Shreyasi: Ayurveda Education
Dr. Nagaraj Patauri welcomed all the panelists and their vast and diverse experiential backgrounds in knowledge, training, theory, and practice. He explained the goal of the panel was to to help realize how the contemporary and historic systems can work together to provide better education and training. Dr. Rahul, as the moderator, hoped to have some conclusions come out of the discussion. It is the longest standing medical system, so it has already flourished in its education methods. Dr. Rahul posited that there are even chapters for identifying good students and teachers, benchmarks for outgoing graduates, and entry to professional life.
He explained that often, it was a familial tradition to be a vaidya. But of course, the attitudes and characters of family members are different, and that was also recognized. Students would be sent to another family for deeper learning.
Vaidya Ajayan Sadanandan
Professor Dravyaguna, Ashtangam & Agastya Marma Shastra Tradition
QUESTION: Dr. Rahul posed a question to Vaidya Ajayan, asking him to discuss his views on family traditions and guru-sishya parampara; and the knowledge transitions that influenced the growth of Ayurveda. Specifically, he was to discuss Murivenna -- an obsolete tradition held by his ancestors, which is now in Trivandrum Government Ayurveda College, and now mainstreamed.
ANSWER: The preparatory phase of Ayurveda and Murivenna is about controlling the mind. It is important to start young: from the age of six, students are taught to tune the mind, breath, body through martial arts, some slokas, and other activities which are relevant to children. Everything has to be done together. Originally, the gurukula system was long-term. But now, people come in and don’t have the background, and try to finish in 5-6 years. That’s the system now.
What Ayurveda needs now is to increase the observational techniques to learn the interventions. We unknowingly follow things. The sishya may not even know he is learning something.
QUESTION: There were medicines patented to your family. When the Travancore College of Ayurveda was established, the transition of knowledge went to the academy. The clinicians sent the formulas to the vaidyas. How does this impact?
ANSWER: “You have to give love and affection to the marma system.” First, this is not just from our family. Our book was there, now 22 are available. So many Muruvennas are there. Now there is one that is used for everything. At that time, they were so interested in socializing and passing it down to the next generations. It is a strong science from its base, in Malayil language (Malalayam and Tamil), which almost no one can read or understand now. Translation is nearly impossible.
The shastras described it very systematically. My grandfather was a grand-physician of Marma and the first teacher in the Trivandrum Ayurveda College. A group of Marmists were there, and they developed it from there.
Vaidyaratna PS Warrier of Kotakkal Ayurveda Shala wrote in a book about how he studied Ayurveda and started the College:
Staying in a gurukula, under an ashta vaidya, he used to wake up at 3 and only got a meal by 2 pm. That entire time went in practices and preparing oneself to learn. Then the classes happened, by walking behind the teacher who was on a bullock cart.
The standard of Ayurveda education may have altered due to political and socio-economic influences. Many people who might have been interested in Ayurveda selected British. So the good students were not there.
That’s why Vaidyaratna Warrier ushered the process of having a proper system of education for Ayurveda also. All the legendary colleges were started by such luminaries, taught by libraries, medicinal plants, research, and a variety of professors.
The existing colleges have positives and negatives.
Vaidya Jayadevan was asked to describe the positives and negatives of existing academies. How can we move forward now?
He responded that every system has advantages. “Old is not always good. I don’t believe it is good. The shastras mention that nothing should be static.”
Advantage: The present system is developed through years. It has a strong history on how and why it developed. It has a relation with the independence struggle and post-independence era. So it is not away from the mainstream. Naturally, gurukulas were converted into Colleges. We cannot negate the tradition. People study under great physicians.
Advantage: The advantages of the present system is that we have multiple gurus. We have specialists and experts. The concept of Guru has changed. What do we mean by Guru? We don’t have 1 individual who can keep you inspired in all the subjects and fields. Different students are exposed to different specialties. Students have to specialize based on their capacities. The student cannot be an expert in all fields.
Advantage: Another advantage, with the National Level Entrance Exams, we get really great minds coming to the Ayurvedic field. Not just through parampara. They are doing excellent work.
Disadvantage: lack of confidence. With so many systems, teachers, infrastructures, but it’s still hard to get out of the program and start a practice.
