The civilization of Bharath was the greatest knowledge center of the ancient world. Students from various parts of the world competed and flocked to India to study in its great centers of learning. These education centers included gurukuls, temples and universities each of whom were huge repositories of knowledge.
It has been a wrongly perpetuated story by imperialist and leftist historians that Bhagavad Gita is the religious source book of the Hindus. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unlike Abrahamic religions, which rely on only one source book, Hinduism had as many as 200 million source books. Now, not even 20 million of these remain.
India’s knowledge systems date back to at least 60,000 years ago. Subjects were wide and varied and included the fields of philosophy, science, technology, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, astrology, aviation, yoga, martial arts, performing arts, sacred arts, metallurgy, economics, polity, and this list can simply go on. These scriptures and texts were preserved on palm leaf, birch bark, copper, gold or silver plates, stones and even cloth.
Vedic science was even more advanced than present day’s scientific inventions. Indians had immense knowledge in the field of Mathematics, Astrology, Astronomy which is exactly why a number of universities flourished during 300-200 BCE. These universities were the first ones to be started in the world and were regarded as the best. Students from all over the world came to these universities to learn a wide variety of subjects.
The vast collection of books in these Universities did not happen overnight, but had been a collective effort of all the scholars, saints and sages for thousands of years which led to the building of the greatest libraries in the world. When we talk about Universities of ancient India, people remember only two, namely Nalanda and Takshashila. But there were a number of universities which flourished in ancient India which were the centres of learning. Today none of these universities exist and what we see is the broken walls, burnt cities and the stairs which lead to nowhere.
The most famous and oldest of these was Takshashila (now in Pakistan) and Nalanda. At the height of its glory, Nalanda University (NU) was devoted to not only Buddhist studies, but also trained students in fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of war.
The entrance procedure at NU was considered to be very difficult. Students had to go through three levels of tests to prove their ability. The unmatched discipline and rules were considered necessary in the University. During his time the great astronomer and mathematician Aryabhatt was the head of the university.
Before it was destroyed, scholars and teachers from places as far as Korea, Japan, Persia, Tibet, China, Greece, and Greater Iran were part of the University. The notable scholars who studied in NU included Harshavardhana, Vasubandhu, Dharmapal, Suvishnu, Asanga, Dharmakirti, Shantarakhsita, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Padmasambhava, Xuanzang and Hwui Li. Other universities included Vikramashila, Valabhi, Somapura Mahavihara, Jagadala, Odantapuri, Pushpagiri and the Sharada Peetha, the seat of Kashmir Shaivism. In all these universities Vedic scriptures and Vedic sciences were the foundational knowledge taught to students.
In her work, The Educational Heritage of Ancient India, Sahana Singh describes how the ancient education system evolved, thrived and prospered under the grace of highly evolved rulers of the time. Some of her findings are highlighted below:
- There was a well-established ecosystem to support Higher Education. Expenses were subsidized by the ruling class. Rich students paid for poor students while poor brahmins would do menial tasks in rich households to pay their fees.
- The ethos of the time demanded that brahmins live simple lives and desist from amassing wealth. It fell upon farmers and rich vaishyas to support brahmin scholars who also were teachers in schools and universities.
- Tamil inscriptions are profuse on how temples as centers of learning expanded and became magnets attracting the best students and teachers of the time to it.
Kings built annexes in temples where discourses, debates, higher learning took place. Slowly, different departments of subjects got added to temples to facilitate more varied learning.
- Eventually, entire villages were settled around the temples, called agraharas, where teachers would settle. Students could go directly to teachers in the agrahara and seek to become their disciples.
- Teachers were well paid – e.g. teachers would receive 16 times the meal allowance given to students. Similarly, students who studied higher level subjects such as Mimansa, got greater stipends than students who studied the more basic subjects.
- Many Chinese scholars such as Xuanzang, Faxian, Yijing came to India, spending several years traveling around and studying Buddhism (esp. At Nalanda & Takshashila) and returned to their country with humongous amounts of Sanskrit works which they later translated.
All these universities were systematically destroyed by successive invaders, starting from the end of the 12th century CE, so much so that by the late 19th century no universities of Vedic learning existed any more. By the Education Bill of 1835, Lord Macaulay ensured the complete annihilation of the Vedic education system in schools as well as universities that may have survived, and introduced the mind-numbing, rote learning, clerk mentality generating English education in all levels of education in the country.
It was to counter the influence of this British imposed education system and revive Vedic knowledge and sciences that The Banaras Hindu University (BHU) was established by the combined efforts of Madan Mohan Malaviya, Annie Besant, Kashi Naresh Prabhu Narayan Singh and Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur of Raj Darbhanga. Their plan, presented in 1911, called for the focus on technology and science, besides the study of India’s religion and culture, to alleviate Indians from the poverty they had sunk into due to the ruthless rule of the British imperialists. With support from many rulers and provinces, BHU was established in 1916, becoming the 1st university in modern times to be established by people’s efforts.
