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මුල් පිටුව | බොදු පුවත් | කතුවැකිය | බෞද්ධ දර්ශනය | විශේෂාංග | වෙහෙර විහාර | ඉංග්‍රිසි ලිපි | පෙර කලාප | දායකත්ව මුදල් |

 

Buddhism and Education in Contemporary Sri Lanka

Prof. Oliver Abeynayake

Continued from 2008 -02-14 

Convocation Address by Prof. Oliver Abeynayake on Buddhism and Education in Contemporary Sri Lanka held at the BMICH on Dec. 31, 2007.

The regional kings approach the Raja Cakkavatti in each direction and pledge their allegiance to him. They also request him to advise them. Then, Raja Cakkavatti admonishes them not to harm others, not to steal, not to indulge in sexual misconduct, not to utter falsehood and not to consume alcoholic drinks.

The regional kings are requested to rule their kingdoms as before with the application of this principle of morality. Having advised so, Raja Cakkavatti goes back to his kingdom and lives there giving leadership to all regional kings. This shows that the rule of righteousness emerges only when the principle of morality is applied to the existing system of governance.

Raja Cakkavatti maintains his specific authority on two matters. One of them is taking what is not given. The other is the aggression on women belonging to others. He takes measures to inform the people through the regional kings that those who violate these two matters would be severely punished.

It is impossible to establish discipline in any country if the parents, teachers and clergy as well as the rulers do not lead an exemplary life. Therefore, the steps that Raja Cakkavatti takes to establish the members of his family in morality is given as a special characteristic of a righteous rule.

It is said that Raja Cakkavatti announces his measures of establishing his kith and kin in morality as an inherent component of the wider principle of showing love and respect towards his citizens, solving the problems of housing and clothing and protecting the society from robbers and miscreants.

My personal opinion is that the mass scale problem that pervades all social institutions in Sri Lanka is indiscipline. The fact of common knowledge is that indiscipline reign in all State Institutions, Corporations, Schools and Universities as well as on the streets.

The number of rapes, lootings, robberies and killings increases day by day. Violence has reached the stage of killing opponents in Courts. The authority of the underworld gangs holds sway in the society.

The mutual respect and affection has disappeared from the society. I see all this is as a result of the behaviour of the parents, teachers and clergy as well as the state under principle: learning first, discipline second. To liberate Sri Lanka from this menace, we should march towards a new educational policy where parents in children, teachers in students, clergy in the laity and the state in the society establish discipline as the Buddha has taught us in obvious terms.

Education is a process that operates under the interactions between the givers and the receivers. So far, we discussed about the parents, teachers, clergy and the state, the stakeholders of giving.

The pupils represent the receivers. There is no education in their absence. The pupils represent the receivers. There is no education in their absence. The pupils are sometimes young and at other times old.

They are sometimes the seekers of employment and at other old. They are sometimes the seekers of employment and at other times the employed. All of them run after learning.

The demand for learning is such that institutions of national and international calibre prop up like mushrooms. The students do not have any notion whatsoever of their standards. The unlimited demand for learning has made it a means of exploitation. The Buddha too requests the students to study well. However, it is no secret that the field of education is filled with students, whether they study well or not, whose sole aim is learning.

We have completely ignored the Buddhas advice on the mutual relationship that should be established between the teachers and the students before the beginning of the learning process. The irony is that we go further either to have a sarcastic view or to level multiple and colourful criticisms against the Biddhas advice.

The students reactions such as rising from their seats (utthana), personal service (upatthana), attentive listening (sussusa) and waiting upon the teacher (paricariya) indicate, as the Buddha points out, the essential relationship that has to be maintained between the disciplined students and the teachers.

The terms Acariya, Upajjhaya, Guru and Antevasika indicate the close association inherently existing between the teachers and the students.

However, the stimulation that the students receive at various educational institutions today is that they should not maintain any closeness with the teachers.

The students at present do not pay attention to the benefits that they can accrue from the association with teachers. They are concerned only with the opportunity that they can earn to misbehave by avoiding teachers. The education is not complete without the mutual relationship between the students and the teachers even if everything else is accomplished. Accordingly, Sri Lanka today has an incomplete system of education.

According to Buddhism, learning is two fold as Suta and Sippa. The term Suta indicates the subjects like Language, Religion, Philosophy, History, Economics and Geography. The term Sippa takes the areas of skills such as Agriculture, Carpentry, Masonry, Archery and Swordsmanship into consideration. Accordingly, Suta means academic education while Sippa means vocational education leading to skill oriented employment. As the Jataka stories inform us, the students went to Takkasila to study these two aspects of education.

