Monday, October 6, 2008

Inner Education : Buddhist Thinking Contains a Theory of Education

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Inner Education

Buddhist Thinking Contains a Theory of Education

Praggananda Sraman

(This article still to be edited).


AN- Ańguttara Nikāya
DN- Dīgha Nikāya
Dh- Dhammapada
Iti- Itivuttaka
MN- Majjhima Nikāya
SM- Samyutta Nikāya
Sn- Suttanipāta
Ud- Udāna
Vis- Visuddhi Magga
Vm- Vinaya Mahāvagga


The Buddha said to the demon Ālāvaka, “Paňňājīvam jīvitamahu seţţham” -- by means of knowledge one can attain perfection (Parisujjhati), by which we mean perfect knowledge, as provided by the Buddha, for either the mundane or the supramundane.

In Mangala Sutta, it is mentioned:

“Bahūsaccanca sippaňca vinayo ca susikkhito,
Subhāsita ca ya vācā, etam mańgala-muttamam.”

To have vast learning, to acquire skill in handicraft and technology (that are not blame worthy); to be well versed in, and to observe, the disciplines (that applies to oneself); to use benign speech, these are of sublime auspiciousness.

In the present world, many institutes are providing various higher educations, so-called higher knowledge. What do they mean by higher education? More than 2550 years ago, a great teacher, the Buddha, in this world taught inner eduction -- inner knowledge, inner realization. Without gaining inner education, it cannot be called higher knowledge, or at least it shouldn't be. True higher education depends on one’s moral conduct or morality (Sīla), on a concentrative mind (Samādhi), and on perfect wisdom (Paňňā).

The Buddha often gave counsel to the Bhikkhus thus:
"Such and such is virtue (Sīla); such and such is concentration (Samādhi); and such and such is wisdom (Paňňā). Great becomes the fruit, great is the gain of concentration when it is fully developed by virtuous conduct; great becomes the fruit, great is the gain of wisdom when it is fully developed by concentration; utterly freed from the taints of lust, becoming, and ignorance is the mind that is fully developed in wisdom."
(Iti sīlanti evam sīlam, ettakam sīlam. Ettha catupārisuddhisīlam sīlam cittekaggatā samādhi, vipassanāpaññā paññāti veditabbā. Sīlaparibhāvitoti ādīsu yasmim sīle ţhatvāva maggasamādhim phalasamādhim nibbattenti. Eso tena sīlena paribhāvito mahapphalo hoti, mahānisamso. Yamhi samādhimhi ţhatvā maggapaññam phalapaññam nibbattenti, sā tena samādhinā paribhā-
vitā mahapphalā hoti, mahānisamsā. Yāya paññāya ţhatvā maggacittam phalacittam nibbattenti, tam tāya paribhāvitam sammadeva āsavehi vimuccati).

In the present day, we often talk about world peace. We hear about peace talks, peace conferences, and peace agreements. The world has heard much talk throughout the centuries. But huamnity is still facing the same threat: itself. World peace cannot be gained unless one’s inner peace is attained. The Buddha taught us how to attain inner peace. He taught us about inner education, about non-violence. As we say, “world peace through inner peace.”

Why it is such a difficult task to gain world peace? It is because we ourselves are not peaceful. The threefold training is still applicable, i.e., Morality, Concentration, and Wisdom. Morality to control our desires and our bodies, concentration to maintain mindfullness, and wisdom to gain inner knowledge, as a whole. Why they are applicable? Because everything is burning:

“Bhikkhus, everything is burning. And, what, Bhikkhus, is everything that burning? The eye, Bhikkhus, is burning, material shapes are burning, consciousness through the eye(s) is burning, impingement on the eye is burning, in other words the feeling which arises from impingement on the eye, be it pleasant or painful, or neither painful nor pleasant, that too is burning. With what it is burning? I say it is burning with the fire of passion, with the fire of hatred, with the fire of stupidity; it is burning because of birth-aging-dying, because of grief, sorrow, suffering, lamentation and despair.”

(“Sabbam, bhikkhave, ādittam. Kiñca, bhikkhave, sabbam ādittam? Cakkhu ādittam, rūpā ādittā, cakkhuviññāņam ādittam, cakkhusamphasso āditto, yamidam
cakkhusamphassapaccayā uppajjati vedayitam sukham vā dukkham vā adukkhamasukham vā tampi ādittam. Kena ādittam? Rāgagginā dosagginā mohagginā
ādittam, jātiyā jarāya maraņena sokehi paridevehi dukkhehi domanassehi upāyāsehi ādittanti vadāmi).

