Buddhist Publication Society Newsletter cover essay #35 (1st mailing, 1997)
Copyright 1997 Buddhist Publication Society
For free distribution only
Ideally, education is the principal tool of human growth, essential for transforming the unlettered child into a mature and responsible adult. Yet everywhere today, both in the developed world and the developing world, we can see that formal education is in serious trouble. Classroom instruction has become so routinized and pat that children often consider school an exercise in patience rather than an adventure in learning. Even the brightest and most conscientious students easily become restless, and for many the only attractive escape routes lie along the dangerous roads of drugs, sexual experimentation, and outbursts of senseless violence. Teachers too find themselves in a dilemma, dissatisfied with the system which they serve but unable to see a meaningful alternative to it.
One major reason for this sad state of affairs is a loss of vision regarding the proper aims of education. The word "education" literally means "to bring forth," which indicates that the true task of this process is to draw forth from the mind its innate potential for understanding. The urge to learn, to know and comprehend is a basic human trait, as intrinsic to our minds as hunger and thirst are to our bodies. In today's turbulent world, however, this hunger to learn is often deformed by the same moral twists that afflict the wider society. Indeed, just as our appetite for wholesome food is exploited by the fast-food industry with tasty snacks devoid of nutritional value, so in our schools the minds of the young are deprived of the nutriment they need for healthy growth. In the name of education the students are passed through courses of standardized instruction intended to make them efficient servants of a demeaning social system. While such education may be necessary to guarantee societal stability, it does little to fulfil the higher end of learning, the illumination of the mind with the light of truth and goodness.
A major cause of our educational problems lies in the "commercialization" of education. The industrial growth model of society, which today extends its tentacles even into the largely agrarian societies of South and Southeast Asia, demands that the educational system prepare students to become productive citizens in an economic order governed by the drive to maximize profits. Such a conception of the aim of education is quite different from that consistent with Buddhist principles. Practical efficiency certainly has its place in Buddhist education, for Buddhism propounds a middle path which recognizes that our loftiest spiritual aspirations depend on a healthy body and a materially secure society. But for Buddhism the practical side of education must be integrated; with other requirements designed to bring the potentialities of human nature to maturity in the way envisioned by the Buddha. Above all, an educational policy guided by Buddhist principles must aim to instill values as much as to impart information
It must be directed, not merely towards developing social and commercial skills, but towards nurturing in the students the seeds of spiritual nobility.
Since today's secular society dictates that institutional education is to focus on preparing students for their careers, in a Buddhist country like Sri Lanka the prime responsibility for imparting the principles of the Dhamma to the students naturally falls upon the Dhamma schools. Buddhist education in the Dhamma schools should be concerned above all with the transformation of character. Since a person's character is molded by values, and values are conveyed by inspiring ideals, the first task to be faced by Buddhist educators is to determine the ideals of their educational system. If we turn to the Buddha's discourses in search of the ideals proper to a Buddhist life, we find five qualities that the Buddha often held up as the hallmarks of the model disciple, whether monk or layperson. These five qualities are faith, virtue, generosity, learning, and wisdom. Of the five, two-faith and generosity-relate primarily to the heart: they are concerned with taming the emotional side of human nature. Two relate to the intellect: learning and wisdom. The fifth, virtue or morality, partakes of both sides of the personality: the first three precepts-abstinence from killing, stealing, and sexual abuse- govern the emotions; the precepts of abstinence from falsehood and intoxicants help to develop the clarity and honesty necessary for realization of truth. Thus Buddhist education aims at a parallel transformation of human character and intelligence, holding both in balance and ensuring that both are brought to fulfillment.
The entire system of Buddhist education must he rooted in faith (saddha) faith in the Triple Gem, and above all in the Buddha as the Fully Enlightened One, the peerless teacher and supreme guide to right living and right understanding. Based on this faith, the students must be inspired to become accomplished in virtue (sila) by following the moral guidelines spelled out by the Five Precepts. They must come to know the precepts well, to understand the reasons for observing them, and to know how to apply them in the difficult circumstances of human life today. Most importantly, they should l come to appreciate the positive virtues these precepts represent: kindness, honesty, purity, truthfulness, and mental sobriety. They must also acquire the spirit of generosity and self-sacrifice (caga), so essential for overcoming selfishness, greed, and the narrow focus on self-advancement that dominates in present-day society. To strive to fulfil the ideal of generosity is to develop compassion and renunciation, qualities which sustained the Buddha throughout his entire career. It is to learn that cooperation is greater than competition, that self-sacrifice is more fulfilling than self-aggrandizement, and that our true welfare is to be achieved through harmony and good will rather than by exploiting and dominating others.