Disadvantage: Some might have come accidentally, even if they are not interested in Ayurveda. There’s no place to test aptitude and interest.
Disadvantage: Allopathic medicine and program is considered higher.
Conclusion: We cannot go back to our past. It is not easy and we are living in the current situation and world. We should be practical. We have institutions in government, autonomous (Amrita), semi-gov’t (aided-- Kottakal); corporate sector. We cannot close it all and start a new system. For any changes, we have to keep all these issues in mind. There’s already a council that controls the academies.
Rahul Ji agreed that “the dimension of Guru has changed, whether a professor of Ayurveda can be called Guru is to be determined. Krishnakumar Sir understood from his heart that this is not the way to study Ayurveda (In a university setting). He went to Coimbatore and started a gurukula, from which gems have started to come out. That leadership was unique. It has produced vibrant philosophers and doctors.
PS Raveendranath was a student at Ayurveda College, Coimbatore. He talks about his experiences there.
“The college was started in 1978; I was in the 3rd batch. Right from the beginning, I had a strong intention to study there, from 8th standard. I didn’t have any Ayurvedic background in my family. My father was a Sanskrit teacher, and he also studied Ashtanga Hridayam and other Shastras. He did not practice, but was deeply interested in Ayurveda.
I was interested in other disciplines, Yoga, Kalari, etc., and that was part of the curriculum. So I was really excited about AC. It was also a 7.5 year course, with 2 years of pre-Ayurveda, 5 years of course, and 6 months of internship. Two years of pre-ayurveda was very special. That is the main advantage of our college. We studied Sciences, Sanskrit, Itihasa, English. We got into Ayurvedic thinking through that. We were living with the gurus there.
Disadvantage: not much exposure to the clinical side. They were more thinkers and philosophers. We didn’t have much facility to practice, as it was a new college. No knowledge of the manufacturing process and practices of that.
“We learned Ayurveda and Darsanas. We got imminent personalities to interact with. Not visiting professors: sometimes people whom Krishnakumar Sir found to give positivity to the students also gave talks. That helped to a great extent to improve our approach to life, as well as Ayurveda.”
In essence, Raveendranath stated, Ayurveda College was a bridge between the gurukula tradition and the new college system. We’ve tried this in Ashtangam Ayurveda College also, but it’s not as practical now. To make it 100% residential is very tough. We used to have access to the teachers even at 3 am in the morning! We could go and clear our doubts.
At that time, an advantage was having only 20 students in the batch. That’s not possible now.
Now we need to consider how to bring the knowledge of the clinicians to the college and training. We need to provide students with the confidence to say they are Ayurveda Vaidyas and be able to practice.
Raveendranath Ji reminisced: “During my batch, one student was from KA Allopathic College. He was a spokesperson for that system. He came to see me, then changed within 1 month. He was a big devotee of Ayurveda. He was able to change many more students-- that’s the big advantage. He was their role model, and he transformed, so they did also!”
He continued: “I had the opportunity to experience the real Gurukula system, Vaidyamattam Family of Namboodiri Sir. Dr. Krishnakumar asked me to go there, and I used to live with him whenever I could get time. During and after my studies. What the role of the guru is, to light the lamp of the student’s mind. He did not teach, but rather, I learned through observation. He also could observe me and understand what I needed. He sowed the seeds.”
“I started doing surgery and making medicines, just through observation of what he had done or talked about. We could do lots of hands on treatment later on in the colleges. I started teaching other students, even from normal academic subjects. Vaidyas cannot explain the massages and therapies. But I could, because I had observed and understood why it was done in those ways. I realized why massage needs to be incorporated into Ayurveda, and bring the Ayurvedic principles in the practice.”
Now, we cannot change to a 7.5 years, but if we can bring some changes to the education system from 10th onwards, where the Indic knowledge systems are introduced, it would be a great advantage.”
Is this possible in the new education policy? Sure. We need to change with the times, change the methods of teaching in the Ayurvedic colleges. So that it is complete, we should bring videos, digital technologies, etc., to bridge the gaps.
In all other branches of education, as the need increased, the faculty numbers also increased. That reflected on the training of the students positively.
