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.
Smartphone Overuse, Youth Suicide and Buddhism as a Healing Source,
Youth suicide is disturbingly rising. Ashley Welch, in her article “What’s behind the rise in youth suicides?” (2017), gave some insights into the trend. The author mentioned potential causes for this trauma and notably pointed to “the correlation between the rising popularity of smartphones and increased rates of suicide and depression among young people” (para. 17). Although Welch did not offer a clear reason for the correlation, this point raises an awareness of an irony. We, as readers, may wonder, “How can such a wonderful entertaining device cause that terrible thing?” In this paper, I will discuss the roots of this pain, and then suggest Buddhism as a healing source.
Why Aren't We Teaching You Mindfulness?
AnneMarie Rossi, Founder and CEO of BeMindful
Harvard conducted a research study and they tracked more than 1,000 people from birth until age 32 looking for what made someone successful. What common characteristic or trait was seen in a successful individual? It wasn't their race, what language they spoke, what neighborhood they grow up in, or how much money their parents had. It wasn't how well they did on standardized tests or even their IQ. It was self-control; those who were successful, who had good careers, financial stability, loving relationships, and physical health. Those who were successful, were the ones who could focus, pay attention, and regulate their emotions.
The Buddhist community is extremely upset by the inappropriate and disrespectful use of the image of Buddha, The Buddhist community is extremely upset by the inappropriate and disrespectful use of the image of Buddha, in a display at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) entitled the 'Eternity-Buddha in Nirvana, the Dying Gaul, Farnese Hercules, Night, Day, Sartyr and Bacchante, Funerary Genius, Achilles, Persian Soldier Fighting, Dancing Faun, Crouching Aphrodite, Narcisse Couché, Othryades the Spartan Dying, the Fall of Icarus, A River, Milo of Croton'. It can also be seen at: https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/work/131149/
Although this display has been in place for some months, we have only just been made aware of its' existence. We are not usually outspoken, but this display desecrates the image of Buddha by placing images of these mythical images on him and in doing so, showing no apparent regard or respect for Him.
As this Thursday 9 and Friday 10 November, Ven Chi Kwang Sunim will talk on "Women in Leadership" as part of the Prevention of Violence Against Women Leadership Program, BCV would like to invite you and members of your organisation to attend this important program which runs at two places.
Thursday 9 November 2017@ Hoa Nghiem Temple, 442-448 Springvale Road, Springvale South, VIC 3172
Friday 10 November 2017 @ Coburg Library Meeting Room, Coburg, VIC 3058
Time: 12.30-2.30 pm.
The Seeker's Glossary of Buddhism
By Sutra Translation Committee of USA/Canada
This is a revised and expanded edition of The Seeker's Glossary of Buddhism. The text is a compendium of excerpts and quotations from some 350 works by monks, nuns, professors, scholars and other laypersons from nine different countries, in their own words or in translation. The editors have merely organized the material, adding a few connecting thoughts of their own for ease in reading.
Recently I was asked why I love Buddhism. So here are 7 answers for why I love, appreciate, respect, study, practise and share the precious Buddha Dharma.
Some answers are short and sweet, while others are in more detail. Of course I could give many more answers and more details, however I've kept it to just 7, for the benefit of easy reading.
Every morning when I read the news, there are so many reports on war and destruction happening all over the world. This sometimes leads me to feel overwhelmed, helpless and somewhat guiltyfor the relatively peaceful life I have. How do Itransform these feelings of sadness, anger and helplessness into something a lot more productive and constructive?
1/ How does reincarnation work in Buddhism?
2/ When we pray who do we pray to? And the words we say when praying what do they mean?
3/ Have you ever been in love?
4/ In the future when treating patients how can I use Buddhism to help me?
5/ If good and bad are all relative to a person, let’s say, to a terrorist bomber, what they are doing is a good thing, but to others it is not. So that would mean right and wrong is relative too. So how do we know that something is an ‘absolute’ right thing who says that this is right and that is wrong.
6/ As a practising Buddhist lay person how can I reconcile my desire to be successful/ambitious/career-driven with the Buddhist concept of right livelihood. Sometimes it feels like the pursuit of being successful career-wise is very wordly, driven by materialism. Can I be a decent Buddhist AND a successful career person. Is this possible?
Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World | BBC Documentary | with English Subtitles, Over thirty years ago I sat and watched a programme on British television about Tutankhamen. I still remember the frisson - the realisation that the stories I'd heard; of boy-kings dripping in gold; of hidden burial chambers and court intrigue could, sometimes, be true.
That BBC documentary was inspirational. I've been fortunate enough to spend my adult life following my own research interests - and delight in being able to share the results with a wider public.