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Ayurveda is a science of life that have impressions of the Vedic period in the Indian subcontinent. It follows most of the fundamental principles which were practiced in the Vedic era. Ayurveda focuses on the wholesome development of a person. A person's lifespan is divided into four stages of life (ashrama) viz. brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha, and sanyasa. The first stage, brahmacharya, represents obtaining knowledge and practicing celibacy. In the Vedic era, the tradition of preacher and pupil (guru-shishya parampara) was followed for acquiring knowledge. In this sacred process, knowledge was passed down from the preacher (guru) to their sages by oral lore (mokhika vidya). This process magnifies the pupil’s inner development. It was focused on expanding the pupil's capability, potential, and overall persona. It was treated as a social, emotional and cognitive development process and not as a mere mechanical process based on collective drill and training. Three methods have been explained for obtaining knowledge, viz., studying and learning (adhyayana), teaching (adhyapana) and discussion (sambhashana). In this sequence, adhyayana has been placed first because the foremost duty in a lifespan is adhyayana (study). For this purpose, the pupil (shishya) was sent away from home to stay with the preacher to study. This article describes methods of learning in ancient and contemporary times.

Section/Chapter/topic Concepts/Educational methods / Adhyayana (Methods of study and learning)
Authors Bhojani M. K. 1, Sheetal Rani2
Reviewer Basisht G.3
Editors Deole Y.S.4, Basisht G.3

1 Department of Sharira Kriya, All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi

2Department of Samhita Siddhant, All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi

3 Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.T.R.A., Jamnagar, India

4 Department of Kayachikitsa, G.J.Patel Institute of Ayurvedic Studies and Research, New Vallabh Vidyanagar, Gujarat, India
Correspondence emails,
Date of first publication: April 30, 2022
DOI under process

Etymology and derivation


The word ‘adhyayana’ is derived from the Sanskrit verb ‘ing’ (इङ्) meaning ‘to go to’ or ‘towards’ or ‘obtain’ with the prefix ‘adhi’ (अधि).[1]


  • Adhyayana means the study of Veda or devoted to studies or process for gaining knowledge.
  • Adhyayana means reading Vedic literature just by reciting.
  • Adhyayana also refers to the study of Vedas along with their meaning.[2] [3]

History in the Vedic Period

In ancient times, adhyayana was done by brahmanas with a view for the welfare of all the creatures; kshatriyas for delivering their duty as protectors, and vaishyas as means of livelihood. Ayurveda is studied for the achievement of all virtues (dharma), wealth (artha), and pleasure (kama). [Cha.Sa.Vimana Sthana 30/29]

Preparation and time to start study

The benefits of weapons, treatise, and water depend upon the qualities of their users. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 9/20] Therefore, the pupil should have some qualities for adhyayana. The healthy pupil should concentrate only on adhyayana. He should study at dawn or while a portion of the night is left (brahma muhurta). After finishing essential routines and ablutions, he should offer prayers to the God, sages, cow (as a sacred animal), brahmanas, teacher, elderly, and knowledgeable persons. They should sit in an even and clean place for study. [Cha.Sa.Vimana Sthana 8/7] In some recent studies, it has been found that people rising in brahma muhurta had improved their ability to recall than the persons who wake up after sunrise.[4]

This specifies that the study shall be done at proper place and at proper time to obtain maximum grasping of knowledge.

Methods of study

a) In Ayurveda, the knowledge was transferred from Brahma to Bharadwaja in the form of three main sutras (trisutra) like etiology, clinical features and therapeutics. This knowledge is documented in Samhita in the same format. This trisutra methodology shall be followed in adhyayana, too.[Cha.Su.Sutra Sthana 1/24]

b) The whole science (shastra) is elucidated in the nutshell of four fundamental principles (bijachatushya): person (purusha), disease (vyadhi), medicine (aushadhi), time of therapy (kriyakala). These have been elaborated in one hundred and twenty chapters of the treatise. This methodology of adhyayana of shastra shall be followed to understand. [Su.Sa.Sutra Sthan 1/38-39][5]

c) While reading the science, elaboration of topics should be done following the steps:

1. Description from word to word (padatah)

2. Meaning of each word (arthatah)

3. Objective of the topic (prayojanatah)

4. Raising doubts (udytah)

5. Clarification of doubts (parihartah)

6. Its relation with aim and objective (sambandhatah)

7. Explanation of the topic (abhidheytah). [Commentry on A.Hr.Sutra Sthana 1/2][6]

Person doing adhyayana by reciting the text (patha), understanding the text (avabodha) and practicing the text (anusthana) will achieve long, healthy life, with virtues (dharma), wealth (artha), happiness (sukha) and success (yasha). [A.Hr.Uttara Sthana 40/82][6]

d) The treatise can be studied by dividing it into sections (sthana), chapter (adhyaya) and topic (prashna). [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 30/16]

e) The whole tantra can be classified into 10 topics for adhyayana:

1. Anatomy or body composed of five mahabhutas and several organs (sharira)

2. Physiology or consumption of different types of food (vritti)

3. Etiology (hetu)

4. Disease manifestation (vyadhi)

5. Treatment (karma)

6. Restoration of health (karya)

7.Knowledge about seasons and stages of disease (kaala)

8. Description of the physician (karta)

9. Knowledge of drugs (karana)

10.Drug regimen (vidhi) according to habitat (desha), time (kala), disease (vyadhi)

Methods of reading and understanding

After preparation of pupil and knowledge of methods, the following methods are adapted to read and understand text.