We have 250+ Ayurveda colleges in India. But over the past few years, we don’t have enough faculty. We had teachers, lecturers, assistants, and examiners. It was 4-tier. Central Council of Indian Medicine has first switched from British to American, which is 3-tier: Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor. And there doesn’t have to be a Professor in the department. Many are just headed by associate and assistant professors, 2 to handle 60 students. There were also 1 year programs developed, exams every 6 months. That puts a lot of pressure on the student to perform. And the syllabus became more developed. It became more machine-made, mostly just producing graduates, year after year.
I used to see my clinic and work while I was finishing my exams. I learned the art of giving prescription of upavasa for Asthma, etc.
What are the steps to take to increase the quality of the graduates?
Vaidya Vinod Kumar, a recognized leader in the Central Council for Indian Medicine, talked about the current framework and ongoing changes:
- NCIS of medicine is already in place.
- CCIM will become obsolete.
- Through that act, minimum standards of education, etc., will be in place.
- So need to look into this context, with 400+ Ayurvedic colleges, to see how this can move forward, a different kind of education system. Something similar to Coimbatore Ayurveda College. The suggestion has already been sent to the Ministry. To have a pure Ayurvedic system. This was Krishnakumar Ji’s idea. To have a 7.5 year program. Like IITs have specialized patterns also.
- Conventional education is undergoing a lot of changes. Syllabus is being restructured. Minimum standards will be in place. No college can work outside the gambit.
- The syllabus goes through several levels.
- Everything will be clinical.
- Even Samskrit will have labs. It will be practical.
- Everyone should be in touch with the patients from the start. Then they will connect it to reality.
- Three professionals:
- 1.5 years.
- Sanskrit will be given a lot of importance.
- All the subjects will be reformed.
- Professors with different pedagogical approaches.
- Content mapping, student outcome, course outcome. Teacher expectations. Hours of the teachers, and how much they should teach on any particular topic.
- National Education Policy 2020:
- Ayurveda and Law are not explicitly included. But will soon come in place.
- Where can Ayurveda input their knowledge? Incorporate from a school level.
- First standard: Prakriti in context of Ayurveda; Nutrition from the perspective of Ayurveda; Rtu and seasons
- 8th Standards: Sapta Dhaatus. Panchamahabhutas; then there is no confusion if they have studied it a little already, instead of just physics and botany!
- Then students can choose the skill. Or a teacher can suggest them to go into Ayurveda, and they would have a few years of Pre Ayurveda before finishing 12th.
- We need a surgical theater in our colleges. We have to research our texts and systems to understand how to implement them.
- We should be prepared to try different models, incorporate the best of all facets and dimensions.
- We have a great AYUSH secretary, a vaidya, as opposed to an IAS officer.
- Everyone around the world is looking for Classical Ayurveda, pure education. So we can strive to build it and put things in place.
- Compartmentalization with continuity between the Ayurvedic professions.
- We must recognize the present scenario and the practicalities.
- We need to include studies such as Marma.
It is heartening to know the phenomenal changes already in motion.
Shri Rahul posed a final question to the panelists: What’s your take home message for the future of Ayurvedic education?
Shri Ajayan: If a large community of students can come together, we can breed good teachers, practitioners, scientists, speakers (which is lacking right now) to build public awareness.
Shri Jayadevan: If things happen as Vinod Ji explained, we have a bright future. We have already seen that all Ayurvedic physicians are working very hard right now. This is the first time we’ve had an opportunity to play a role in public health, thanks to Covid, and we have proved that we can provide. We are getting good funding from the Central government now for public health initiatives.
Shri Raveendranath: Nature has given us a big possibility in public health. The possibility to learn Ayurvedic and Indic Sciences from school itself will be superb.
We always talk about minimum standards, but why not go for a maximum standard? Any ranking standards for Ayurvedic colleges? MSc is the minimum. But maximum, there is no limit!
Professor Nagaraj Patauri concluded the program with a short summary of his perspective: Ayurveda colleges are becoming examination coaching centers, and there’s a lot of dissolution amongst the students because they have the same entrance exam. That gives an impression that Allopathy is better, and Ayurveda is a symbol of failure. Nowadays, remove certain subjects because it’s a burden on the student. Making things easy at all levels of syllabus design. We need to persuade the management boards to remove the mindset of making things easy.