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Wednesday, 3 March 2011

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Intriguing encounter with the Dhamma :

Path to inner happiness

[Q]Though there were a lot of Arahants during the period of the Buddha, today we scarcely hear of them. What could be the reason? Is this due to complex social developments that have taken place in the modern world?

[A]If one has a lot of high qualities and merit, he/she is more likely to be born in the time of the Buddha. The best students study in Colombo or the top students manage to go to Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard. Similarly the very top students managed to get into the ‘best university’ which was in the time of the Buddha! When you have the best teacher and the best facilities you get the best students. The reason is not the situation of the current society. In fact in the time of the Buddha the society there was very prosperous. But it too had many social and political problems. I think it is a wonderful time for Buddhism now, because we have prosperity- (like peace) in many countries. It means people have realized that just material prosperity does not give them much happiness. You have money in most homes, but most of the times people will say. ‘Is this all?’ Is this all we need”.


Venerable Ajahn Brahmavamso

Recently there was an article of an English woman who bought a huge mansion after winning a lottery. (Nearly 42 million pounds) The mansion was so huge with many rooms that she found it really difficult to find where her children were! So she sold the mansion and bought a very small house. It was because she realized that in a small house she’ll be with her children and her husband, but in the mansion she’ll be alone.

Even in Sri Lanka, (though people think that this is a poor country) there are much better houses now. You can travel around the world and have a lot of pleasures. But most of the people feel that there is something missing- what is missing is inner happiness or inner peace. In order to seek inner peace people have turned to Buddhism and there is a revival of Buddhism in the modern world.

[Q]There is a view point that it is medically advisable to consume a little bit of liquor. Is not this contradictory with the words of the Buddha who was of the opinion that consuming intoxicants is obnoxious?

[A] That particular scientific evidence was disapproved about two or three years ago. It is now known as a myth. In fact the idea that consuming liquor was good for ones health came from a research project which was done in California. They found in a big survey that many people who took a moderate amount of alcohol seem to have less cardio vascular diseases and so the statistics implied that if you take alcohol, your heart condition was much better. But two or three years ago this evidence was reexamined. They found out that lots of people who took wine, especially red wine were the ones who had a high income. In this particular income level those who take red wine and those who do not were examined. It was found that those who do not take wine had better health.

Today ask any scientist in the field, he’ll tell you that alcohol is one of the greatest poisons. It is the one which causes most number of social problems. It is far worse than heroine or cocaine. It is not a good thing to take. Give some whisky to a dog, not even the dog would drink it!

Science has proved what the Buddha said so many years ago.

[Q]We like to offer Dhana to pious monks. Doing so means we want to acquire merit. Isn’t this another kind of craving?

[A] It is. It is called spiritual materialism. In one sense it is good. It is used to make merit. Giving is not a form of business. It is not like investing in the stock market expecting high returns. However this is what most people do. They like to give alms to monks who have achieved the Sovan status or to an arahant because high returns are guaranteed.

The Buddha said it is wiser to give it to the Sangha than to a Buddha. He has said that more merit can be acquired by giving it to both Sangha Bhikku and Bhikkuni. So it is better to offer Dhana to a monastery, instead of offering it to an individual. Because of this it is much my custom to return any personal donations. Even when anything is given to me such as medicine I always share with my fellow monks and nuns.

[Q]In Buddhism we are often said to forget the past and live in the present. But if the past is not to bind us where can duty lie? For example we are bound by duty to look after our parents because they brought us up in the past?

[A] The PRESENT moment is important. Your parents are right here in front of you. They are not your parents only in the past. They’ll be your parents even in the future as well. Buddhism says, let go of your past. Otherwise your parents might have said something to you which you are not happy with, but that does not mean you should not care for them right now.

So what we do in Buddhism, always, is to let go of the past, so that we can actually forgive. The past of many people is a place of anger, guilt and remorse. It is because of this that many people have psychological problems. Buddhism is the only religion which says that you can forgive yourself and you should forgive yourself. It is the only religion which does not practise punishment.