The fourth and fifth virtues work closely together. By learning (suta) is meant a wide knowledge of the Buddhist texts which is to be acquired by extensive reading and persistent study. But mere learning is not sufficient. Knowledge only fulfills its proper purpose when it serves as a springboard for wisdom (paa), direct personal insight into the truth of the Dhamma. Of course, the higher wisdom that consummates the Noble Eightfold Path does not lie within the domain of the Dhamma school. This wisdom must be generated by methodical mental training in calm and insight, the two wings of Buddhist meditation. But Buddhist education can go far in laying the foundation for this wisdom by clarifying the principles that are to be penetrated by insight. In this task learning and wisdom are closely interwoven, the former providing a basis for the latter. Wisdom arises by systematically working the ideas and principles learnt through study into the fabric of the mind, which requires deep reflection, intelligent discussion, and keen investigation.
It is wisdom that the Buddha held up as the direct instrument of final liberation, as the key for opening the doors to the Deathless, and also as the infallible guide to success in meeting life's mundane challenges. Thus wisdom is the crown and pinnacle of the entire system of Buddhist education, and all the preliminary steps in a Buddhist educational system should be geared towards the flowering of this supreme virtue. It is with this step that education reaches completion, that it becomes illumination in the truest and deepest sense, as exclaimed by the Buddha on the night of his Awakening: "There arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and light."
The Eight Precepts with Right Livelihood as the Eighth (Ājīvatthamaka Sīla) Dhamma Teachers Certificate
EN074 -__ Feb2010 5 8 Precepts Diacritials
Requirements and Ceremonies for the Five Precepts (Panca Sila),
The Eight Precepts with Right Livelihood as the Eighth (Ajivatthamaka Sila),
Dhamma Teachers Certificate, issued by the Buddhist Group of Kendal
(Theravada) and Ketumati Buddhist Vihara at Wesak 2006).
Updated February 2010
Venerable Rewata Dhamma born in Myanmar [Burma], was head of the Birmingham Buddhist Vihara until his death in 2004. His book Maha Paritta: The Discourses of the Great Protection (With the Threefold Refuges, Precepts, Salutations to the Triple Gem, Dependent Origination and Metta Bhavana), gives the formula in Pali and English for requesting Ajivatthamaka Sila (The Eight Precepts with Right Livelihood as the Eighth). (pages 9-12)
Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera Abhidhaja Maharatthaguru Agga Maha Pandita (1896-1998)
Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maitreya, born in Sri Lanka, attended the Sixth Buddhist Council held in Myanmar [Burma] (1954-56). In 1956, during the third session of the Council, he served as Chairman of the Convocation for a few weeks. The Council was convened by the Myanmar [Burmese] government to prepare an authorized re-edit and reprint of the entire Tipitaka (the Pali Canon) and its commentaries. Venerable Ananda Maitreya was appointed the Sri
The BEP Buddhist Embroidery Project was started by attendees of the London Buddhist Vihara (Monastery) in 1994. The BEP decided to teach embroidery to people who had not learnt it in childhood. The late Venerable Apparakke Jinaratana, a Theravada Buddhist Bhikkhu (monk), who lived in a cave in Sri Lanka, near a very poor village, was using very old newspapers (supplied by villagers) as tablecloths. The BEP decided to embroider tablecloths, wall hangings and sitting cloths for his use. Although items are given to one monk, they actually belong to the whole of the Bhikkhu Sangha [Order of Buddhist Monks] according to the Vinaya (Buddhist Monastic Discipline). In Asian villages, washing is done in streams and waterfalls, and hung to dry in the hot sun, so items do not last as long as they do in the west.
by Venerable Dr Balangoda Ananda Maitreya
Mahanayaka Thera Abhidhaja Maharatthaguru Aggamaha Pandita DLitt DLitt (1896-1998)
and Jacquetta Gomes Bodhicarini Upasika Jayasili.
Introducing Buddhism was originally published by The Buddhist Society London in 1988, to accompany The Buddhist Society’s Introducing Buddhism Course, on which Jacquetta Gomes was one of the teachers.
