佛教僧伽人士挑起教育的重任，這並不是很新奇的想法。加里瑟 （Carrithers）（註一）說 ，在斯里蘭卡，讀寫與其他文學領域的教育傳授之責很早就落到僧伽的肩上。伯切特（Bechert）（註二）很贊成其說。他說：「在緬甸，是僧伽傳播文化的。」在古斯里蘭卡，寺廟是村落學童的學校。因為這個緣故，學校成為緬甸寺廟處最常用的一詞。讀寫技能，以及基本的宗教知識都是在那兒教授的。從古文中，孩子在那兒接受文化與生活知識的啟蒙教育。」
Buddhism and education will be synonymous in the twenty-first century: the success of education will herald the propagation of the Dharma. The success of Dharma in reforming society will establish good schools as a good priority for every nation, state and town. Buddhist Education will flourish from the roots of moral excellence. The lessons of this system will teach that wisdom and liberation must be based on solid base of moral and virtuous character. The foundation of a good person is filial respect and practice of a code of ethical precepts— proper rules held purely. The flowering and fruition of such people appears in bright virtue, clear-minded concentration, and humane wisdom that serves all humanity. The Buddha taught that the single matter of filial respect created the good roots that carried him to full enlightenment. Thus, repaying the kindness of sages, parents, teachers, and our nation becomes an ever-expanding field of blessings for both lay and left-home Buddhist disciples, and also served as the causes for the great Bodhi resolve. Great Maudgalyayana and Earth Treasury Bodhisattva serve as outstanding examples of filial behavior. In making their stories known to students of every level of education, as well as introducing the lives of sages of both Mahayana and Theravada Vehicles as exemplars of the rewards of a virtuous life, Buddhist education will guide the way for twenty-first century schools, molding wholesome characters and solid principles for a bright future.
A major reason for the decline of Buddhism in twentieth century in Asia was the failure of the Sangha to train monks in the teachings of Dharma and the failure to make education the proper work of the Sangha. In China, for example, Buddhist studies academies were rare, and many monks remained virtually illiterate in Dharma and Vinaya. Public schools built and run by Buddhists were fewer still. Even though Buddhism had been a Chinese religion for 1700 years, the actual teachings of the Buddha failed to reach young people, because the Sangha provided little opportunity for them to hear the Teachings. The educated classes in China, by the turn of the century, were much more familiar with the doctrines of the Old Testament, due to the missionary zeal of the Jesuits, who translated the Bible and set up schools wherever they went.
Furthermore, there was never an organized attempt to translate the massive Buddhists Canon [Tripitaka] into any other language. The immense wealth of Dharma gathered over seventeen centuries of Chinese Buddhist scholarship, with notable exceptions, is still unavailable to anyone not fluent in Chinese.
Thus Buddhist educators, discussing Buddhism into the twenty-first century, advised us that: “In the past in China, Buddhists ignored education, so that the roots of the religion failed to take hold. When the winds of social change blew hard, Buddhism was unable to stand. We are now in the Age of the Dharma’s demise; to meet the challenge of making the Buddhadharma grow strong, and to turn all beings from confusion and towards enlightenment, we must start with education.”
Buddhist Sangha members taking up the task of training young minds is not a new idea: in Sri Lanka, “the teaching of reading and writing, and other literate specialties, fell to the Sangha’s lot very early,” according to Carrithers.1 Bechert agrees:
“In Burma, it was the Sangha that transmitted literary culture. As in ancient Sri Lanka, the monastery was the school for the children of the village. And for that reason the word ‘kyuang’ (school) is still the most common Burmese word for monastic settlement. Reading, writing and basic religious knowledge were taught there, and students were introduced to culture and knowledge of life with the help of old texts.”2
Jane Bunnag reports that until this century in Thailand, monks had an important role as teachers, as all schools were in the temple compound. During the nineteenth century, Thai monks began to organize schools in the provinces, but state-run schools took over the job of education in the twentieth century.3
We can see that in the Buddhist countries of Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand until the advent of public education in the last few decades, Sangha members provided the role models for teaching children to be morally and ethically virtuous adults. We might conclude that the success of Buddhism in those countries, until education policies changed, was due in some measure to the monks’ efforts in the classrooms.
1.from Bechert and Gombrich, The World of Buddhism, Thames and Hudson, Ltd., London, 1984, Facts on File Pubs., New York, N.Y., 1988, p. 120.
2．ibid., p. 128.
3．ibid., p. 140.