In recent years, the concept of global citizenship education has become very popular in Western countries, especially in North America and Europe. However, there are different definitions and understandings of global citizenship and hence various models of global citizenship education. Despite some particular differences, these versions share one thing: being aimed at finding a good answer to the big question, “How to build, through education, a better world?” Therefore, global citizenship education is a comprehensive domain, and one of its dominant aspects is helping others. In this regard, I will give a snapshot of Western global citizenship education practices, together with their strengths and limitations, and then explain why Buddhism may add a dimension to contemporary global citizenship education by pointing to the nature of selfhood and thus facilitating a rethinking of the notion of “help.”
Helping initiatives in Western global education programs are perceived to have both strengths and limitations. As mentioned earlier, building a better world through education is the primary aim of global education. For this reason, raising students’ awareness of global sufferings, including poverty, natural disasters, wars, and so on, is at the top of Western universities’ agenda. As global citizens, students are expected to do something to help relieve global sufferings. In this aspect, many universities have programs to send students to the Third World to do charitable work or help people in these countries. Needless to say, these practices are helpful and desirable because through these programs people from less developed countries have a chance to receive both material and educational support. Thus, poverty, starvation and illiteracy are partly reduced. Although the programs are helpful, they are believed to have limitations. Some researchers discover that while helping others, a number of students tend to have a sense of superiority over the helped. More specifically, they are likely to think that “I, superior, advantaged and civilized, uplift the other, who is inferior, disadvantaged and uncivilized” or “I really feel sorry for them.” A close examination of these helping initiatives reveals that true respect and compassion may not occur in these students’ act of helping, and thus global sufferings, including global injustices, are not actually disrupted. Notably, there is a warning about a potential confusion between “pity” and “compassion.” Buddhist scholar Jack Kornfield said that the near enemy of compassion is pity (2012), explaining further that pity connotes a sense of separation and alienation while compassion is indicative of connection and openness. Thus, in the context above, when students feel sorry for the people they help, they express a sense of pity underpinned by feelings of discrimination and contempt for others. True compassion is not found in their actions. Indeed, Buddhist scholar Chogyam Trungpa (1973) held that compassion “is not feeling sorry for someone. It is basic warmth” (p. 97). Buddhist monk Dhammanada also put that with compassion, while helping others, people “should not perform charity as an act of their body alone, but with their heart and mind as well” (2002, p. 235). From these Buddhist perspectives, we can see that the work towards global betterment in some global education programs is not complete due to the absence of compassion and respect for others in some students’ actions. That said, how to nurturetruerespect and compassion for others is still a big question. In this aspect, Buddhism may have something to offer.
As described earlier, it is obvious that the duality of Self and Other underlies some students’ help and therefore brings about a huge gap between the helper and the helped. Wherever there is a border between ‘self’ and ‘others’, there is no room for true respect and compassion. For this reason, it is necessary to disrupt this duality. However, it would be very challenging to do this without an appropriate view of self/other. The Buddhist conception of self may be very helpful in this regard.
For Buddhists, the belief in a discrete and solid self is actually a delusion. Self is comprised of impermanent constituents called Five Aggregates including material form, sensations, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. These constituents are brought into being by causes and conditions, which are always changing. With reference to the absence of a separate and permanent self, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh offers a nice explanation. Nhat Hanh (1988) posited that self is interdependent with others. To illustrate this point, he gives a metaphor commonly known in Buddhist communities. That is, a sheet of paper cannot exist by itself. Rather, it is interdependent with the sunshine, the cloud, the forest and so on. Generally put, this means that one cannot exist without others. In another aspect, Nhat Hanh affirms that in one’s self there are others through his metaphors of a rose and garbage, arguing that in a rose there is (potential) garbage and vice versa. This could be understood in several ways. For example, a rose, no matter how beautiful it is now, will perish and ultimately become garbage; or, a rose at present grows thanks to garbage as a form of fertilizer. Conversely, garbage is not always bad as it seems, it can be transformed into a rose in the hands of skillful gardeners. Since the rose and the garbage inter-are, for Nhat Hanh they are equal; hence, there is not a clear-cut boundary between goodness and badness.
Let us return to the context of charitable programs described earlier. In Buddhist views, it does not make sense to believe that one is independent of or superior to others. It also means that students, while practicing global citizenship, should have deep respect for others because in the absolute sense they cannot be separate from others and especially because there is no clear-cut border between superiority and inferiority or between any perceived goodness and badness. As for the latter, the metaphors of a rose and garbage may make them aware that their richness and ‘superiority’ are probably grounded in others’ poverty and ‘inferiority.’ With this in mind, instead of feeling sorry (and disdain) for others, students may have not only deep respect for but also gratitude to people from less developed countries.
Buddhist view of self also helps cultivate genuine compassion for others. As articulated, the right view on self is the realization of the absence of a permanent and separate self. In other words, self is interdependent with others; therefore, in this Buddhist scenario there is no dividing line between self and others, and there is no discrimination, contempt or arrogance in any charity performed. With real compassion, people simply follow the impulse of their hearts to free others from their suffering. Having a similar point, Buddhist monk Gyatso (2001) once put that “[c]ompassion is a mind that is motivated by cherishing other living beings and wishes to release them from their suffering” (p. 174).
