Saturday, May 7, 2011

Some Characteristics of Buddhist Education

In Buddhist education the role of the Buddha (the Master) is the guide; that of the disciple (the student),the practitioner. The Dhamma is the Path for the practitioner to follow, or the raft which the practitioner uses to cross the river of Samsara. With his/her own effort, the practitioner uses the oar and the strength of his/her muscles to reach the other shore of Liberation. Thus the Dhamma is only the means, not the ultimate goal of the practice. Having reached the other shore and attained Liberation, the practitioner needs to discard the raft in order to go on. S/he should not carry it along any more. In other words, having achieved the goal, the disciple should not be attached to the Dhamma, but should be free from it. The practitioner assumes the greatest responsibility for his/her success or failure. Nobody else can help or taint the practitioner, or interfere in his/her Dhamma practice.

Dhamma practice
is a long and gradual process which demands patience and perseverance. It is like an ocean: along the shores there are lots of waves, and shallow waters. As one goes farther and farther, one will find great depths and much fewer waves. There are no sudden great leaps in the practice. Everything takes time and effort, and occurs gradually. In mind training the practitioner must be patient and skillful, like an elephant or a horse trainer.

Three fundamentals in the Dhamma practice are Śīla/Sīla (moral discipline/precepts), Samadhi/Dhyāna (meditation), and Prajñā/Paññā (wisdom). All the Buddha's teachings aim at these three. Depending on the individual's spiritual ability, some methods may be more appropriate and effective than others. The Buddha had different approaches and methods to teach the Dhamma to the multitude of various backgrounds and abilities. Dhamma talks are essential, for they lead the way to change one's view and way of thinking. Once a person accepts to follow the Dhamma Path, s/he can practice meditation, and gradually transforms the mind. However, not all people can be ready for the Dhamma. Some never have any opportunity to learn the Dhamma. Some listen to the Dhamma, but cannot understand it. Others listen, but forget after the Dhamma talk ends. Only those who listen carefully, understand and absorb the Dhamma thoroughly may benefit from it and from practicing it.

The Buddha is not the Savior, for he cannot save all sentient beings. Nor can he save those who do not want to listen to or practice the Dhamma. Nor can he save those who do not want to save themselves. Everybody has to take the responsibility to transform him-/herself to become better and better spiritually.

The role of Buddhist monasteries is first and foremost to disseminate the Dhamma. These are the places where Buddhists, both lay and monastic, listen to, learn and discuss the Dhamma, and practice meditation. Buddhist nuns and monks have the responsibilities to disseminate the Buddha's teachings, and guide others in meditation practice. Monasteries should have good libraries, and may become cultural and learning centers to preserve the rich culture of Buddhism. The Buddha did not teach us to worship statues or images. Temples were built not to worship any gods or goddesses. In fact, the best temple is the one you are supposed to build inside yourself through transforming your mind. Temples were built not to worship the dead, either. We bow to the Buddha, because we want to show our respect to Him, our Great/Supreme Master, who taught us the Path to help liberate ourselves from the Samsara.

According to the Buddha's teachings, a good Dhamma disseminator is one who:
1.knows how to listen to others, and make others listen to him/her;
2.knows how to learn and remember,and help others learn and remember;
3.knows how to distinguish the appropriate from the inappropriate;
4.has a clear vision and perception, and the ability to help others see and perceive things clearly;
5.has the ability to mingle with others to bring peace and happiness to them.

Thus there are four fundamental factors in Buddhist education:
1.The Buddha is the Master.
2.The Sangha is an educated community.
3.Buddhist monasteries are the facilities for Buddhist education.
4.Spiritual liberation is the motivation and the goal of Buddhist education.

Qualities for Buddhists to develop:
The highest quality to be developed by every human, according the Buddha, is loving kindness – metta in Pali and maitri in Sanskrit. He defined loving kindness as the equivalent of a mother’s undying love for her only son. No sentient being of whatever size, seen or unseen, nearby or far away, already born or in the process of coming to existence was excluded as outside the range of creatures to be treated with loving kindness. A moment of reflection on loving kindness was declared by the Buddha to be more meritorious than offering meals to a hundred Buddhas.

The mental exercise of loving kindness had to be complemented with acts of compassion as Karuna was defined. It was a human’s fervent obligation to help, nurture and serve all beings in distress or suffering. He himself risked his own life to go in search of the murderous bandit Angulimala to put an end to his violent career. He sat between battle-ready armies to avert a war and interceded twice an invading army bent on a massacre. From saving a snake tormented by kids to preaching against violence, the Buddha promoted peace and security for all sentient beings.

Recognizing envy and jealousy as hindrances to harmony, the third aspect of love in the Buddha’s teachings was mudita or sympathetic joy, displayed by congratulating and felicitating others on their happiness, appreciating and admiring other’s advantages and achievements and promoting goodwill.

The fourth quality to be developed in this process was upekkha -equanimity or equality wherein everyone and every situation was treated alike. These four aspects of the Buddha’s concept of love, called appropriately the Four Sublime States and further emphasized in Northern Buddhism as limitless Imponderables, form the foundation of Buddhism in practice. It is against this backdrop that the Buddhist approach to peace and security stems from inculcating in everyone the commitment, “Let there be peace in the world and let it begin with me.”

Ananda W. P. Guruge. The Buddha's Contribution to Humanity and World Peace.
Ananda W. P. Guruge. From the Living Fountains of Buddhism (Colombo: Department of National Archives, 1984).