[Q] The Buddha has said that it is alright to consume meat if the animal has not been deliberately killed for your consumption. But if all of us do not consume meat none of the meat stalls would function. Isn’t this contradictory? If the Buddha said that we should not consume meat, then there won’t be any meat stalls?

[A]Remember that a Buddha never tells people what to do. He always advises people, advises them to be compassionate. So Buddhism is not a religion which says that you should not do this or that. It is called dictatorship and we all know the problems that may rise when there is a dictator. Societies where you are often told what to do would never be successful, because you have to think what to do, and why to do, rather than be told what to do.

In many countries, even in Sri Lanka, many rules have been imposed. For example traffic rules. We often see traffic rules being violated. Rules tell you what you should and should not do. Less people understand why. So they break these rules. So the Buddha was wise, as he never set rules- he did not say do it or not do it, but just explained why it is bad to commit evil deeds. He advised people to be compassionate and wise and be thoughtful.

[Q]The Buddha himself consumed meat?

[A]He consumed what was offered to him as dhana. So he did. The reason for that was because as a monk you have to eat what you are presented. I was a very strict vegetarian once I became a monk, but since I became a monk in Thailand I was told that I cannot survive as a strict vegetarian because I cannot buy my own food, I cannot order my food, instead I have to take what I am given. The worst meal given was boiled frog. We used to eat snakes, grasshoppers, ants and many disgusting things. The fact is you have to survive on what you are given.

[Q]Motherhood is held in high esteem in any society. But the same enthusiasm is hardly seen when a baby girl is born to a family. People are not very happy about it. What is the Buddha’s view about being born as a woman? Is it those who commit less meritorious deeds in this birth that are born as women in their next births?

[A]The idea that you are born a woman if you have less Kamma not true at all. Women have equal opportunities around the world. They have a different life and credentials in the Last Path. No way can it be said that it is better or worse.

In Australia right now the head of state is a woman. The Governor General is a woman. Sri Lanka had the very first woman prime minister. So women also can reach great heights.

[Q]But it has not conferred on them much importance. It is firmly believed that those who are born as females have committed less meritorious deeds in their previous births and that being born as a woman is insignificant.

[A]No, no, no, no. A thousand times no (laughs). Even in the time of the Buddha many women became fully enlightened, became great teachers. They were praised by the Buddha. So women have the full opportunities in Dhamma .

The Kamma which you have done in the past will give you a healthy body, a weak body, a sick body, a wealthy family, or a big family etc. But as far as Buddhism is concerned it does not matter, into what gender, or what country you are born into. It is what you make of them. You may say that I had very bad kamma in my past life as I was born in London, and not in a Buddhist country. But nevertheless I struggled and strived and was happy to find Buddhism and became a monk!

[Q]Does it mean that gender into which you are born does not depend on your past Kamma?

[A]Sometimes it depends on your past Kamma. And also on your aspirations. The two causes for rebirth are your Kamma and also what you want to be born as. Sometimes people feel that they need to be reborn as a female in order to develop certain Paramitas. Even Ananda Thera was reborn as a female in one of his previous births. So it should not be considered as something bad. Different ends, but not bad.

[Q]But the Buddha initially did not want to establish the Bhikkuni Sasana.

[A] If the Buddha did not want to, why did he establish it?

[Q] Isn’t it because Ananda Thera kept on insisting that Bhikkuni Sasana be established?

[A] Buddha’s wisdom is so strong and powerful, it does not need to be persuaded. The very idea that Buddha needed somebody else to convince him was wrong. It does not make any sense to me.

The Buddha planned it from the very beginning. After Buddha’s Enlightenment Mara came to see him as he knew that the teachings of the Buddha would be a great burden to him. So he did not want Buddha to teach.