In summary, I have presented a short description of helping initiatives as one of many important aspects in Western global citizenship education programs. These practices are definitely effective and helpful. However, there is still an issue to consider; that is the absence of real respect and compassion in some acts of helping. To deal with this problem, Buddhism offers a right view of selfhood, which challenges any belief in the duality of ‘Self’ and ‘Other’ and consequently facilitates the emergence of deep respect and compassion. This Buddhist global citizenship education version may bring a new hope for a brighter future of a possible loving, compassionate and enlightened world.
Dhammanada, K. S. (2002). What Buddhists believe. Kuala Lumpur: Buddhist Missionary Society Malaysia.
Gyatso, G. K. (2001). Transform your life: A blissful journey. New York: Tharpa Publications.
Kornfield, J. (2012). Bringing home the Dharma: Awakening right where you are. Boston and London: Shambhala.
Nhat Hanh, T. (1988). The heart of understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra. California: Parallax Press.
Trungpa, C. (1973). Cutting through spiritual materialism. California: Shambhala publications.
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?”
No past, no present, no future. All created things arise and pass away. All names and labels dissolve. You can observe this in meditation practice and, in experiencing impermanence in life and so-called death.
At the conclusion of the Diamond Sutra, it is said that, this is how we should view our conditioned existence: as a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a drop of dew, a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.
In the Dhammapada, the Buddha says, “What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has given many millions of people worldwide time to reflect on their lives and habits of thought, speech and action.
I know quite a few who have found a refuge of peace in their gardens. Cultivating, planting seeds, adding water and nutrients all help in maintaining a healthy garden. They are also a necessary part in taking care of our bodies. But what about the mind? Generosity, ethics, loving-kindness, compassion, meditative concentration and wisdom are the food for our inner spiritual garden. Without them there is no harvest, no fruit of Awakening, Buddhahood.
As a child my parents encouraged questions, as did my Heart Lama. However, the latter person gave me two questions to ask before speaking: “will what I am wanting to say, and the way I say it, be helpful or harmful to myself/others? Also, does the question come from ‘I don’t know’ (beginner’s mind), or from a place of judgement and opinions?” The aim was/is to cultivate the mind to be like an empty vessel, not one filled to the brim and overflowing where nothing new can enter.
What's your vision for the future of Moreland?
What do you imagine the future of Moreland to look like? What are your hopes, dreams and aspirations? How would you like to shape our city as we move towards a post-covid world?
Over the coming months, we’ll be talking with our community to find out what's important to you, and what services and projects you want us to prioritise to make Moreland the best it can be in the future.
We'll host pop-up events, workshops, a community panel process and much more, to create a Community Vision document that sets Council's priorities for the next four years and beyond. This Community Vision will guide other Council documents including the 4-year Council Plan, 4-year Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan, 10-year Asset Plan and 10-year Financial Plan.
This is an exciting opportunity for us to talk together about how to make Moreland an even greater place to live, work and enjoy for years to come.
Please note by participating in
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is not over yet. We need to keep looking after ourselves and our community to stop the virus spreading.
Due to increased cases in Victoria, some restrictions have changed. From 22 June 2020:
· You cannot have more than five visitors in your home
· You cannot gather outdoors with more than 10 people
· Schools, libraries, places of worship and businesses remain open
· Stay close to home and do not travel if possible
The Book was first published in 1942. The present edition has been revised and expanded. Though primarily intended for the students and beginners rather than scholars, the reader will find it an extremely valuable handbook, offering a sound foundation to the basic tenets of Buddhism as found in its original Pali tradition.
You are invited to a multifaith gathering to acknowledge Victoria’s bushfire crisis
Join Victoria’s faith and political leaders for a special multifaith gathering on the steps of Parliament House on Tuesday 4 February 2020.
Hosted by the Faith Communities Council of Victoria and the Multifaith Advisory Group (convened by the Victorian Multicultural Commission), the gathering will bring Victorians together to pray for those who have lost their lives and for the devastation of land, property and wildlife caused by the recent bushfires.
Together, we will show our appreciation and say thanks to the firefighters, emergency services and volunteers for their dedication, bravery and service.
We will also demonstrate our support for leaders on all sides of politics as they continue to lead our state through this unprecedented tragedy.
With the fire season not yet over and with relief and recovery efforts expected to take months, if not years, this event will demonstrate the stren
I consider myself to be one of the extremely lucky ones to study the Dharma at the Phap Bao temple every Sunday with awise, caring and compassionate teacher like Ven. Bhikkuni Giac Anh. The classes are like an endless supply of cool and pure water from a gentle stream that my Dharma friends and I can always drink from to quench our thirst and purify our body and mind.Over the years, I have seen incremental improvements in myselfsuch as being calmer, learning and practicing the Dharma better and applying the practical advice from my Teacher to better deal with everyday challenges.