1. Reciting Sutra

a) After following all above rules, the pupil should recite aphorisms (sutras) orally with due concentration on sequence. After perceiving the proper meaning, the sutras shall be repeated frequently to correct faults in recitation. Every pupil should indulge in adhyayana, continuing this procedure at noon, in the afternoon and at night. This is the method of reading, memorizing and understanding the topic.[Cha.Sa.Vimana Sthana 8/7]

b) While reading and reciting, the verse can be divided into small parts according to the capability of the pupil. He can read from word to word, then reciting first quarter part of verse (shloka), then second quarter and later the whole shloka should be recited again and again. [Su.Sa.Sutra Sthan 3/54][5]

2. Means of understanding the import of Sutras

Studying text with the help of :

1. Textual statement (vakyasha)

2. Textual interpretation (arthasha)

3. Recapitulation (arthavyavsha)

Textual statement (vakyasha): The texts should be recited in traditional recitation method line by line or just as stated by sages textually in their original form.

Textual interpretation (arthasha): After acquiring the genuine purport through his intellect, one should explain it elaborately as well as briefly by hypothesis statement (pratijna), reasoning (hetu), examples (udaharan), subsumptive correlation (upnaya), conclusion (nigamana). This method is comprehensible to all the three types of disciples (brilliant, average and dull).

Recapitulation (arthavyavsha): This includes discussion on the difficult points in the treatise and their clarification again and again. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 30/17-19]

Tantraguna for proper understanding of Sutras

Samhita was written in such manner so that it was easy to recite, remember and follow the rules of the Sanskrit language. There are various topics where true meaning of the verses (shlokas) are hidden. The commentators created multiple tools to understand hidden meanings and to interpret the true meaning. These are collectively called ‘Tantra guna’. These help in the proper understanding and interpretation of Samhita. Tantrayukti is the most popular among these. Similarly, few terminologies/techniques coined by the commentators like taccheelyadi, kalpana, arthashrya etc. which, are also known as Tantra guna. All these are means for proper adhyayana. Pramana is also a means for gaining knowledge. Like tantrayukti, it helps in good understanding and interpretation by using different pramana.

After completion of adhyayana

The theoretical and practical knowledge are equally important. After Adhyayana, the pupil should apply this theoretical knowledge to improve his practical skills. The pupil should be exposed to the practical application of that theoretical knowledge. Therefore Yogyasutriya adhyaya (the chapter on obtaining practical skill in surgery) is explained for practical proficiency. [Su.Sa.Sutra Sthana 9/3][5] After finishing study, one should make efforts to attain clarity of speech, depths of import, boldness, proficiency, practice, and successful management. [Su.Sa.Sutra Sthana 3/56][5]

After adhyayana, one should involve in the mutual scholarly discussion. The discussion shall be in hierarchical pattern starting from questions about the treatise and its objective (tantra and tantrartha), then sections and their contents (sthana and sthanartha), chapters and topics covered (adhyaya and adhyayartha), topics and their interpretation (prashna and prashnartha). The discussion shall include textual statements (vakyasha), textual interpretation (arthasha), recapitulation (arthavayavasha). [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 30/30]

In current times, Ayurveda is studied as a professional course named as Bachelor of Ayurveda Medicine and Surgery (B.A.M.S.). It includes the above-mentioned methods of studying ancient texts, contemporary books and clinical practices.

Inappropriate times for study

One shall not study during unseasonal lightning, when there is an outbreak of fire, during an earthquake, during festivals, meteorite fall, solar or lunar eclipse, during new moon day or dawn or dusk, without being instructed by a teacher. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 8/24] These times are not suitable for study, as the mind is distracted from objectives of study.

Improper methods

One shall not recite words incompletely in low pitch nor high/coarse voice, with an improper accent, without morphological symmetry. One shall not recite very fast or very slow. There shall not be any delay in between recitation. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 8/24] These methods do not lead to grasping proper knowledge.

Importance of adhyayana

The authorative statements (aaptopadesha pramana) is the primary source of proper knowledge of a treatise. It gives the knowledge about promoting health, prevention and diagnosis of a disease with its management. All this knowledge can be inferred only by that person who has proper understanding of the treatise. Adhyayana of that treatise can grasp this knowledge. Therefore adhyayana is very important for knowing about aaptopadesha or authoritative statement.