The sources of this writing are mostly derived from Tipitaka canonical texts and from other papers respectively. This is a short essay concerning the theory of Buddhist education. I hope it will help make sense of and be of use for the field of education.

Buddhist theory of Education

The verb 'educate' means to train the mind and the character of somebody. And the noun 'education' means training and instruction in any particular place, such as teacher’s house, school, college, university, and so on -- to give knowledge and develop skills. Men receive their early education at home. No civilized or modern society can afford to neglect the education of its young generation. For their knowledge, ability and the development of character and mental power result from such training, i.e., intellectual, moral, physical, and so on. It is also said that it is the field of study dealing with how to learn or teach.

Education is one of the most essential needs of humanity. We say humans need food to sustain their lives, clothes for covering shameful parts of theier bodies, houses or other suitable shelters for protection from the elements, and medicine for disease prevention. Often neglected in this listing is education; education about one's place in this world as human beings. Here we see education is also one of the essentials.

A person possesses sense faculties such as eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. It is through these faculties that one experiences the world, being educated, so to speak, by experience. Throughout childhood, he learns different things in different ways, either moral or immoral, good or bad, proper or improper, etc. In order to understand what is moral or immoral, he has to develop his knowledge, and it is in that sense that we use the word 'education'. When he is able to understand or analyse what is moral or immoral, what is good for the many, good for society, and good for himself, it means he is properly educated.

The teachings of the Buddha are based on morality. They also emphasize a well concentrated mind and wisdom. This is otherwise known as the threefold training.

About 2250 years ago, the Buddha appeared in this world with a new education method for the welfare of all. He declared, “This is my Dhamma (teaching)." Then he taught his Dhamma to his students, and they became liberated themselves.

We find the following aspects of this Dhammic Education:

1. the teacher- the Buddha
2. the teaching- the Dhamma
3. method of the teaching- the middle way
4. the pupils- monks, nuns, and lay people

This should be considered the educational theory. Further on we will try to analyse how they are connected to the theory of Buddhist education.

The Buddha as a Teacher

Indeed the Buddha was a teacher, not only of men but also the gods (satthā devamanussanam). As an incomparable teacher, the Buddha had many designations. On some occasions the Buddha addressed himself as “the Gotama Buddha with threefold knowledge" (tevijjā samanna Gotama). The threefold knowledge is as following:

1. the knowledge of his previous births, a cognitive ability that enabled him to grasp the outcome of one’s own actions.
2. the divine eye, the ability to know empirically how beings fared in the cycle of birth and death (samsāra)
3. the knowledge of how to rid oneself of all cankers

With the dawn of these three cognitive abilities, the Buddha was in full command of all forms of knowledge, secular, spiritual, life here and here after, life in bondage, and the life that transcended all form of bondage. Thus his enlightenment made him an unequalled teacher of both men and gods.

In Buddhist Pāļi texts weoften find some words that refer to the Buddha as a teacher, such as Satthā, Akkhataro, Garu, Thero, Ācāriyo, Upājjhāyo, and so on. Though they all refer to the word teacher, they have different meanings.

The word Satthā was used almost exlusively in reference to the Buddha. The term is sometime seen used, though very rarely, to identify any teacher of repute. However, the main characteristics that marked him out from the rest are more prominently stressed. The term Satthā is applied only to those teachers who could claim to posses unlimited cognitive abilities and affective qualities.

Mention is made of five kinds of individuals recognized as teachers. There were teachers defective in moral conduct (Aparisuddha Sīlo) but feigned good conduct (Parisuddha Sīlo). There were teachers impure in their livelihood (Aparisuddha Jīvo) while claiming to be pure (Parusuddha Jīvo). There were others who were defective in counselling (Aparisuddha Dhamma). There were also still others who, while being improper in their approach (Aparipuddha veyyakarano), maintained themselves as proper (Parisuddha veyyakarano). And finally, there were yet others who, having hardly any purity of vision, claimed to possess purity of insight and vision (Parisuddhaňāņa dassana).

The Buddha made it clear by precept and example that it was improper to recognize such an individual as a teacher for they lacked both the cognitive and affective features (Vijjācaraņa) of a real teacher. The Buddha is well known as Vijjācaraņasampanno. According to him, a good teacher is one whose moral conduct is pure, livelihood is blameless, counselling is faultless, skill in analysis is inspiring, and insight and vision are pure.

