Brian Foo (智庆 )
In the past, medicine was undeveloped and thus illnesses were hard to treat. Only with the progress of medicine and technology were we able to improve the quality of life and happiness. The evolution and practice of Buddhism can be compared to the analogy above. Buddhism has always been the medicine for the mind; by primarily treating the unwholesome qualities of the mind. In tandem, the body was to be provided with basic needs to allow the mind to function properly.
Students and “Educator”
Nowadays, the Society is seeing a wave of younger students entering its halls of learning. These new students are way too different from the students of old who would mostly sit, listen, and accept without questions. These newbies are vocal, taught to question, intellectual and perhaps most distinctive of all, do not view a teacher as an authoritative figure but rather a facilitator. The current fast-paced unforgiving world has molded them impatient, demand for fast and easy answers; yet at the same time, a need for emotional support in terms of encouragement and compassion. Moving on, we will see more of these people, whether they are Buddhist or not. More than ever, they are in need of the Buddha’s teachings. Obviously, we must move along with such circumstances, to improve the way the teachings are delivered effectively to cure these troubled minds. This can be summarized in four aspects: Faith, Meditation, Service, Youth. 1.Faith: Don’t just come and see A proper foundation in the Dharma stems from having Right Faith.
“Faith is the entry, and wisdom the delivery.” This important preliminary teaching would really help today’s cynical and jaded people to practice more effectively and happily along the path of Buddhism, through the encouragement of proper faith-based practices such as chanting and more recently, music and the arts. As skilful means are founded upon wisdom, this author’s only comment would be to find a way to integrate it with everyday learning so as to continue to maintain a balance between the emotional and analytical aspects of Buddhism.
2.Meditation: Just stillness in activity Here “meditation” should be qualified as the stilling and purification of the mind as the end goal. While it can be argued that daily activities or perhaps even menial work may calm the mind, it is not as effective as compared to the stilling of the whole physical body. Due to the many differing teachings by both Northern and Southern Buddhism, it is very difficult to differentiate whether a method that is being taught is correct and without deviant views.
This, all the more, calls for the able guidance of our experienced teachers to develop a more advanced route of meditation for current students who
have had the relevant experience and learning to pursue in the benefit of their practice. In fact, this may be the breakthrough that some of our students need to progress further in their practice.
3.Service: Just do it
There are those who need the compassion of the Buddha Dharma and the right teachings and care; and there will always be people whom society must care for. This author has struggled with the notion that these efforts would help to bring more people into Buddhism. In line with a genuine heart for sentient beings, these efforts are not for the religion’s self-benefit but it is a service that “adorns the mind”. Recently, a very commendable initiative has been launched to train students in para-counselling that would definitely be invaluable in the social-work community and beyond. The institution is projected to take more steps to keep up with the increased need in social effort in the Buddhist community, fostering more harmony and cohesiveness within Buddhism in Singapore.
4.Youth: Loving our children, raising them well
The last and most important step that not just Mahaprajña but all Buddhist institutions must take in looking forward to the future is to nurture the youth. The young are the world’s hope; helping them get a firm foothold on Right View is of paramount importance. Again, the onus is on teachers to introduce Dharma to children in a lively, informative and practical manner to inspire and educate with love. A regrettable number of Buddhist parents have unfortunately scared their children of with talk of bad karmic results, death and other inappropriate teachings that are not suited to young minds. With proper resources and a right attitude on bringing up children in the Dharma, spearheading improvement in children’s Dharma education and youth group leadership, Dharma education would become life-long, meaningful and positive, starting in a seamless transition from childhood to adulthood. This would also ensure the continuity of Dharma propagation efforts in the long-term, ensuring the preservation of the quality of the syllabus as well as the succession of leadership within the institution.
Culture: The X factor
Perhaps a new way to stimulate interest in the youth would be through music and the arts. In the Lotus Sutra, it is stated that just with a song in praise of the Buddha, one has planted good causes to attain enlightenment. If one can make use of art and music to spread the Right Dharma in faith and purity, then it is a project worth exploring. Our current traditional music in chanting unfortunately is not so appealing to the younger generation.
The author is currently attempting to innovate new singing techniques to make such traditional music more appealing to the younger generation.
The teacher learns; the student teaches With all being said, any institution that can pull these initiatives off with relative success must firstly have students who are as skilled as the teachers themselves in the Dharma. Ultimately, in a truly successful Buddhist education, there should be no distinction between these two groups of Buddhists, where every student is a teacher, and vice versa. The “heart-ware” of dedicated volunteers command the utmost respect from this writer. They sacrificed their time, effort and finances selflessly for many years in what they see as an endeavour for greater good and meaning. “Hard-ware” like skills, infrastructure and capital are essential to any undertaking but it is still the people who are striving to be enlightened; and they will also be the ones who can and will make the best out of it. At the end of the day, gratitude drives the teachings forward to create a Pure Land in a defiled world.
May all in Mahaprajña continue to walk the Bodhi Path with a fresh perspective, a sense of groundedness and a new vision in the years to come.