Theoretical knowledge is the base for practical skills. A physician, who is well versed in adhyayana or theoretical knowledge, but unskilful in practical knowledge, gets confused while facing the patient, just like a coward on the battlefield. On the other hand, a physician, experienced in his practical knowledge but deficient in adhyayana or theoretical knowledge, is condemned as a quack and deserves punishment at the hands of the government. Both these classes of physicians are not to be trusted because they are deficient and have incomplete possession of knowledge. Such persons are incapable of performing their duties as a physician, just like a one-winged bird is incapable of taking flight in the air. Therefore theoretical knowledge is very important in pursuing practical skills. [Su.Sa.Sutra Sthana 3/48-50]

Contemporary approach

In 21st-century, different learning methodologies have been adopted for all-round development like Flipped classrooms, project-based learning, cooperative learning, and gamification of learning. In Ayurveda, swadhyaya which includes self-study with recitation of the Vedas and other sacred texts was adopted. Swadhyaya involves repeated recitations of scripture for the purposes of mastering the incantations (mantras) with their accurate pronunciation.[7]

In the contemporary era, more emphasis is given on autodidacticism (self-education, self-learning and self-teaching). This learning methodology encourages students to do more independent work. As colleges and universities offer distance learning degree programs and secondary schools provide cyber school options for K-12 students, technology provides numerous resources that enable individuals to have a self-directed learning experience.[8]

In Covid 19 pandemic, these distance learning and cyber school methods were adopted for better learning of students. Virtual classrooms are made possible through educational technology with the help of the internet.

Advantages and disadvantages of online education:


1. Personal circumstances or health disruptions, specifically contagious viruses such as COVID-19 and the Common cold, or injuries will not halt learning since the physical demands are much less.

2. Online education provides flexible arrangements to the students with colossal library content.

3. It is cost-effective and also increases accessibility to remote education for poor or rural areas where commuting to schools or lack of resources are a concern.[9]


1. It reduces engagement, and interaction, and leads to a lack of socialization, which can potentially decrease a student's social competence or skills, such as their ability to cooperate with others.

2. Online schools may be too lenient or disengaging, and thus may potentially encourage or harbor potentially damaging and undisciplined behavior that could threaten a student's future or career.

This online education has both pros and cons. Some studies suggest that cognitive overload, as a product of multi-method based learning and divided attention, impacts the quality of comprehension, prioritization, and deep-level processing of incoming information, which in turn, critically determines consolidation of memory into long-term memory (Carr, 2010). Consequently, it leads to poor processing and understanding of what is taught or said.[10]

As per Bloom’s taxonomy, there are three learning domains- cognitive domain, affective domain and psychomotor domain. Cognitive domain deals with the knowledge and development of intellectual skills. The affective domain deals with moral values, emotions, and attitude. The psychomotor domain deals with physical movement, coordination, and use of the motor skill areas. These three domains are essential for students. The cognitive domain list has been the primary focus of most traditional education. It is frequently used to structure curriculum learning objectives, assessments, and activities.[11]

The cognitive domain consists of 6 levels of objectives: Remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create.[12] These methods are practiced in ancient learning methods as explained below.

1. Remember: Authoritative knowledge (aaptopadesha pramana) includes remembering and recalling facts and basic concepts that are already present in the form of tantras or samhita.

2. Understand: It includes explaining the ideas and concepts by demonstration and identifying their factual basis like direct perception (pratyaksha pramana).

3. Apply: It involves using acquired knowledge to solve problems in new situations. Using this knowledge for execution and implementation after interpretation is practiced. It is similar practice of inference (anumana pramana).

4. Analyze: It draws connections among ideas, determining how the parts relate to one another, identifying motives or causes, making inferences, and finding evidence to support generalizations. Analogy (upamana pramana) is based on the similarities between two objects, their comparison and knowledge are inferred from the connection.

5. Evaluate.

6. Create: It involves justifying a decision and producing new work with intellect like logical applications (yukti pramana).

Further reading

1. Teaching and Learning Methodology- An Ayurvedic Perspective: By Umapati C.Baragi and Jyoti M. Ganer: This article depicts the exploration of the methodology of teaching as well as learning methods that can be attempted in imparting knowledge to the students as well as teachers in the present era. [13]

2. Teaching and learning methods in Ayurveda and its current perspectives: By Kolarkar Rajashree. This paper deals with critical review of ancient and current skills of medical teaching and learning.[14]

3. A Review of Teaching and Learning Skills in Ayurveda on current Perspectives: By Dr.S.K Pandey, Dr.R.K. Dubey, Dr.Anurag Dubey: The paper deals with a critical review of ancient and contemporary skills of teaching and learning in Ayurveda.[15]

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