The Buddha exceeded his contemporaries in these remarkable qualities. For instance, the Buddha was known as the creator of the unknown path, one who knows unknown paths and proclaimer of un-proclaimed path (Paţipadāňāņadassanam). He was the one who knew the path, the one skilled in the path and one who trod the path. The Pāļi word Akkhattaro is another popular term used in reference to the Buddha as a teacher. It means preacher, story teller, or expounder. Etymologically it means one who is skilled in the art of explaining even the most difficult concept. According to Dhammapada commentary it is used in the sense of one who is gifted with the skill of communication (Akkhataravasenaye patipanno). When we come to know the Buddha’s discourses, we see how skilled the Buddha was in expounding difficult or critical issues with various parables and similes to help his student understand.

One of the remarkable designations of the Buddha is “Anuttaro purisadamma sārathi,” meaning 'supreme teacher'. In the Buddhist psychotherapy tradition it is meant as ‘Unsurpassable Trainer’. He also is called a Muni, a lover of silence.

There are three special terms used in Pāļi text reference to the Buddha as a teacher. They are Guru, Ācāriya, and Upājjhāya. More precisely, the last two terms are seen used in reference to any teacher, as is evident from the Book of Disciplines (Vinaya Piţaka). The word Ācāriya generally means teacher. Literally, it means a teacher with good conduct, and Upājjhāya means the preceptor. After founding the Sangha community, the Buddha suggested to disciples who were to become an Ācāriya or an Upajjhaya that the relationship between teacher and student should be like a father to his son (Upājjhayo bhikkhave saddhiviharikamhi putta cittam upatthāpessa’ti). From this we can see how kind the Buddha was as a teacher.

In conclusion of this section, I’d like to mention that the Buddha not only claimed to be a teacher but also likened himself to another sort of professional, a physician. It is mentioned in the following text:

“I’m a Brahmim,
Responsive to requests, open-handed,
Bearing my last body,
An unsurpassed doctor & surgeon,
You are my children, my son,
Born from my mouth, born of the Dhamma
Created by the Dhamma,
Heirs of the Dhamma
Not heirs in material things.

The Buddha proclaimed himself an “Unsurpassable Doctor and Surgeon” and the Dhamma as medicine. He is the father of his students as they were born from his mouth.

To Kasibharadwaja, the Brahmin farmer, the Buddha said that he was also a farmer (Ahampi kho, kasāmi ca vapami ca, kasitva ca vapitva cabhunjāmi’ti).

Dhamma as a Teaching

In an ultimate sense, the main objective of education is self-actualization. Some would like to call it enlightenment, as alluded to above. It is to be noticed that one cannot experience self-actualization until one’s cognitive, affective and connotative abilities are developed to the highest level. This progress, however, varies with each individual, and that too largely depends on one’s own right and supreme effort.

We come to know just how painful the six years of struggle that the Buddha endured were! The Buddha first went to a teacher named Ālārakālāma, and secondly to the teacher Ruddka Rāmāputta. He was not satisfied with their teachings, so finally he decided that he must acheive Enlightenment on his own. He realized the four noble truths himself. He said, "These truths that I have actualized give vision, give knowledge -- lead to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. ( tathāgatena abhisambuddhā, cakkhukaraņī ñāņakaraņī upasamāya abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya samvattati.)

There are six supreme qualities of his teaching:

1. The teaching comprising the four paths (Magga) and four fruitions (Phala), Nibbāna or inner peace and the theories are well expounded (Svākkhato) by himself (the Buddha).
2. It can be seen and realized by oneself if one practices the method (Sandiţţhiko).
3. It yields immediate results to those who practice the teaching and the fruition consciousness follows the path consciousness (Akāliko).
4. It is distinct and pure and it is worthy of inviting others to come and see it (Ehipassiko)
5. It is worthy of being perpetually borne in mind (Opaneyyiko)
6. It can be experienced by the wise individually (Paccatam veditabbo viňňuhi)

After having attained enlightenment, he soon collected 60 other Arahants as his students, and he sent them forth to give the message of his teaching all over:

“Go forth, O Bhikkhus, for the good of many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the good, benefit, and happiness of gods and men. Let not two go by one way. Preach, O Bhikkhus, the Dhamma, which is excellent in the beginning, lovely in the middle, and lovely in the end, both in the spirit and in the letter. Proclaim the holy life, altogether perfect and pure.”

