第一冊•Volume 1

宣化老和尚追思紀念專集 In Memory of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

In Memory of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

宣化老和尚 The Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

中文 Chinese 英文 English


The Venerable Master’s Philosophy on Education

◎By Shi Heng Shi, Jennifer Sun, and Yvonne Chen

On behalf of Heaven, proclaim and transform with kindness.
For the country, teach the people to be loyal and filial.

The Venerable Master said,

 “Now I want to travel among all the nations with these eight virtues of filiality, fraternity, loyalty, trustworthiness, propriety, righteousness, incorruptibility, and a sense of shame, using this elixir to save the souls, lives, and inherent natures of all young people throughout the world.” 

One afternoon in early winter after meditation class I strolled across the campus with a student who had recently transferred to our school. This naughty student, who had given people quite a few headaches, told me about the situation in her previous school. It seems that fighting, making trouble, drinking, taking drugs, threatening teachers and students with weapons, and dating have become part of daily life in the schools. It is almost impossible to hold a class quietly and peacefully. Students holler rudely in class and openly confront their teachers. The teachers must sometimes display the handguns they carry in order to warn students not to make trouble. And parents either don’t care or are helpless to do anything. Or else, they harm their children’s bodies and minds with their own abusive and violent behavior. The innate qualities of paternal kindness and maternal tenderness have been completely forgetten. How can our hearts not bleed with sorrow? Even if there are teachers who seriously care about teaching, they cannot maintain their stance for long. They are either forced to leave, or else they have to be fully armed every day as if going to the battlefield. This is the situation at the school in Ukiah, a small and simple town. Imagine the situation at schools in metropolitan areas. This girl, who often disturbs other classmates, came from a home for abused children. She said with a sincere look in her eyes, “I came to this school because I wanted to have a good education. Good education is very important.” A call from the heart of an innocent child: hearing it evokes a myriad feelings!

‘Education’ is the most sacred word in the hearts of Chinese people. It represents a nation’s long-term plans and the people depend it on for their existence. Consider the Venerable Master’s incisive and thorough observation: “Education is the most fundamental and the most thorough national defense!” In this day and age, the significance of this statement is even more profound. For several decades, in order to bring happiness to mankind and peace to the world, and to awaken the lomg-dormant sense of morality and conscience in all people, the Venerable Master has spared neither blood nor sweat in his effort to nurture excellent character and scholarship in young people. Reforming education is one of the three great resolutions that the Master has made in his life. As the Master has said,

One goal of education is to select talented people. What kind of talented people? People who demonstrate intelligence and wisdom. As for those who are stupid, we should also make an effort to inspire their inherent wisdom. This is one of the goals of our schools.

I want to provide education not only to perpetuate the Buddha’s wisdom, but also to perpetuate the wisdom of living beings.

Having received a wholesome education, students will know how to conduct themselves in society when they leave school in the future, they will be able to influence the entire society to reform its customs.

In the past, people studied in order to understand principle. Nowadays, people study in order to obtain fame and profit.¨

The Master cannot bear to see the future of mankind ruined by the ignorant indulging in the five desires. Thus he is making an earnest and compassionate plea:

The human race is nearing extinction! This will not be caused by earthquakes, natural disasters, or accidents, but by the fact that people have gradually forgotten and lost their morality and virtue.

This is the enlightened awareness of one who is wise, and whose compassionate mind is boundless. How can we ordinary, foolish people take it for granted? If people do not discipline themselves with virtue, they will eventually fall into an abyss of evil. The schools founded by the Venerable Master are named “Instilling Goodness Elementary School” and “Developing Virtue Secondary School”─ from this we can understand a little bit of the Master’s earnest intentions.

