Buddhist attitude to education:
Does Buddhism contain a theory of education?
According to the Oxford Advanced Genie Dictionary, education means a process of teaching, training and learning, especially in schools or colleges, to improve knowledge and develop skills. Here we will examine in brief how much Buddhism has taught and done in this regard.
Buddhism gives the highest regard for wisdom (panna) and purity (visuddhi) of the mind from mental defilements, and the worst condemnation for ignorance. In Buddhism wisdom is the sharpest means to cut off all impurities. But what we are talking about here is knowledge (nana), and of course knowledge and wisdom are not the same.
One can gain knowledge by learning, but not wisdom. Buddhism places emphasis on learning as a way to dispel ignorance. People understand education as a means of teaching people to gain knowledge, do good and avoid evil and promote moral and ethical conduct.
“By oneself is evil done; by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone; by oneself is one made pure. Purity and impurity depend on oneself, no one can purify another”. - Dhammapada.
The Buddha gained Awaken-ness, without a teacher but that does not mean that he didn’t learn. Actually he had trained himself to be a master of the skills of statecraft and sciences of His day. He was endowed with the knowledge of brahmic and Samana traditions.
He had realised the unrealizable of the Samanas’ experiences and proclaimed the unheard Dhamma that was lacking in Vedic scriptures. He gave a new interpretation to the ancient knowledge.
In the Brahmanical way of teaching, the student listens to his teacher - the student and the teacher developed a very close relationship; pupils were tested orally; they learnt by continuous recitation.
According to the ‘law of Manu’ which explains the functions of each caste in education, it was the brahmins who had all the responsibilities for education. They could do all the teaching and learning. The other castes could only study certain subjects. Also it was only the brahmins who had access to the four Vedic books.
Buddha was a skilful teacher who strongly believed in the power of transferring knowledge to convince people to change their lives. The Buddha expounded the Dhamma in many ways to suit the different types of individuals.
He used many different methods and devices to transfer His knowledge to others, such as similies, parables, analogies, analyses and so on.
Through His ability to read other peoples minds and see their post experiences, he was able to give discourses that were uniquely tailored to each listener so that he was able to understand and put his teaching into practice.
We see that some discourses are lengthy, medium-sized and also very short. Some are rich with the lofty philosophy, some contain nuanced philosophy and other simple and practical for the day to day life of the peasant.
The education from the Buddhist standpoint consists of three aspects:
1. Vijja - knowledge
2. Carania - value
3. Kosalla - activities
Vijja means spiritual knowledge and Carania means virtuous conduct. Kosalla has been described as skill that originates from the possession of knowledge and conduct. He exhorted His listeners to pay close attention to what is being taught - be willing to learn, remember it well then retain it and examine its meaning.
In Sammosa sutta of the SN it is stated: Idha Bhikkhave Bhikkhu na dhamman pariyapunanti suttam geyyam veyyakaranam getham udanam itivuttam jatakam abbhutadhammam vedallam ayam pathamo dhammo saddhammassa sammoraya antaradhanaya pavatti.
Herein if the Bhikkhus do not master the Dhamma, the discourses, power expositions. verses, inspired utterances, brief sayings, birth stories, marvelous accounts, miscellanies, this is the first cause of disappearance of the true teaching.
Buddha emphasised that the learning and mastering of the Dhamma was a crucial factor to ensure the longevity of the Dhamma.
One of the factors which gives rise to right view is named paratoghosa which literally means hearing the sound of the other. This is not a kind of revolution secretly transmitted by the gods.
It simply means one listens to the wise and gains some knowledge or suddenly realizes some essential truth. Another word to describe a person of great knowledge in bahussuta.
A person who is endowed with ‘much heard’ is regarded as a blessing. (Mangala Sutta). Sutadhanam is the treasure of having ‘heard much’ sutadharo is remembering a lot, and sutasanniccaya is the collecting of what is heard.
Suta is one of the five treasures (dhana) confidence (saddha), virtue (sila), learning (suta), benevolence (caga) and wisdom (panna) for lay persons and it is among the seven treasures of monks and nuns. Buddha who reminded his audiences to be cautious in accepting what is taught by others.
“Nay kalama, do not be led by revelation, or by tradition, or by hearsay. Not by the authority of secret scriptures or by mere reasoning, not by the apparent logic and not by believing in the person who spoke it”, On another occasion the Buddha pointed out the five things that should not be taken for granted. They are;
1. Saddha - faith
2. Ruci - liking (emotional inclination)
3. Anussava - oral tradition
4. Akaraparivitakka - reasoned consideration
5. Ditthi nijjhanakkhanti - reflective acceptance of view
‘These five things can turn into different ways here and now. Now something may be fully accepted out of faith, yet it may be empty, hollow and false. But something else may not be accepted but it may be factual, true and unmistaken’.
