things, my perspective, my view.
– The grasping of feeling, whereby I am concerned with my feelings and subjective states
– I call them mine and I am attached to them.
– Grasping of emotions or impulses that I’m attached to.
– Grasping ideas or thoughts abut which I am defensive, which I claim to be my own.

According to Buddha, the body, perception, feeling, impulses and thoughts are real indeed. There are constantly changing conditions of existence. What is not real is the linking of these conditions to the notion of a “self”. The illusion of a ego or self only appears or “emerges” in an attitude of self-concern and selfish striving. The self is a name that we give to the point of intersection of all inwardly directed carving; we wish to appropriate the world for ourselves, to suck everything into the ego, to draw things into ourselves what we call the ego or the self or the spiritual substance or ‘soul’ is rally the creation and the by product of a selfish and self-referential attitude.

3. Sufferings can be removed

In order to bring an end of suffering, one must bring an end to self-centered carving(desire). If each desire is like a draft, it leads inward towards a point called self. Thus one must stop or even reverse this flow. One must refer all things to oneself. One must always try to overcome subjective needs interpretations in the light of subjective needs and desires. One must always see the things as they are, not simply as they are for us. One must reverse the flow so that one no longer draws things inward, but rather lets the absolute within swell up and flow outward in universal compassions is trapped. If the drawing ceases the compassion is allowed to emerge.

The worldly miseries may be removed which is Nirvana i.e. the possibility of liberation exists for everyone.

4. There are eight-fold path for removing sufferings

Right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration are devices for removing the sufferings and pain.

Eightfold way

There are no simple explanations of the eightfold way, but some brief comments might be of help:

  1. Right views:-
    Though Buddha had little interest in complicated doctrines or theologies; some beliefs are necessary. Generally, right belief is acceptance of the four Noble Truths and to remember the four Arya Satya is necessary for Nirvana.
  2. Right intention:-
    We must dedicate ourself wholeheartedly to overcoming the dislocation of self-centered carving. One must want this emancipation more than anything else. One must want this let his heart wander from this path.
  3. Right speech:-
    We must guard over his speech and avoid lies as well as dishonesty, cultivate honesty and truthfulness. We have to refrain from unkind speech and practice speech that is kind and benevolent.
  4. Right action:-
    One must examine his or her behaviour and determine whether each action is selfish or self-less. One must practice other-centered rather than self-centered actions. Moreover, one must obey such perceptions as Don’t kill, Don’t be unchaste. Don’t intoxicants, Don’t lie and steal.
  5. Right livelihood:-
    One must not engage in occupation that opposes or distracts one form the path. For instance, since all life is sacred, one may not become a butcher etc.
  6. Right effort:-
    One must purse the path with the right exertion on the other hand; one must strive diligently in order to practice the cultivation of virtues and the curving of vices. On the other hand, one must not be “over-zealous” and run the risk of burning oneself out and abandoning the way altogether. One should make an effort to entertain good thoughts and to avoid bad thoughts.
  7. Right mindfulness:-
    One must clear up his mind and clean “the dust off of the mirror. One must free his mind from self-centered thoughts; thoughts that are separate and replace them with thoughts that mind together, that see all beings together. One must make his concentration objectives rather than subjective. One must think in terms of others as well as oneself. One needs to concentrate to remember the known things properly.
  8. Right concentration
    Right concentration is similar to raja yoga in Hinduism. Through self-discipline and rigorous meditation, one gradually overcomes self-centered ways of thinking. In the advanced stages, one learns to concentrate all of one’s consciousness on a candle. By concentrating all other thoughts and objects are extinguished. Thus, one must extinguished consciousness of even of this one object.

In this way extinguishes the last flame of grasping consciousness. This is readiness for nirvana. Nirvana is the complete bliss of ‘blowing out the candle’ of the self, extinguishing all thoughts of the self.

Objectives of education

For attaining salvation pragya, sheel and Samadhi have been considered necessary. The achievement of salvation is possible only through eight fold noble path. It is the main objective of Buddhist education to expand and achieve these three domains.

1. Role of the Teacher

Like the ancient Hindu system, the Buddhist system also insisted upon the duty of the students to serve his teacher by all means. The teacher in both the system taught only as many students as he should cope with.
In Buddhist education system, the role of the teacher is considered to be very important. Through the help of teacher, students can get deliverance from sufferings and pain and to conceive the eight fold noble path we need the guide of the teacher without the hell pod the teacher no students will be able to conceive those eight fold path. Knowledge can be acquired only through the help of teacher. Buddhism is opposed to the idea of omnipotent. So the teacher should not pretend to be omniscient. Omnipotence is possible only through the continuous process. Nirvana means extinction. The wall is built up through thirst of combination of science and materialistic element. Thus the teacher is abstract form of this concept.

2. Curriculum

The Buddhist system developed a curriculum around Buddhist religion. However, gradually it also included comparative study of Hinduism and Jainism. The curriculum which initially included theology, philosophy and logic was gradually extended to Sanskrit literature, astronomy, astrology medicine, law, political science, administration music and technical education concerning so many trades. Therefore, the curriculum of the Buddhist Universities was almost as much versatile and varied as any of the modern university. Hence, the institution used to attract students not only from all parts of India but also from distant countries such as Korea, China and Tibet.