I remember that in my childhood, people’s lives were centered around farming. Getting fed and clothed were the goals of life that people sought after. Although the level of education was pervasively low, everywhere people were seen living in peace, content with what they were doing. Later, with the swift growth of knowledge and the rapid development of science and technology, children who wrote on the ground were no longer seen. Instead the talking computer dictionary has taken over. In a world filled with restless children, violent youth, broken and complex families, crime-ridden societies, and countries in which common rights have been suspended, even with the utmost affluence and civilization it is impossible to escape the whirlpool of nightmares. With the bankruptcy of education and the decadence of intellectual culture, fathers do no act like fathers and sons do not act like sons; people shamelessly resort to extreme means to satisfy their own purposes. Even nuclear weapons have lost their power. Social welfare is bogged down in the mire and cannot extricate itself. As the confused multitudes indulge in their desires, their greed is like a wild flood that crashes the life-saving dam. If we fail to deeply understand the grave illness caused by moral decadence and the corruption of virtue, then the end of the world is close at hand. That is what the Master righteously pointed out to people from all over the world at the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris on his European Dharma-propagation tour in 1990:

The mistake we have committed in education is more severe than cancer, more serious than the disasters caused by the atomic bomb! Unwholesome education has invisibly killed those in our next generation. It has destroyed them, causing them to lose their basic human nature, forget their own souls, and no longer cherish their own lives.

A couple from a background of strict moral discipline feel reassured in sending their five daughters to Instilling Goodness Elementary School and Developing Virtue High School, because they know that the problem of dating among students is nonexistent here. For the past twenty years, the Master has sought to put an end to this bad practice which prevails in the modern world by advocating that male and female students be segregated and that they be taught to respect themeselves. He also advised the students that:

Girls should wait until they are twenty before they have boyfriends; and boys should wait until they are twenty-five before they start dating. That way, children will not be harmed. If you start dating too early, you will not be good students or good people. You should all be good people and good students, so that you will be able to do good deeds in the future. If you cut down young grain shoots before they are fully grown, they will just be useless stalks. In the future, if people develop emotional desire at an early age, each generation will be worse than the one before.

Children in this country watch too much television. As a result, they already know about dating by the time they are seven or eight years old. This is extremely harmful! We will not have any capable people in the future, because people will all be muddled.

To prevent children from developing emotional desire too early, boys and girls study separately in the schools founded by the Venerable Master. That way, students can concentrate on their studies and become truly capable people in the future. Here, we must ask: while there are many educators with noble aims, profound principles, and great kindness and patience, how many of them can really shoulder the task of perpetuating the moral virtue of humanity, struggling alone despite the ridicule of people in the world? How many of us have the courage to undertake carrying out the Master’s old-fashioned idea? Yet the Master is just that way. He has been crying out despite his fatigue and people’s ridicule, hoping that people will soon wake up from their deluded dreams. From this we can see the real depth of the Master’s character: he is true and sincere in everything he does and only thinks of benefiting all people while totally forgetting about himself!

In many of his talks, when the Master says the same words that Buddhas as many as sand grains in Ganges River have spoken, “All men are my fathers, and all woman are my mothers,” somehow our confused and blocked minds can also feel the light and be moved by it. Among the Master’s left-home disciples, there are some who left the home-life when they were over seventy years old, and some are even close to one hundred. The Master receives and protects them with the spirit of equality and great filiality with which he regards both Buddhas and living beings. And they repay the Master’s Dharma-milk with the utmost form of filiality─vigorous cultivation. Filiality is more than just the basis of being a person. Not only do Instilling Goodness Elementary School and Developing Virtue Secondary School take loyalty and filiality as their basis, the “school” that extends throughout the Dharma Realm also requires a core course on filiality, the study of how to be filial.

No teaching can be apart from filiality. Apart from filiality, there is no teaching. When the limitless lessons under the sky are summarized, it is just this one lesson. This one lesson encompasses limitless learning. Study this lesson to perfection and other lessons will also be completed. 