(“Ehi bhikkhū”ti bhagavā atadāvoca– “svākkhāto dhammo,
cara brahmacariyam sammā dukkhassa antakiriyāyā…….)”

The Buddha’s message was about what he realized, i.e., Nibbāna; perfect liberation, perfect peace through the self-actualization. Is the Buddha’s teaching only to attain the Nibbāna? Ultimately, yes, it is! But later on the Buddha gradually started to teach many others topics, not only to the Bhikkhus but also to the kings, warriors, Brahmins, merchants, lay people, and so on. That’s why the Buddha said, "Preach the teaching all over, including to gods for their happiness and benefit."

Present subjects which are most studied by students were also taught by the Buddha about 2550 years ago, such as Biology, Physiology, Medical science, Commerce, Cosmology, Philosophy, Psychology, Social Science, and many other topics regarding the issues of humanity. In that sense the Buddha said this Dhamma is excellent in the beginning, in the middle, and in the end, to all.

The basis of his teaching is the four noble truths: all phenomena are full of suffering (Dukkha sacca), there is a cause of suffering (Samudayasacca), there is an end to suffering (Nirodhasacca), and there is a path which leads to the end of suffering (Maggasacca). And that path is called Middle path (Majjhimapatipada).

When we come to know the historical background of his mission, we see the Buddha had to face quite quite a few critics. Even some of his contemporary teachers had doubts as to whether the Buddha was truly a Buddha or not. Some said the Buddha was a materialist since He was teaching that human beings are only a combination of five aggregates (Paňcakkhandhas), and there is no self (Anatta). Some of them said He was an eternalist (Sassatha vādi), some said He was a nihilist (ucchedavādi). But the Buddha remarked, “I’m neither one nor the other. I’m not a generalist but an analyser." (Vibhajjavado kho aham ettha, manavā, nāhām ekamsovādo).

Let's illuminate this argument further. The Buddha’s theory of personality is clear-cut and comprehensive in contrast to what we read in other Indian religions. One finds a thorough analysis of this broad concept in the “Net of views" (Brahmajāla Sutta). The basis of all Indian religions stems from this concept. The debate on happiness or unhappiness, release or bondage, eternalism or nihilism, heaven and hell, and a host of other spiritual matters pivots on the idea of personality. For instance, existence, according to some, was eternal (Sassata) because of the projected an idea of a permanent soul. To others, existence appeared to cut itself off completely (ucchedavāda) with the dissolution of the material body. Still others, like eel-wrigglers (Amaravikkhepika), had hardly any definite answer to offer since they were prone to swing blindly from one idea to another.

In a similar manner, there arose as many theories about man, his existence, and his future destiny as religions, especially among the contemporary Brahmin traditions. All these theories, without exception, sprang either from the backdoor of eternalism or nihilism. But the reality of mind-matter (Nāmarūpa) has been proven by the Buddha.

In the present world, the studies of modern science and technology are developing without any bound. Their theories scour the cosmos looking for answers. The Buddha, too, was addressing these very same, fundamental questions when He expounded the theories of Dependant Origination (Paţiccasamuppāda) and cause and effect (Hetupaccayuppanna dhamma), which present the most important and remarkable essence of the Buddha’s teaching. But unlike science, his purpose was not twisted to produce the atomic bombs and destructive weapons of war that have become such a threat to the living planet. The purpose was to eradicate or remove the defilements of the mind, the very causes of unhappiness, human suffering, and aversion. The theory is as follows:

“When this exists, that comes into being; with the coming into being of this, that exists. When this doesn’t exist, that too doesn’t come into being; with the cessation of this, that too ceases to exist.”

(Imasmim sati idam hoti, imassa uppada idam uppajjati, imasmim asati idam na hoti imassa nirodha idam nirujjhatai).

The suffering in our present lives, the Buddha discovered, is caused by birth (jātipaccaya jarāmaraņa, soka, parideva-dukkha . . .). He also discovered the solution. That is, if birth is stopped we are free from all worldly suffering.

The Buddhist scholars describe this sort of education, saying, “Education that doesn’t open up the vistas of life -- its credit and debit, its optimistic and pessimistic angles -- before the eyes of the student, can hardly be called education." The Buddha tried his best to train his students as he trained himself.