Federated institutions:-

Most of the Buddhist institutions were large units including thousands of students and a number of teachers. So the vihar or the Buddhist monastery was federated educational institutional on the pattern of modern university. While Braminical culture depends upon the system of individual schools and ideals succession of teachers and disciples the Buddhist culture was the product of the confederation of such schools into larger monastic institutions comparing a number of teachers and students.

opposed to the cast system:-

The Buddhist system of education of education insisted that the students may be admitted on his personal merits and not on the basis of family or caste. The Buddhist monks and nuns come from the all castes.

Medium of instruction:-

Pali and prakriti and other popular languages were the medium of instruction. The modern concept primary education in the mother tongue is the out come of Buddhist philosophy.

Aim of education:-

The aim of education according to Buddhist education was to influence the younger section of society according to the Buddhist thoughts. To fulfill this primary aim, its secondary aim was to train monks and nuns for the purpose. Therefore, the system has missionary aim; however, the missionary schools admitted gradually even girls.


Basic foundations of Curriculum was tripitak(three boxes). On the basis of this   curriculum others were included as great vehicle which is the essence of Buddha and small vehicle that is supreme attainment. Buddha used the medium of instruction through mother tongue for his sermon among the common people. The five skanda/ tatva such as earth, water, fire. Air and sky are also included in it. Pain as experience of happiness and miseries, name as naming, sansk(impression) i.e. favorable or unfavorable feeling as well as reason the knowledge of external  world through ‘self’ should be included for the training in the curriculum. We must be able to recognize them.

The Buddhist system developed a curriculum around Buddhist religion. However, gradually it also included comparative study of Hinduism and Jainism. The curriculum which initially included theology, philosophy and logic was gradually extended to Sanskrit literature, astronomy, astrology medicine, law, political science, administration music and technical education concerning so many trades. Therefore, the curriculum of the Buddhist Universities was almost as much versatile and varied as any of the modern university. Hence, the institution used to attract students not only from all parts of India but also from distant countries such as Korea, China and Tibet.

Value of Buddhist education

Popular education

Several improvements were made in education as in inclusive system. The Buddhist system of education laid the foundation of popular education. The vihars admitted students from all castes, classes and faces. Merit was the basis of admission. As the medium of education was the popular language, therefore, ordinary people were encouraged to send their sons to the educational institutions. The teachings and sermons of teachers were easily followed by the ordinary men and woman.

Buddhist system made wide based education

The Buddhist system made the education system wide by offering educational facilities to men and women of all caste and classes.

Evolution of medicine and surgery

The Buddhist system evolved medicine and surgery to a very high level.

Contribution of logic

The Buddhist scholars made an important contribution to Indian logic.

Professional education

The Buddhist system laid down foundations of professional education in Indian continent. It trained pathologists and the logicians besides experts in other trades. Takshila was famous for medical education. The course of medical education was extended to seven years after which practical examination was held for evaluation. Medical Botany was taught by first hand acquaintance with the medical plants. Physicians and general teachers of medicine like Nalanda, Kundaraggisma, Dhannatari etc. The disciples these famous teachers were renowned physicians in principal cities of India.

Educational Implication

Curriculum should be developed on the basis four noble truths and eight fold paths. The truth says that this world is full of miseries. If one realizes this truth from the very beginning, he will do nothing which makes cause any trouble in his life. So s/he will conduct his life as to ensure his physical, mental, moral and spiritual development. If the parents and the teachers are motivated by this first truth of Lord Buddha children will be developed in a desirable manner and our educational system will be transformed.

The second truth, that one’s ignorance is the cause of miseries. Due to ignorance one gets involved into various intricacies of the world. And in the third truth, if the person drives generated due to ignorance are destroyed, he will raise above all attachments and anger. This is how a person gets salvation. Through the fourth truth, the path towards destruction of worldly miseries. In this indication, Lord Buddha has presented eight devices which may help one in getting himself or herself free from worldly miseries.

Lord Buddha has prescribed a middle course to be followed. The middle course consists of eight devices and suggests only following these eight fold paths. The ultimate aim of education may be achieved because to obtain salvation is the ultimate end of the life. Salvation is the freedom from the cycle of birth and death. This may also be accepted as the ultimate purpose of education.

What is Buddha not?

A Buddha is not the creator of the universe, like “God” in the Christian-Judeo-Islamic sense. He is a man like us but an extra-ordinary person. There is no creator of the universe apart from the Karma(Actions) of sentient beings(beings with a mind like humans and animals). The Buddha is not omnipotent (all-powerful) like the Christian-Judeo-Islamic “God”. The state of a Buddha is not possible to reach (although it may take many lives and extensive effort). We can be Buddha if we try but can’t be Bishnu and Shiva. A Buddha is not hindered by ignorance, but is omniscient who knows everything and is a superman and enlightened person. A Buddha is not a passive being; he will use his wisdom to help other living beings when they are open to his advice.


In short, Buddhism has not recognition with god, soul, spiritualism and rebirth. It doesn’t regard the soul as the central point and carries the four great truths of Lord Buddha’s teachings. The world is full of miseries. There is cause for miseries and a man is himself responsible for his miseries. Miseries may be wiped out if followed eight fold paths. There are some devices for removing misery and help us to get deliverance, i.e. ultimate happiness. The ultimate goal of education; sacrifice one’s life for the welfare of others and to get salvation. A freedom from worldly suffering provides salvation. Thus good education should guide one to get their salvation. Soul is not eternal we are ourselves responsible for our own miseries that means we are the self consumer of our own woes. Education is to make the students depend upon their own efforts. The ultimate purpose of education is to sacrifice one’s life for the welfare of others. Freedom from worldly fabrication provides salvation; good education should guide one to his or her salvation. Therefore, the students should be trained to get salvation.


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