When the Master first began establishing schools, it was also due to filiality. The Master dropped out of school when he was eighteen, in order to take care of his sick mother. But he took time to found a free school, teaching children in the village who could not afford schooling. In addition to not collecting any tuition, the Master also supplied students with brushes, ink, paper, and so on. In his sincere wish that his mother have an early recovery, he often fasted for seven days, and sometimes for eighteen or thirty-six days. Such genuine filial conduct is probably beyond the imagination of ordinary people. And so, the Master not only was filial to his mother, he also established a free school to teach uneducated children and young adults. Isn’t this being filial to others’ parents by practicing the way of fraternity? This is precisely to regard all living beings as one’s own parents.

Recently, in order to reform education more thoroughly while reviving our long-forgotten integrity, the Master has exhausted his efforts and fearlessly undertaken the difficult task of establishing the “volunteer teacher” system at the schools at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. We know that teachers are like gardeners. Only diligent care can the garden be filled with blooming flowers. We may say that the main reason that modern education is on the brink of bankruptcy is the lack of teachers who teach for the sake of education. The Master has been crying out because he sees the root of such decadence. His lofty and far-reaching vision of using volunteer teachers not only can resolve the dangerous situation, it is also a manifestation of the Master’s great compassion.

This volunteer teacher system also sets up a model of incorruptibility for teachers. Being a volunteer naturally entails the responsibility of complete giving. The Venerable Master described this ideal:

Every teacher sets an example with his own conduct. They are honest and self-respecting, and they pass their wisdom and aspirations onto the next generation. They do not fight for pay raises or go on strike.

In his way, they can teach with full concentration and effort. They will not just be a “teacher of books,” they will also be a “teacher of people.”As it is said,“When one reaches the level of no seeking, one’s character will be noble.”Only teachers who are not seeking for money and fame can influence students with their lofty aspirations and broad ideals, and thus undertake the difficult task of rectifying people’s lives and developing long-lasting peace. When Confucius was traveling among the feudal states, he taught three thousand disciples, seventy-two of whom were worthy and thoroughly learned; he helped people and saved the country. His philosophy of teaching all people without discrimination can be regarded as a genuine demonstration of teaching for the purpose of education. It can also be regarded as the historic pioneer of volunteer teaching. Especially in this time of rampant materialistic desire, the Master’s heroic resolve to carry on the ancient ways and inspire posterity is truly “the way when there is no way” and “the hope when there is no hope.” He is doing it knowing that it can hardly be done.

The Master deeply feels that the main reasons the world has come to ruin are the bankruptcy of education and the decadence of the intellectual culture. He also feels that the major reason for the failure of education lies in neglecting the nurturing and practice of morality and virtue. He has been exhorting the people of the world to pay attention to this problem: “Only by taking morality in human relationships seriously can we save the world from the crisis caused by technological progress and the failure of education.” This is why the Master has set up the celebrations of “Cherishing the Youth” and “Respecting the Elderly” as a token, demonstrating his respect for the elderly and worthy ones, and his care and concern for young people. With these two celebrations he also hopes to promote the spirit of “respecting elders every day and cherishing the youth in every household,” so that the final goal of happy and harmonious families, a wholesome society, and a peaceful and prosperous country can be realized.

Many times, the Master has taught his disciples to learn to take losses and to not be afraid of being cheated, to be patient, to yield instead of fighting, to treat others better than we treat ourselves, not to lose our tempers, not to be stubborn, and to practice kindness, compassion, joy and giving. These kind and faithful exhortations have been instilled in our minds. As the Master often says,

My character is rather peculiar. I’m not like other people. I don’t want what others like, but I want what others don’t like.

The eight virtues of filiality, fraternity, loyalty, trustworthiness, propriety, righteousness, incorruptibility, and a sense of shame, which the Master has been promoting, have long been buried under the competition of modern science and technology, discarded in the flood of the five desires and the dust of history. However, the Master, with unsurpassed wisdom and virtuous courage, has been righteously and single-mindedly reviving the teachings of the sages amidst the life-and-death crisis of education. He demonstrates the spirit of great courage that never flows along with the defiled current of the world. It’s also the manifestation of his spirit of “picking up what others discard and giving others what they desire.”