We learn just how liberal a teacher the Buddha was from his early discourses. It clearly shines through in The Kālāma Sutta:
“Come Kālāmas, Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing, nor upon tradition; nor upon rumour; nor upon what is in scriptures; nor upon surmise; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming abilities; nor upon the consideration that this monk is our teacher, Kālāmas, when you yourselves know these things are bad, these things are blameworthy, these things are censured by the wise, undertaking and observation of these things lead to harm and ill. Abandon them.”

The Buddha, as a teacher, never forced His students to follow only his teachings. There were always options, and much time for their consideration, for those who were seekers of inner peace, inner education.

The Teaching Method

The unique method of learning that the Buddha pointed out is the middle way. Not only did He advise his students to follow the middle way, He also lived it. It is to be noticed that this method of teaching was born not just from mere theory but out of His own experience, His own experimentation.

From the beginning of his time as a teacher, the Buddha suggested to his students that they should not indulge (Na sevitabba) in the two extremes (Dve antā) of addiction to sensual pleasure (Kamesukamasukhallikanuyogo) or the addiction to self-mortification or self-torment (Attakilamathanuyogo). He gave a detailed explanation as to why it is so.

The addiction to sensual pleasure is:
1. Low (Hīno)
2. Vulgar (Gammo)
3. Ordinary (Puthujjaniko)
4. Ignoble (Anāriyo)
5. Not profitable (Anatthasamhito)

The addiction to self torment is-

1. Painful (Dukkho)
2. Ignoble (Anāriyo)
3. Not profitable (Anatthasamhito)

Avoiding both of them, the Buddha followed the middle way and attained Nibbāna (Nibbānaya samvattati).

The Buddha further said to his students: “The middle path gives vision, gives knowledge, leads to inner peace, to supra-knowledge, to awakening, and to Nibbāna,” (Sa Bhikkhave, majjhimapatipada cakkhukarani, ňāņakarani upasamaya abhiňňaya sambuddhaya nibbānaya samvattati.)

Such a great teacher was the Buddha. There is no better example than the most elegant expositions of the noble path itself:

“It is this noble eight-fold path itself, that is to say, right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right mode of living, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.” (Seyathidam, sammā diţţhi, sammā sańkappo, sammā vācā, sammā kammanto, sammā ajivo, sammā vyāmo, sammā sati, sammā Samādhi.)

Many benefited from this method. As we have seen the teachings are for the good of the many. Not only the monks or those seeking higher knowledge but also for society. From the following discourse by the Buddha, using this noble eightfold method, we see how the He healed the client as a physician:

“Monks, doctors give a purgative for warding off diseases caused by bile, diseases caused by phlegm, diseases caused by the internal wind property. There is a purging; I don’t say that there’s not, but it sometimes succeeds and sometimes fails. So I will teach you the noble purgative that always succeeds and never fails, a purgative whereby beings subject to birth are freed from birth; beings subject to aging are freed from aging; beings subject to death are freed for death; beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair are freed from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair. Listen and pay a close attention I shall say.”

“As you say, lord,” the monks responded.

The blessed one said; “Now, what is the noble purgative that always succeeds and never fails, a purgative whereby beings subject to birth are freed from birth; beings subject to aging are freed from aging; beings subject to death are freed for death; beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair are freed from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair?”

“In one who has right view, wrong views purged away, and the many evils, unskilful mental qualities that come into play in dependence on wrong view are purged away as well, while the many skilful mental qualities that depend on right view go to the culmination of their development.
In one who has right resolve, wrong resolve is purged away…
In one who has right speech, wrong speech is purged away…
In one who has right action, wrong action is purged away…
In one who has right livelihood, wrong livelihood is purged away…
In one who has right effort, wrong effort is purged away…
In one who has right mindfulness, wrong mindfulness is purged away…
In one who has right concentration, wrong concentration is purged away…
In one who has right knowledge, wrong knowledge is purged away…

In one who has right release, wrong release purged away, and the many evil, unskilful mental qualities that come into play in dependence on wrong release are purged away as well, while the many skilful mental qualities that depend on right release go to the culmination of their development.”

“This, monks, is the noble purgative that always succeeds and never fails; a purgative whereby beings subject to birth are freed from birth; beings subject to aging are freed from aging; beings subject to death are freed for death; beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair are freed from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair.”