In the case of the Sangha, the community of bhikkhus and nuns, and the monasteries are a place of religious training as well as a congregation of contemplatives.
In the traditional way, the new comer has to remain with a teacher (upajjhaya) for at least five years to learn the monastic way of life as well as the scriptures and meditation methods, and so on.
The methods of learning are listening, memorising, reciting, (verbally) and investigating by oneself or by debating with friends and teachers of Dhamma. In the Buddhist approach to imparting knowledge there are four factors that we have to consider:
The teacher - the unique figure of the Buddha
The pupils - the Bhikkhus, Bhikkhunis, Upasakas and Upasikas
The teaching - the Dhamma and the Vinaya
Method of teaching - the intellectual liberation of Buddhism
There are three stages in the Buddhist education: Pariyatti - learning, patipatti - practising, and pativedha - realization. Thus learning is the first step on the way to Nibbana. The study of Dhamma consists of learning and practice.
Sunantha - listen
Dharetha - retain
Caratha - follow the Dhamma
In this context Buddhism emphasizes learning and practising.
Today bhikkhus and nuns are actively engaged in the educational field. Building schools, writing and distributing books, giving lectures, supporting poor students and giving Dhamma talks are the most popular ways to educate the people.
Following the footsteps of these teachers the bhikkhus and nuns wander from place to place to awaken people to the reality of life.
A typical progressive talk would move through the topics of charity (dana), morality (sila), heavenly states (saga), renunciation (nekkhamma) and finally to the Four Noble Truths that embody the liberation from all forms of suffering.
Thus Buddhist education is the way leading upwards, although it does not stress the need for skills and knowledge for material gain. It always encourages people to ‘be able’ to support oneself and one’s family, to benefit society and above all to be detached and liberated, free from greed, hatred and delusion.
These characteristics of the Buddha’s message can be explained in various ways. The teachings that are passed down to us contain much information in various forms.
The Buddha knew that his listeners had different learning styles and different needs. That is why we get the same message in different ways. The word used to describe this is aneka pariyayena Dhammam desethi.
Buddha is not a saviour. He has preached to his followers that the Dhamma enables them to cross the ocean of Samsara; Kullupaman vo Bhikkave Dhammam desissami nittaranatthaya no gahanatthaya”.
The Buddha expalined that He (the Tathagatha) would only show the way; Tumhehi kiccam akkataro Tathagatha’. The striving should be one by oneself, the Tathagathas are only teachers. And the Buddha’s advice was to follow the path that leads to the extinction of suffering.
RSS worried about ‘Hindu’ link to terrorism
NEW DELHI: Ever since a ‘Hindu’ link to terrorism surfaced in the form of ‘sadhvi’ Pragya Singh Thakur, many in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have been spending sleepless nights, wondering where police investigations will lead once the agencies are able to connect all the dots that have emerged over the past two years.
Malegaon in Maharashtra, Macca Masjid in Andhra Pradesh, Ajmer in Rajasthan and a question mark on the blasts in the Samjhauta Express. The list seems to go on. Terrorism may have no religion, but for the RSS it is discomfiting to have not only Hindus linked to acts of terror but to also have some of those individuals connected to the organisation as well.
Now, after intense discussions within the RSS, a clear line has emerged: there is no way the organisation will either “protect” or help those who are indulging in such activities or have done so in the past. After the initial noises which seemed supportive of Pragya Singh — L.K. Advani and Rajnath Singh had issued statements — the RSS and its affiliates have decided to maintain silence on new developments as the investigations get under way. Therefore, there was not even a murmur when an RSS pracharak, Devendra Gupta, was arrested in connection with the Ajmer blasts.
RSS sources told The Hindu that the view that has emerged after intense internal discussion is that the organisation should steer clear of this matter and cooperate with the police while giving no protection to the accused. If terror activities do get linked to the RSS in the minds of the people, the organisation would run into some very rough weather, the sources said.
The organisation was “extremely worried” about being linked to terrorism. A strong message has been sent to all swayamsevaks (RSS volunteers) that they should expect no protection if they are mixed up in any terrorist activity, said an RSS leader.
“If even for a day the RSS were to be directly linked to terrorist activity, we would suffer a fate worse than what we did after the murder of the Mahatma when the finger of suspicion pointed to the RSS [the RSS was given the benefit of the doubt in the case],” the leader said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
There was no way the RSS could deny that Gupta was a ‘pracharak’ of the RSS who was posted in the Jharkhand area for several years. His arrest in connection with the 2007 blast in the Ajmer dargah, which killed three persons and left many more injured, was too close for comfort. Worse, the SIM cards used in the blast carried the same series as those found in the Macca Masjid blasts, showing a strong connection. They were purchased in Jharkhand.