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The concept of mentoring in Buddhism

Ven. Polgaswatte Paramananda Thera

Assistant Editor
Sinhala Dictionary Office

The concept of mentoring is ancient. It goes to the period of the Buddha and also mentioned in the Odysseus by Homer. In Buddhism it is called upajjhaya (mentor) and Homer described the mentor as the wise and trusted counsellor in modern times, the concept of mentoring has found application in virtually every forum of learning. In academics mentor is often used synonymously with faculty advisor.

In the beginning of the bhikkhu order there entered various kinds of people to the order and they couldnt change their previous behaviour even though continuing to be in the order. Actually, it led to the non availability of instructors, preceptor or mentor to direct them. Since that time monks were not exhorted and instructed. So they walked for alms improperly dressed, not befittingly attired. Then people shouted and said How can these recluses, son of Sakyans, walk for alms, wrongly dressed, wrongly clothed, not befittingly attired? Then modest monks told this matter to the Buddha.

Then the Buddha, having rebuked these monks further said, Monks, I allow a mentor. The mentor should arouse in the one who shares his chamber the attitude of a sons mind (putta citta), the one who sharer his chamber should arouse in the mentor the attitude of a fathers mind (pitu citta) like living with reverence and with courtesy towards one another. Then they will come to growth, to increase and to maturity in the knowledge of Dhamma and discipline. (Mahavagga pali).

The mentoring concept intended in the modern perspective in the broad sense. An effective mentoring relationship is characterised by mutual respect, trust, understanding, and empathy. Good mentors are able to share life experiences and wisdom, as well as technical expertise. They are good listeners, good observers, and problem-solvers. They make an effort to know, accept, and respect the goals and interests of a student. (Morris Zelditch, on being a mentor to students, 1995). In the Buddhist perspective, the mentor guides students well and the students should conduct themselves properly towards the mentor by respecting and performing their duties.

The Buddha has recommended the fundamental duties that should be followed by the students he (student) should get up early, help him wear his (mentors) sandals, arrange his upper robe over one shoulder, should give water to rinse the mouth, make ready the seat and there are many more duties that should be followed by the student.

This shows a very close relationship between mentor and student. Even though the Buddha does not recommend to have very close relationship between these two and advises to keep certain distance. He should not be too far away from mentor, he should not be too close. This has to be used in the issue of modern mentoring concept as well. In long-term relationships, friendships form naturally; students can gradually become colleagues. At the same time one should strive as a mentor to be aware of the distinction between friendship and favouritism.

You might need to remind a student - and yourself the need for a degree of objectivity in giving fair grades and evaluations. If you are unsure whether a relationship is too personal, you are probably not alone, consult with the department chair. You might have to increase the mentor-student distance. (ibid)

The Buddhist mentor is approachable and available, so there is no need for the student to be reluctant and feel uncomfortable in reaching him. In general the Buddhist mentor is familiar with the student and benefits enormously to reach towards the goal. In fact each relationship is based on a common goal Nibbana.

On the side of the mentor what the Buddha mentioned is he (mentor) should conduct himself properly towards the student, and the student should be helped by the mentor in recitation, interrogation, exhortion and instruction. Subsequently, the aspect of good mentoring practice in the 20th century is described as a multiple role. Mentors are advisors, people with career experience and who are willing to share their knowledge. Supporters are people who give emotional and moral encouragement, tutors are people who give specific feedback on ones performance; masters are in the sense of employers to whom one is apprenticed, sponsors are the sources of information and aid in obtaining opportunities.

These are models, of identity, in person for him to be an academic (ibid). And furthermore the qualities that should be possessed by the student are to be developed along with critical thinking, self-discipline and good study habits etc; is equivalent to Buddhism. A monk (student) has to possess five precepts he may give guidance with what he possess and adopt moral habit, body of concentration, body of wisdom, body of freedom, and body of vision and knowledge of freedom. (mahavagga pali) The mentor direct him to build up those qualities in him and mentor should know the cultural background of the student, his communication skills and also learning styles, specially students behaviour patterns, otherwise mentor would be baffled.

The Buddha recommended the mentor should be sufficiently qualified to hold this position and said, I allow you monks to give guidance as an experienced, competent mentor who is ten years studying or of more than ten years studying. (mahavagga pali) and The Buddha further said I allow you monks, to instruct by menas of one who is agreed upon. It shows that if the student is unwilling to have instructions from the mentor, then the mentor should not instruct him. How this aspect explaining in the context of modern mentoring concept is through careful listening, you convey your empathy for the student and your understanding of a students challenges. When a student feels this empathy, the way is open for clear communication and more-effective mentoring.

In Buddhism mentoring is more than advising. It is characterised by mutual trust, understanding and empathy.

The goal of a mentoring relationship is to attain Nibbana. But in modern times mentoring is a personal as well as a professional relationship and the goal of a mentoring relationship is to advance the educational and personal growth of students.

 


Monks strive to protect Sri Maha Bodhi

Buddhisms holiest tree in Anuradhapura tightly guarded by monks and Security Forces after Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) attacked it 23 years ago is under threat again this time from monkeys.

Pilgrims are frisked and scanned by metal detectors before being allowed to worship the Sri Maha Bodhi, grown from a sapling of a tree in India that sheltered the Buddha when he attained enlightenment more than 2,550 years ago. But primates in the temple compound are free to swing from tree-to-tree, grab sweet offerings and in the process endanger what Buddhists believe is the worlds oldest religiously significant tree, a Banyan species propped up by iron supports at temple ruins dating back 2,300 years.

The tree is not only an object of worship, but a symbol of national sovereignty. Buddhist devotees from India, Myanmar, Thailand, Korea and Japan visit to pay homage, while tourists also flock to the scene despite the security procedures. Atamasthanadhipati Ven. Pallegama Sirinivasa, Chief Sanghanayaka Thera, 54, said he is now more worried about damage caused by the troops of monkeys than the LTTE.

In 1985, Tigers shot dead three monks and 142 pilgrims at the site. Terrorists had an idea of destroying this tree because its a spiritual magnet, the monk told AFP at his temple near the tree. Even in the 1985 attack, this tree didnt suffer a single bullet. He said he was unaware of any recent reports of the LTTE planning to strike again.

What I see as the main challenge today is protecting the Sri Maha Bodi from macaques and monkeys, the monk said.

The tree is surrounded by a gold-plated fence and protected night and day, spiritually and physically, by soldiers and police as well as monks.

But the monk said he wanted to use technology to help police as well as civilian volunteers guard the tree from monkeys.

Guards ring bells, burst crackers or flash torch lights to scare off the invading primates, but Buddhism wont allow the use of violence to deter the monkeys. AFP

  නවම් අමාවක පෝය

  මාර්තු 07 වන දා සිකුරාදා පූර්ව භාග
12.25 ට ලබයි.
එම දා අපර භාග 10.44 දක්වා පෝය පවතී.
සිල් සමාදන් වීම මාර්තු 07 වන දා සිකුරාදා ය.

මීළඟ පෝය මාර්තු 14 වනදා සිකුරාදාය.


පොහෝ දින දර්ශනය

New Moonඅමාවක

මාර්තු 07

First Quarterපුර අටවක

මාර්තු 14

Full Moonපසෙලාස්වක

මාර්තු 20

Second Quarterඅව අටවක

මාර්තු 29

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