Words, silence, movement, and stillness are all the Master’s compassionate and traceless teaching. Therefore, if asked what the methods and principles of the Master’s teaching are, one can either spend a few days and nights and still not give a clear explanation; or one can openly and innocently present the Master’s true words, which contain endless wonderful principles: “Be selfless!” Only by being selfless can one be proper and unbiased, public-spirited and unselfish, and understand the profound spirit of the Master’s words,

All people are my teachers, and I am the teacher of all people.
I always teach myself; I am my own teacher.

Isn’t this the ultimate ideal of education? Only under this great principle of selflessness can one be truly replete with and perfect the spirit of respecting teachers and the Way, being respectful and humbly yielding, honest and frugal, and kind-hearted and modest. That’s also why the Master is able to walk behind all people, to credit other people with merit and take their faults upon himself, to work hard and appear as if he has done nothing, to spare neither blood nor sweat and never pause to rest, to “offer up his body and mind to the myriad Buddhalands and thus endeavor to repay the Buddha’s boundless grace,” to bow to tiny ants and mosquitoes, to help living beings realize the Way by whatever method they prefer, and to cause arrogant disciples to feel ashamed when he says,

It’s my fault. I didn’t teach them well.

It’s said that the flavor of the great ocean can be tasted in a single drop of its water. Why don’t we follow this pulse and make it the provisions for following the motto: “In one’s plan for a hundred-year lifetime, one must aspire to join the ranks of the sages.”

Education is without beginning or end. There are no beginnings of semesters, no holidays, and no graduations.

Wherever you are, that place is a school. There’s not a single location that is not a place of learning; and there is not a single moment that is not the time for learning.

These plain, direct words are so simple that everyone can understand them. And everyone should throw himself, body and mind, into this kind of live education and become a part of it. The Master used an analogy of grasses and big trees to illustrate the fact that only with a foundation of cultivation can we nurture capable people. The Master said that grasses sprout in the spring and die in the winter. Though they sprout again the following spring, they are still grass and cannot undertake major tasks. In the same way, people who don’t cultivate, who are transmigrating around and around in the six paths, cannot build a pure, clean foundation for their souls. On the other hand, for people who work hard in cultivation, although their illusory bodies die, unlike the grasses their growth potential still exists. Each spring, new shoots indicate further growth, and they will eventually become useful material. When the Master teaches disciples and exhorts students, he is helping them to purify their minds and to apply effort so that they can become useful material and advance toward the bright future for the sake of mankind and all living beings.

Let us recall the lecture that the Master delivered at the United Nations Education, Science, and Culture Organization (UNESCO) in Paris in 1990.

The basis of education should be teaching children not to fight, not to be greedy, not to seek, not to be selfish, not to want personal advantage, and not to lie; they should also be taught not to drink, take drugs, or be promiscuous. If this can actually be done, then there is hope for reviving education...In fact, the most thorough and fundamental national defense is education. If education is not done well, then whatever national defense you have is useless.

This group of ours is a group that goes everywhere to propagate the education of the Buddhadharma. The education of the Buddhadharma is an education that saves people’s inherent natures, rescues their souls, and also saves their lives. We go around giving clarion calls to wake people up and urge them to reform education, to pull our next generation back from the brink of death, and to avert the danger of the extinction of humanity and of the nations of the world.

Just as Confucius traveled among the feudal states of ancient China employing the elixir of humaneness, justice, virtue, propriety, righteousness, incorruptibility, and a sense of shame and thus saving China from extinction for thousands of years, the Master says:

Now I want to travel among all nations with these eight virtues of filiality, fraternity, loyalty, trustworthiness, propriety, righteousness, incorruptibility, and a sense of shame, using this elixir to save the souls, lives, and inherent natures of all young people throughout the world.




法界佛教總會 • DRBA / BTTS / DRBU