Gradually, the Buddha started to set up various kinds of methods according to the students’ temperaments. He used to say that such knowledge comes to us through the proper exercise of our mental faculties (Indriya bhāvanā). The controlling of sense faculties are said to be an effective way of gaining knowledge (Indriya samvara). In the first instance, one has to become familiar with many different aspects of the Buddha’s teachings. The syllabus consists of nine divisions:

1. Utterances (suttam)
2. Verses (geyyam)
3. Grammar (veyyakaranam)
4. Stanzas (gāthā)
5. Joyous utterance (udānam)
6. Questions (itivittakam)
7. Birth stories (jātakam)
8. Mysterious phenomena (abbhutam)
9. Catechism (vedaļļam)

It is sometimes described as the responsibility of the student to study all these with care and sagacity (pariyatti Dhamma). The acquisition of what is learnt (patipatti Dhamma) is said to be the second aspect of the Buddha’s teaching. The third aspect of the Buddha’s teaching is realization of the Dhamma (Pativeda sāsana), also called Self-actualization. Pativeda means penetration of or understanding in totality with one’s own effort (sammā vyāmo) the teachings of the Buddha. This is the ultimate goal of his teachings.

The choice of a lesson and its logical organization form yet another major factor in the Buddha’s theory of instruction. The Buddha’s main curriculum consisted especially of the four noble truths with their ancillary subjects such as genesis, the theory of Kamma (action and reaction), re-birth (Puņabbhava), noble paths (Ariyamagga), and inner peace (Nibbāna) without residue. Selecting a lesson most suitable to a student has the individual as its concern rather than any external factor such as caste, creed or colour. Buddhist psycho-dynamics help us understand that human behaviour stems from the function of certain conscious (Āramanna) and unconscious drives (Anusayāramanna). Of the many such drives, greed, anger and delusion rank foremost. For the purpose of deciding on a lesson best suited to his students, the Buddha usually appealed to these drives by preaching a sermon on charity (dana katha), morality (sīla kathā), heavens (saggakathā), the danger of passion (kāmanam ādinava), and defilements (samkilesam) as well as their cleansing (odānam).

The recitation of these texts, embracing many different topics, more often than not served the Buddha as a sort of diagnostic test to understand the real mental disposition of his students. Based on the results of this test, he spotted the most suitable lesson to guide the tutee in the direction of the true knowledge. To the Buddha, psychology and philosophy were essential ingredients of much practical value. These fundamentals, when utilized wisely, go a long way to facilitate learning. In his view, a good lesson consists of a gradual sequence (anūpabbam) and logical construction (anūdhammam). It also must be good at its start, its middle and its end (desitha Bhikkhave adikalyānam, majjhekalyānam, poriyosa kalyānam sattham sabbyanjanam kevalaparipunnam.) Moreover, the lesson must be a total unit covering all aspects of what the teacher wishes to communicate.

The early Buddhist texts also say that the Buddha did not teach his students everything he knew. It seems the Buddha had many other methods but did not use them because they were unessential to the aim of His teachings. A competent teacher, in the opinion of the Buddha, is comparable to a clever physician. Just as the role of a doctor is to prescribe the most suitable medicine on the diagnosis of a disease, so too is a teacher to prescribe a remedy based solely on the psychological make-up of the student himself. By no means does teaching imply a device for storing inert ideas by the students; rather, it is a dynamic way of activating the psychological process to ensure self-actualization.

There are certain other matters of mere metaphysical importance the Buddha left unexplained (Avyākatadhamma). From among these categories, only what belongs to the former group should form the basis of lesson. According to him, the teaching materials for a lesson should always pivot on the need to explicate the four noble truths or the perfect realization of Nibbāna.

Cūlamaluka putta, who entertained erroneous thoughts about the Buddha and the teachings (Dhamma), questioned the Buddha and also vowed to leave the monk-hood if he did not get satisfactory answers. His folly was obvious. The Buddha, however, lifted him out of his intellectual fog by guiding him in the right direction. A person who is sick from a poisonous arrow hardly needs to waste any time digging up useless information about the arrow. Instead he needs to remove the arrow and dress the wound properly so that his life may be out of danger. He said that a person who is tormented by samsaric experiences need only learn how to extinguish said torment.

The Buddha classified his teaching by their utility. These items of knowledge, he explained, are of practical value. The four noble truths, the noble paths, the three signata (tilakkhaņa), the theory of causality, kamma and rebirth are the specific topics he explained, according to the Sangīti Sutta of Majjhima Nikāya. The comprehension of these items of knowledge helps one to reach the goal of self-actualization. On the other hand, the Buddha left certain metaphysical doctrinal points unexplained. They were left unexplained (avyākatadhamma) because they did not serve the single purpose.

