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The Importance of A Dhamma Education 1

Homage to the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the Highest Self Enlightened One!

Aryadasa Ratnasinghe

Published: 2014-10-31


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The ‘Dhamma’ is the liberating law discovered and proclaimed by the Buddha and summed up in the Four Noble Truths, for the salvation of mankind. Therefore, every Buddhist child should be taught this doctrine of the Buddha, if he were to prove a worthy citizen of the country, which is seriously lacking today. This position is evidently seen from the social deterioration taking place in the country, mostly among youth who have no respect for Buddhism, nor do they abide by its precepts.

Quite often, the parents stand responsible for this sort of behaviour, because of their failure to bring up their children with spiritual awareness, which is their bounden responsibility, and in later years, they repent for this folly, when they find that their children have become recalcitrant to advice, rebellious at home and a nuisance to them as well as others. If the parents want their children to be of good behaviour, it has to be looked into from their childhood days.


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Among the present day youth, specially those who have not attended Dhamma schools on Sundays, have only an elementary knowledge of Buddhism, which they have learnt purely as a classroom subject, aimed at passing examinations. The text books only cover the syllabus. Those children who attend Dhamma schools have a wider knowledge of Buddhism than those not.

The reason is, perhaps, two fold, i.e., the parents are either pessimistic over such education as not important, or the children are averse to attend Dhamma schools, to enjoy the weekend holidays in jocund company, and some of these children become dropouts gradually. Parents seldom follow up action and most of them allow their children to have their way, in not attending Dhamma schools.


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The importance of Dhamma education was a long-felt need, from the time when the country [Sri Lanka] came to be dominated by foreign influences, first the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally by the British. It was in 1880, that the first Dhamma school was established at the Vijayananda temple in Galle, with the arrival of Col. H. S. Olcott, who pioneered for the cause of Buddhist education.

Thereafter, the Buddhist Theosophical Society and the Young Men’s Buddhist Association in Colombo, took their stand in the field of Dhamma education. Subsequently, Buddhist youth movements came into existence, and many temples opened their doors to hold Dhamma classes.


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Many teachers volunteered to teach the Dhamma on Sundays and the staff included both Buddhist clergy and the laity. The temples became a fertile ground for children to acquire a sound knowledge of Buddhism, and to become worthy citizenry.

Dhamma education, from primary to secondary stages, guide children to lead their lives in conformity with the spirit of Buddhism, and to practise the five cardinal virtues, e.g. purity, exertion, sympathy and equanimity, wisdom and compassion. They are also expected to observe the ‘panca-seela’ (the moral vows of abstinence from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, falsehood and not drinking intoxicants), for greater advantage in their mode of existence, specially during youth.

If the parents are good Buddhists by thought, word and deed, their children definitely would not go astray given to vice and misconduct. Usually, children copyright what their parents do, without any compunction and uneasiness. Today, this drawback has resulted many youth to indulge in vice and prohibitive practices leading to their ruin in the years to come.


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Drug addiction, alcoholism, smoking, adultery etc., have made the present day youth to cling to habits leading to their own ruination. Usually, children brought up under love and care of parents, rarely go on the wrong path. It has always been found that many parents do well with their children when they are small, but run into real confusion with them, when they become teenagers and adolescents. Two reasons are responsible for this unwholesome behaviour. It is either dominance over children by their parents, or over-permissiveness at home which often leads to arrogance. Both these are extremes which should be avoided. The present day youth are quite different from their older counterparts. It is only Dhamma education that can find an empirical solution to the problem, since it leads to good behaviour.

The first responsibility of the parents is to bring their children listen to reason with confidence, never to be boisterous or rebellious at home. Most parents fail in this diplomacy.

Drinking fathers and unchaste mothers often set their children a bad example. It is likely that they will follow suit when they become old.


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Children should be sent to Dhamma schools on Sundays to follow the ethics of Buddhism. Any child, in order to live up to the spirit of Buddhism, should know the doctrine as taught by the Buddha, and how it should be put into practice. To avoid the deplorable ignorance of the Dhamma, Buddhism should be imparted to children from their very childhood. They should be trained to observe ‘pansil’ daily and worship the Buddha at home before going to bed.


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In general, there are six methods of imparting Buddhism to children, viz: (i) Teaching Buddhism in schools, as a subject taught in the classroom by teachers learned in the doctrine, (ii) Making children known the ‘Pali’ stanzas narrated, while at worship, and explaining their meaning to them, (iii) Developing the faculty of understanding and reasoning to make it easy to understand the Dhamma, (iv) To develop a proper background to learning the Dhamma and (v) To provide intuitive knowledge to understand the true nature of Buddhism.

What has really happened to our youth today, who were born Buddhists? They just follow the routine practices as were made known to them while they were young. Being born Buddhists they lack the initiative to study the Dhamma with a wish to achieve the final goal, i.e., Nibbana. Votaries of other religions, who have embraced Buddhism, are more profound in their approach to the doctrine, than those who have become converted with confidence in Buddhism.


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Religions of the world have always maintained that human happiness does not depend merely upon the satisfaction of physical appetites and passions, or upon acquisition of material wealth and power.

The growing generation should be made to understand that Buddhism is a philosophy bent on moral values and ethical conduct. Since Buddhism has never proselytised others to become converts, it has given the independence of thought to select what is good and what is bad. Not a drop of blood has been shed for the cause of Buddhism.

Parents as well as the Buddhist clergy and the laity must look into the unfortunate condition of our youth and their disinterestedness to follow Buddhism and keep to their precepts by word and deed. The walls of youth have crashed due to western influences that have trespassed into our society and culture ruining the youth.

May all be happy and well!

From: http://www.lakehouse.lk/budusarana/2003/09/03/Budu12.pdf

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