However, at present in Sri Lanka, we basically focus and deliberate on academic education. Enough attention is not paid to the vocational education that leads us to skill oriented employment. We endeavour to make our children the Doctors, Engineers and Accountants, but not the Carpenters, Masons and Soldiers. The reason for unemployment in Sri Lanka is this attitude of the people. The unemployment problem of this country cannot ever be solved by paying attention only to the academic education.

The respect of the school leavers after the General Certificates of Ordinary and Advanced Level Examinations can be maintained only with the due recognition of a system of education aiming at skill oriented employment.

In other words, the respectful position bestowed on academic education should equally be extended to vocational education too. The scrutiny of the discourses of the Pali Canon would reveal that the Carpenters, Masons and the Soldiers have participated in the philosophical discussions with the Buddha with equal competence as the Kings, Ministers and the learned people.

The emergence of a social group with the mentality of seeking employment only in offices after academic education would show that the essence of education has not yet crept into the hearts and minds of our people. Let us pay our attention only to the unemployment problem of the graduates. All graduates aspire to become government employees.

However, the objective of obtaining a Degree should be to acquire the competency to do whatever livelihood that comes our way more effectively in an organized way in comparison with the non Degree holders. I have met graduates who successfully maintain the corner shops on streets in England. Similarly, I have met graduates who lead comfortable lives as farmers, animal breeders and plant sellers in America.

The time has come to convince our people that a Degree is an instrument, not a white elephant, which exhibits the ability and competency over others in doing the task assigned or selected.

Without explaining in attractive terms the unlimited avenues and opportunities for self employment in the agricultural sector to those who have faith in academic education, the problem of unemployment in Sri Lanka cannot be solved in a beneficial way to the country and society.

The State and the society at the same time should pay more attention than today to the sorrowful deterioration of academic education in our country.

The process of learning and teaching from the Schools to the Universities is confined only to the exchange of notes today. As a result, the creative skills of our nation have faded away to the extent of disappearance.

Our neighbouring countries like India, Pakistan, Thailand and Malaysia have overtaken Sri Lanka in the competition of providing authoritative scholars in all fields. In my opinion, a project to inject the memory power that our old generations practised as the Buddha taught them into our system of education should be reintroduced.

Today, everything is either in the note or in the computer. There is nothing in the mind. How could we produce scholars with creative ability under these circumstances? The attention of all of us should be paid here to what the Buddha has reiterated: What is most essential to understand the Dhamma is to remember what is heard or read. Then follows the examination of the meanings of what is remembered (sutva dhareti. Dhatanam dhammanam attham upaparikkhati. Attham upaparikkahato dhamma nijjhanakkhamanti).

Similarly, the process of learning the Dhamma goes through the stages of listening, remembering, constant reciting, mental observation and ideological understanding Dhamma bahussuta, dhata, vacasa paricita, manasanupekkhita, ditthiya suppatividdha). This shows that it is impossible to examine and understand what is in the note or in the computer.

In isolation and at rest, the meanings can be examined only of things that we remember. The contemporary education completely ignores the memory tool. Therefore, there is no possibility for a generation of students who examine the meanings in this way to emerge in present Sri Lanka. In my opinion this is a gross weakness of present day academic education.

I conclude this Convocation Address with the summary of the Silavimansa Jataka which is the three hundred and sixty second story of the Jataka book (It is to be noted here that there are four more stories in the Jataka Commentary under the same name). When the king Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born into a brahamin family. When he came of age, he acquired every liberal art at Takkasila, and on his return to Benares he became the family priest for the king.

The Bodhisatta was respected and honoured by the king constantly. The suspicion arose in the Bodhisatta whether the king regarded him with respect due to his discipline or to his acquisition of learning.

To test the king the Bodhisatta robbed gold coins from the royal treasury. He was caught as a robber and brought before the king. The king ordered him to be punished. Then the Bodhisatta informed the king that he robbed the gold coins to check whether the king respected him due to his virtue or learning. Being exonerated with due respect, the Bodhisatta uttered some stanzas, two of which are quoted below.

Silam seyyo sutam seyyo iti me samsayo ahu

Silameva suta seyyo iti me natthi samsayo

Mogha jati ca vanno ca silameva kiruttamam

Silena anupetassa sutenattho na vijjati

A doubt had arisen in me as to which of the two, learning or discipline, is superior. I have no doubt that discipline itself is better than learning (after the testing I have carried out).

Both birth and social status are empty. What is best is discipline. There is no value of learning without being nourished by discipline.

 නවම්
අව අටවක පෝය
 

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