Introducing Buddhism has subsequently been published by Buddhist organisations in England, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the USA. Introducing Buddhism is available on several websites including Access to Insight, CBE Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia and Google Books. Introducing Buddhism was launched by the BCC Buddhist Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka with 24 other books under the patronage of Venerable Dr K. Sri Dhammananda Chief Sangha Nayaka of Malaysia and Singapore, in December 1997.
As a child, my mother Enid often said to me, “There is no such thing as a silly question,” and then would add, “unless.” This latter word was left hanging, and I eventually realised that it was up to me to learn the depth of its meaning.
At the same time that Enid was planting seeds for reflection, my first spiritual teacher, Ven. Lama Senge Tashi, encouraged me to cultivate more skilful thoughts, speech and actions. Sometimes I would try to verbally assert “I” or “Me,” and Lama would respond with, “Who is speaking?” or “Who is asking?”
During the Covid-19 pandemic a dharma sister passed from this life. Her name was Robyn. Although she did not call herself a Buddhist, nevertheless, Robyn had a special connection with the deity Medicine Buddha.
Over the six years that I worked with her, in my role as a hospital chaplain, Robyn frequently asked me to chant the mantra of Medicine Buddha and guide her through the visualisation. During her many stays in hospital, this particular practice brought comfort to her while she was experiencing chronic pain, anxiety and fear of the unknown. The medications she took would sometimes cloud her memory, so I would guide her through the details of the visualisation and begin chanting:
Once, as I was about to hold a summer Dharma class on a beach, as the first students began to arrive for the session I picked up two rocks and carefully placed them, one on top of the other, on to a much larger rock base. Observing what I had just done, three students approached: a young married couple and their five year old son.
True Seeing (Ven. Shih Jingang) One day, while Little Pebble and his Master were walking through a garden, the old teacher stopped to look at a white rose in full bloom. He motioned for his young disciple to join him, and they both sat down near where the flower was growing.
‘Little Pebble,’ said the Master, ‘when you look at this object, tell me what you think about it.’
‘The flower is pretty,’ stated the boy. ‘I like it.’
‘’’Flower,” you say. “Pretty, like it,” you say,’ replied the Master, looking to see how his young disciple reacted. Then he added, ‘Mind creates names like flower, and thoughts of like and dislike, pretty and ugly. This mind is small and closed, but if you can see beyond it to the nature of mind, then all is vast like space, completely open to all things. In this state of awareness, there is neither a flower nor a non-flower. Understand?’
But the young disciple did not quite understand, so his Master continued, ‘Little one, come here each day,
One day, Little Pebble went to his teacher, and said, ‘Master, my friend’s dog Tiger died.’
The look on Little Pebble’s face told the old monk that he was troubled. ‘Little one, do you have any questions?’
‘Master, where did Tiger go?’
‘Where did you come from?’ asked the old monk.
‘From my mummy’s tummy.’
‘And where did Mummy come from?’
Little Pebble couldn’t think of an answer.
The Master regarded his young disciple for a moment, then said, ‘Remember, when you made shapes with mud and named them Mummy, Daddy, Master?’
“Calling forth the Great Compassion, we are one with our True Nature; that which is directly Buddha, also indirectly Buddha. Oneness with the Triple Treasure, endless, joyous, perfect being. Morning thought is Kuan-Shih-Yin, evening thought is Kuan-Shih-Yin. All present thoughts arise from Mind, no thought exists apart from Mind.”
These are the words of the Ten Verse Life-Prolonging Kuan-Yin Sutra. Who is reciting them?
A few blocks away, an old man is crying out for help and someone hears. He is a brother, sister, father, mother from a previous life. A phone is picked up and then there are footsteps running towards the sound, “Help me! Help...” Someone sees the old man sitting on the top step, near the front door of his house.
Nguyện đem công đức này, trang nghiêm Phật Tịnh Độ, trên đền bốn ơn nặng, dưới cứu khổ ba đường, nếu có người thấy nghe, đều phát lòng Bồ Đề, hết một báo thân này, sinh qua cõi Cực Lạc.
May the Merit and virtue,accrued from this work, adorn the Buddhas pureland, Repay the four great kindnesses above, andrelieve the suffering of those on the three paths below, may those who see or hear of these efforts generates Bodhi Mind, spend their lives devoted to the Buddha Dharma, the Land of Ultimate Bliss.