|Vol. 1, No. 30 Delhi: Thursday, Paush Shukla 11 2004, January 22, 1948 Four Annas|
The degree of a community's culture is measured by the importance and value given to learning, the scope and the opportunity available for the propagation of knowledge. Judged by this standard, the Gurukula system of education in the Vedic period was unique and it was absolutely free from the generally mercenary character of the modern educational institutions to which, as a rule, people without financial means cannot have easy access. In the good old days the disciple used to live with his Guru serving the master with all devotion and love and identifying himself as a member of the Guru's household. It was, therefore, that the disciple was called vUrsoklh (Anthevasi), that is one who lives near the master. In the eleventh Anuvak of Jaithriya Upanishad which forms part of the Jaithriya Aranyaka of the Krishna Yajur Veda, beautiful sentiments are expressed by the Guru by way of advice to his disciple after the completion of the study. They will do credit to a convocation address of any modern university. The disciple is exhorted to keep aloft the torch of learning even in later life and is charged with the duty of continuing to learn and to teach the dual prerogatives of the Brahmans. A translation of the passage is given below, the portion within the brackets being the commentary of Sri Sankaracharya. The teacher after having taught the Vedas to the dis-ciple addresses him as follows:
“Speak the truth (i.e., whatever is definitely known to have happened). Follow the path of Dharma (the act which is ordinarily fit to be done on truth). Do not abandon the path of learning. Bring for your teacher wealth (Guru Dakshina) according to his liking. Do not cut the string of progeny (i.e., marry the suitable girl with the consent of the teacher: and if no male child is born perform the Putra-kameshti sacrifice). You should not deviate from Truth (even unconsciously untruth should not be spoken). You should not deviate from Dharma (that which is for-bidden by practice should not be done). You should not neglect acts which promote your welfare or increase your prosperity. You should not give up self-study or teaching of Vedas or performance of the rites to the gods and the mans. Let your mother be a goddess unto you. Let your father be a god unto you. Let your teacher be a god unto you. Let your guest be a god unto you. Those deeds which are irreproachable should be done but not others (even though done by righteous men). Whatever good deeds are found in us they should be performed and not others (even though done by the Teacher). Those Brahmans who are more enlightened than ourselves should be entertained and made comfort-able by offering seats, etc.; gifts should be given with devotion, sradha; it should not be given without devotion; it should be given in plenty with humility, with fear and with compassion.
“If ever a doubt arises in you about the proper performance of your duty or as regards conduct, you should follow in these matters those Brahmans (at that time and place) who are guileless, virtuous and are great thinkers whether engaged in the performance of sacrificial rites or not. Similarly as regards the manner of dealing with per-sons on whom there is a blemish, you should be guided by those Brahmans.
“This is the code of conduct. This is the advice. This is the essence of the Vedas. This is the commandment. This should be practised and truly this should be followed.”
By S.V. Ramaswami