Unfortunately, over the years, BHU has become as much a run-of-the-mill university like the 1000s that dot the length and breadth of India today. This has created a huge void and loss of Vedic knowledge. With the rapid pace of change in India there has been an alarmingly rapid loss of ancient information. Many of the powerful repositories of information in the Vedic system, the scriptures, are not being translated or accessed in modern languages.
It is this loss of vast amounts of potent information that is being directly addressed by Nithyananda Hindu University at Kashi Sarvjanpeetha. The University is undertaking the task of collecting, sorting and translating vast banks of Vedic data for access. As the Supreme Pontiff of Hinduism His Divine Holiness Bhagawan Sri Nithyananda Paramasivam says, Access to Information is foundational in developing a Conscious Global Society and a University.
The Vision of the Vaidika Grantha Samadhi at Kashi Sarvajnapeetha
The goal is to create the largest repository of Indian scriptural knowledge in the world. Quoting the 24th Shloka in the 16th Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, the SPH HDH Bhagavan Sri Paramahamsa Nithyananda articulated his vision of a Vaidika Grantha Samadhi.
The 16th Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, 24thShloka says:
ThasmaathShaasthramPramaanam they kaaryaakaaryavyavasthithau |
Jnaathvaashaasthravidhaanoktham karma karthumihaarhasi||
Therefore let the scriptures be the authority in determining what ought to be done and what ought not to be done; having known what is said in the ordinance of the scriptures, thou should act here in this world.’
It is a vision of an internet based Sarvajnapeetha (meaning, Think Tank of Hinduism) which He called as the Antharjaala SarvjanPeetha. The SPH elaborated his vision further:
“It’s our job to build beautiful libraries, the knowledge transferring methodologies and mechanisms, … Not only library; making the library user-friendly, useful to people, where people can really, really get involved, know more about it, making it more visually presenting. Please understand, human-beings have started learning visually now. Almost all learning process has become visual; less words more visual presentation. We should work on creating video encyclopaedia of Hinduism.
At least ten-thousand concepts of Hinduism like Birth, Life, God, Death, Karma, Listening, Intranalyzing, at least ten-thousand concepts of Hinduism and the spiritual masters, religious leaders, various philosophies should be visually presented with examples like a slideshow or animated version, and it should be made freely available in the Internet for the whole world to receive knowledge about Hinduism, and the true Hindu preachers, activist, should be trained through these visual presentations. And the people who live Hinduism authentically should be inspired to live it and people who are new to Hinduism, we should introduce Hinduism to them.”
Describing passionately about His vision, the SPH HDH Bhagavan Sri Nithyananda Paramasivam says:
“A civilization is made up of its Gods, Scriptures, rituals and tenets that are lived. These aspects provide the vatavarana (environment) where human beings flourish in whichever dimension of life they are passionate about. Sanatana Hindu Dharma is the oldest living civilization on planet earth. This glorious civilization has about 20 million source books. One source book is sufficient for a religion to emerge. For most of these books, there are bhashyas (commentaries), tikas (commentaries on commentary), and varthikas (commentaries on tikas). There are more than 32 different types of commentaries that exist in Sanatana Hindu Dharma. Each and every source book can be commented in more than thousand ways by permutation and combination of various types of writing. Imagine the richness of this tradition.
In this digital age, Sanatana Hindu Dharma is hardly understood even by Hindus as the amount of digitization of Hindu scriptures is a very small percentage of what is even available or known. Translation of our scriptures to commonly used languages of this day is another issue in accessing these treasures of our ancient and ever-relevant wisdom.
It is very unfortunate; Hindus spend so much money on building temples, but we don’t invest on building libraries. Libraries are a low priority. This is also one reason why we have become weak. The reason for why we have been weakened is we spend so much money on building temples and not enough on libraries.
I want educating organizations, educational tools, knowledge transmission methodologies, knowledge transmission apparatus, knowledge transmission systems to be available. I want that. The Nithyananda Jnanalaya, is a step to start addressing these issues.”
Vedic Knowledge Systems
Since ancient Vedic times, over thousands of years, it has been the effort of Hindu enlightened masters or Rishis and other great thinkers of the time, to make all effort to excel in every field of knowledge known to mankind. It became a dedicated endeavor to inquire into the ultimate objective of life making it the focal point of intellectual discourses through inquiries, debates, meditation, penance, observances, rituals and the like. The nature of the country Bharat to allow for multicipility to prevail, allowed for the free flow of ideas and intensive and extensive discourses to take place. In course of time, this shaped the intellectual traditions of the sub-continent allowing several schools of thoughts to emerge, each suggesting multiple ways to achieve the ultimate or union with the Paramatman.
These traditions left no issue untouched for intellectual debates, which eventually gave rise to prolific writings which the country has been fortunate to inherit today. These writings deal with a wide range of subjects like Veda, Agama, Vedanta, Darshana, Ayurveda, Aesthetics, Astronomy, Astrology, Yoga, Vastu, Mathematics, Linguistics and many such subjects written in different ancient scripts and in different languages prevailing at the times.
It is these and many more such Vedic age subjects that is envisioned to be revived, researched in all authenticity and offered at the Nithyananda University @ Kashi Sarvajnapeetha and scriptures and sacred texts be made available to the whole world through an AI based Granth Samadhi.