In order to guide the students to realize the teaching (Dhamma), he adopted four ways of analysis (vyākaraņa). Of the four analyses, the first three approaches are of positive value:

1. a categorical answer (ekamsa vyākaraņa)
2. an analytical answer (vibhājja vyākaraņa)
3. an answer in the form of a counter question (patipuccha vyākaraņa)

The fourth analysis implies a case where the Buddha did not give any answer at all. He simply set the question aside, which is called Thāpaniya vyākaraņa. Thus, it is characterized by its pragmatic value.

In the texts, we see how, after listening to teaching of the Buddha, the listeners would often say, “How wonderful your teaching is! You made me understand such a difficult question in easy way.” Following these methods of the Buddha’s teaching, many of his students were able to achieve inner peace. He guaranteed that who ever came to learn would surely achieve inner peace within a maximum of seven years or a minimum of seven days if they practice in the right way.

Such a teacher was the Buddha, such a teaching of such a teacher, and such kinds of methods of this teaching.

Monks, Nuns, and Lay People as Students

This is a noble teaching taught by the noble one who also saw his followers as noble ones. The Buddha said to His students that they were not only students but also His sons and daughters. He always encouraged the students and welcomed them. He was very kind to them, saying, “Come, o students, this teaching is well expounded, lead the holy life to make a complete end of suffering" (ehi bhikkhu, svākkhāto dhammo, care brahmacariyam, sammā dukkhassa antakiriya). He further said, “Do also spread the teachings to others. There are beings with little dust in their eyes, which, on hearing the teachings (Dhamma), will fall away. There will be those who understand the teachings."

The community of monks and students is called the Sangha. At that time there were sixty-one arahants, including the Buddha, in this world. With these pure ones, the Buddha founded a celibate order that was democratic in constitution and communistic in distribution.
The original members were drawn from the highest strata of society and were all educated and rich men, but the community of the Sangha was open to all worthy ones, irrespective of caste, class or rank, black or white, east or west. Both young and old, belonging to all the castes, were freely welcomed in the community and loved like brothers of the same family without any distinction. This noble community, the Sangha, stands to this day and is the oldest historic body of celibates in this world.

Not all were expected to leave the household and enter the homeless life. As lay followers, some were able to lead a good life in accordance with the teachings and attain sainthood. Venerable Yasa’s parents and his former wife, for instance, were the foremost lay followers of the Buddha. As we have seen, the followers of the Buddha did not all belong to the higher classes, but also included the lower classes. They enriched the method of teaching. The experiences of each individual counted a lot for the organization of a lesson. With the spread of the Buddha’s teachings, it is a well known fact that many different people belonging to different walks of life flocked to the Buddha for spiritual guidance. Among them were kings and warriors, merchants and average folks, barbers, and scavengers, farmers and traders, teachers and ascetics, women and children, demon and thugs, criminals and robbers, the crippled and the healthy, happy ones as well as sorrow-stricken ones. Some were intelligent while others were dull-witted, and most of them were uninitiated in education.

The Buddha, who was confident in establishing his Sangha, said He would not pass away until His students were established. He was satisfied with his students and said they-

1. practice well the threefold training of morality, concentration, and wisdom (Supatipanno)
2. practice righteously the threefold training (ujupatipanno)
3. practice to realize inner peace with righteousness of conduct leading to Nibbāna. (ňāyapatipanno)
4. practice to be worthy of veneration, numbering four pairs of noble eight noble persons. (sāmicipatipanno)
5. are worthy of receiving offering (āhuneyyo)
6. are worthy of receiving offerings specially set aside for guests (pāhuneyyo)
7. are worthy of receiving offering offered with the belief that the offering will bear fruits in future existences (dakkhineyyo)
8. are worthy of receiving reverential salutation of men, gods, Brahma (anjalikaraņeyyo)
9. are the peerless fertile field for planting the seeds of merits (Anuttaro puňňakkhettam lokassa)

The Sangha's component students are the peerless Gems of this world (Sangharatana). In texts they are mentioned in the following manner:

“Under Gotama Buddha’s teaching, these noble ones (Arahant) strive with steadfastness of purpose, concentrating their minds, and attaining release from moral defilements. Winning their well-deserved destination (Nibbāna), the noble ones enter that deathless Dhamma that is Nibbāna and dwell in the blissful attainment of arahantship. Yes, the preciousness of the Sangha excels all precious things.”