The Buddha told Mara that he was going to establish a four-fold committee -Bhikku Sangha, Bhikkuni Sangha, Lay Upasaka, and Lay Upasika. Also when Mara came to Buddha three months before Great Parinirvana the Buddha told him that he had now established Bhikku Sangha, Bhikkuni Sangha and many thousands of white clad male disciples and female disciples.

The point here is that the Buddha planned from the very beginning to initiate/set up a four-fold committee.

To be continued


Child psychology, the visa to pre-school teaching

Montessori teacher is expected to be well equipped with certain subjects that shape and sharpen her in her career. She who designs the future of the country through the dough she handles should have thorough knowledge of her subject ‘Montessori Method’. Further she should have a sound knowledge of Child psychology and Methods of Teaching in order to cut and polish the game she handles. Child psychology, the steering wheel of pre-school education directs the teacher towards success in understanding, helping, accepting and appreciating her students and also helps them to be themselves. Plato emphasizes that one should “know thyself, accept thyself and be thyself.” This concept is very important for the teacher in helping her students in the pre-schools. Teacher is responsible to help kids ‘know themselves, accept themselves and be themselves.’

Confidence

Teacher who is well outfitted with Child Psychology is like a qualified specialist doctor who could diagnose the illnesses and prescribe medicine. Child Psychology is similar to a visa that opens safe passage to foreign lands. It makes the teacher quite confident before her students and handling any classroom situation. Understanding the children is very important in pre-school teaching. In handling them the teacher should know the children’s likes and dislikes and abilities and weaknesses. Child Psychology helps the teacher identify her students’ capabilities and disabilities and even to solve all these problems then and there.

Children are different and their moods get disturbed quite often. Sticking to a particular target for few minutes is not an easy task for them. They are bundles of activity. These are the instances the teacher should use her knowledge on Psychology and the Play Way Method to create interest in her students’ learning and maintaining it throughout the day. Otherwise the children would not like to turn up the next day.

Children are open and frank. They have nothing to hide. They are innocent. They react soon. Teachers should be vigilant to their reactions. Such reactions should not be neglected because they would cause loss of faith in the teacher. Therefore, the teacher should always keep an eye on the children and use her knowledge on Psychology to handle them. on Psychology to handle them. If not, the tache fails before her children and the parents. In order to avoid frustration, teacher should have a thorough knowledge on child-psychology.

Pleasant education

Pre-school is a garden full of beautiful flowers. It is a place of pleasant education where little ones learn through activities and learn through mistakes. Children should be exposed to new experiences from the beginning. Teacher should listen and observe her children because they always have something to say or share. That should not be neglected. Teacher should let them open their hearts and minds before her and voice their opinion. Further, the teacher should let the children be independent.

Education they gain in the montessori directs them towards their goals in life. Teacher has to understand her little students who are going to be the owners of the future. Montessori is the best place where the kids gain socialization. This is an important acquisition because it has much socio-cultural value. In the montessori kids get a chance for adjustment, readjustment, maturation and learning. If the Montessori has a pleasant learning atmosphere and the Pre-School mother loves the kids, they will undoubtedly attend the montessori daily and shape themselves for a better tomorrow.

Pre-schools should be located in a pleasant environment conducive to learning. Wide space for indoor and out door activities, a garden with play objects and natural environment that influences maturation and happy learning are a must. Pre-school teachers should consider these basic needs and also the parents should think twice before selecting a pre-school for their kids. If the foundation is strong, the construction is undeniably strong. Parents do everything possible and the best for the well-being of their children. Therefore, their selections especially in education should be perfect. Otherwise they are the losers and not anyone else.

After identifying the child with his inborn talents the teacher’s duty is to use her knowledge on child psychology on coaching the child while concerning the four main components head, heart, hand and health. Child needs to be gifted with new knowledge through exposing him to explorations and engaging in activities that lead to improvement of knowledge and experience. Moral values and positive attitudes should also be inculcated in him for socialization and his own well being among his peer group.

To be continued

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