Spartha is a healthy competition. In vidya, which is education/knowledge, it is said that it increases (vardhate) when there is healthy competition. Unmeasured and no competition results in stagnation, and growth suffers. It is said that education/knowledge flourishes and improves only when there is healthy competition. The competition requires multiple participants, agreed metrics, and finally ordering in terms of accomplishments.
Traditional education balanced individuals who were islands of excellence with groups that could complement each other’s skills. Education used to happen in the gurukul (residential school). Here physical infrastructure was humbler, but intellectual endowments were astounding. Material endowments provided by local rulers were used to cover all expenses for basic stay and quality education. As most of the education was administered in a “shruti” (heard and recited) format, these memory-based learnings were individually based.
One central examining authority was not the practice. Learned teachers at the other gurukuls would examine the students of different gurukuls in annual events. The good tradition was, while the teaching method was paced as per the needs of the learner, the examination was tough, and demanded mastery of the concepts. Such official examination for snataka (convocation) was followed by “sabhas” (scholarly assemblies). Here learned would assemble and discuss works that are scholastic and also require insightful interpretations. These were the forums for furthering the skills of young graduates and helped them announce to the scholarly world their arrival.
The academic debates (charcha) had a format. The one who argues for a topic or interpretation of the topic in a particular manner shall offer an argument in support. The second side had to do a “purva-paksha”. The challenger shall summarise the argument of the other side, get a nod that it was understood fully, and then offer the counter-argument. Here, due to the common ground reached in the understanding, the competition was healthy. Each side could see the salient points of the other side’s arguments. There is no scope for “vitanda”, rigid, dogmatic adherence to one’s own point of view. Hence, the competition was healthy and principle-based, and end of the discussion both sides were understanding-wise “better” than when they started. This increased vidya and ensured that intellectually growing was always the priority.
Prof S Ainavolu is a teacher of tradition and management. He is with VPSM, Navi Mumbai. Views are personal. You can read more at https://www.ainavolu.in/blog
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