The patronization of Kings and wealthy contemporaries of the Buddha helped to promote and propagate the Buddhist teachings. Likewise the King Bimbisāra, Kosala, and Ajātasattu, and wealthy persons like Anāthapindika, Visākā, and many others helped to support and spread the teachings of the Buddha.

The Buddha also had difficulties with His students sometimes, but he was able to remedy the situations using various methods of teaching. There are too many to mention. But we can be positive in saying they gave opportunities for Him to introduce new lessons. Angulimāla, one of His more remarkable students, was an interesting case. The Buddha used an effective psychological device to turn Angulimāla -- then a ruthless murderer and criminal -- into a follower. He was chasing after the Buddha at a terrific speed in order to cut off a finger to complete the garland of thousand fingers for his teacher. The Buddha was walking at a leisurely pace and was ordered to stop by the criminal. “I have already stopped, Angulimāla, stop yourself (tittha aham Angulimāla; tvam ca titthi’ti).” This psychological device awoke in Angulimāla sense of optimism and faith in the Buddha.

The demon Ālāvaka was another difficult student. The Buddha's encounter with him was yet another interesting event. It shows the Buddha’s unpurpassed abilities at establishing rapport even with the most difficult students. The story tells that the Buddha obeyed Ālāvaka up to three times when the latter wanted him to leave and enter his den. The fourth time, however, the Buddha remained as firm as a solid rock refused to move out as Ālāvaka desired. The attitude of the Buddha not only motivated Ālāvaka to have confidence in the Buddha but also gradually triggered a very useful conversation about the ethics of social behaviour.

The story of Suchiloma, a demon thug who the Buddha convinced to follow the teachings, is another very remarkable instance. It reasserts how the Buddha used his knowledge of psychology as a supreme tool in teaching. Once the Buddha was staying in Gaya in Suchiloma's residence. The demon saw the Buddha and made his way near him. Having come closer, Suchiloma pressed his body against the Buddha, and He bent His body away. Then Suchiloma asked the Buddha, “Monk, do you fear me?” The Buddha replied, “No, sir, I fear you not, though your touch be unpleasant.” This unusual encounter eventually gave rise to a remarkable conversation on the nature of human emotions and their origins. This conversation made a meaningful impression, the essence of true education.

In Closing

In this paper, we have discussed the essential aspects of education from a buddhist perspective. While not the typical type of education that most people are familiar with, one's inner education is invaluable, because a person at peace and attuned to himself has learned the highest lesson possible: the lesson of the Buddha.


Ańguttara Nikāya (The Gradual saying of the Buddha)
(Vol.I-V) F.L. Woodward, and Rhys Davids, Published by “The Pāļi Text Society” London

A Manual of Buddhism
By- Ven. Mahāthera Ladi Sayadow (Aggamahāpandita)
Published and distributed by- Mother Ayeyawaddy Publishing House, Yangon, Myanmar

· R Spence Hardy
Published by- MM Publishers Pvt, Ltd, Delhi

Pāli-English Dictionary
By- Rhys Davids and Stead, London

Buddhist Dictionary
By Nyānatiloka, Taiwan Printed

Early Buddhist Discourse
By Sue Hamilton, Printed in Great Britain, TJ Internation, Padstow, Cornwall

Education for Peace
By Henry Weerasinghe, Sarvodaya Vishva Lekha, Sri Lanka, 1992

Published by Selangor Buddhist Vipassanā Meditation society, Malaysia
(also of Pāli Texts Society, London)

Ten Suttas from Dīgha Nikāya
Ministry of religious Affair
Union of Myanmar

The teaching of the Buddha
Ministry of religious Affair
Union of Myanmar

The Buddha and His Teachings
By Ven. Nārada

The Buddha and His Teachings
By Malasekera, Sri Lanka

The Net of Views
By Bhikkhu Bodhi, BPS, Kandy, Sri Lanka
2500 years of Buddhism
By Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
Government of India

Buddhism as Religion
By H Hackmann, Lic. Theol
Published by Neeraj Publishing House, Delhi

Udāna (The utterance of the Buddha)
Pāli Texts Society, London

Itivuttaka (thus said the buddha)
Pāli Texts Society, London

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