Good evening. I hope you will listen to my lecture carefully, because I will talk about how we should teach and how we should propagate the Dharma.
Dharma is education, or one aspect of Dharma is education, and conversely, education is Dharma. So, to propagate the Dharma by education would almost mean to propagate education through education. They are almost the same word.
Dharma means a lot of things, but its primary meaning in Sanskrit, where the word comes from, and in India in general, is a "method" or "system." We can ask ourselves: What is education? That, too, is a method: a method for sorting things out in our confused minds. The goal is always the same: It is to help living beings become better by attaining some understanding of their true nature. So, the Buddhadharma is the method of education which Shakyamuni Buddha and Buddhism uses.
There is also something that is called the
sanatana-dharma in Sanskrit, which means the perennial or eternal teaching, the teaching that is always constant and that never changes. And that teaching has no connotation of Buddhism or Hinduism or any other religion. It is that which is always there. And that is also what Shakyamuni Buddha, along with many sages of this world, was teaching—not only teaching, but reviving—as a practice for the world. It is a teaching that is always there, but it needs to be brought forth again and again in order to suit the conditions of a certain age.
In our modern—and what is now called postmodern—world, people are still attempting to do that same thing, in essence. As usual, we are still very confused, and are trying to help ourselves to find some kind of order, to sort things out the best way we can. That requires very hard work. It requires discipline, and of course it requires disappointment, unhappiness, or what in Sanskrit or in Pali is called
dukkha—unsatisfactoriness, which we Buddhists like to call "suffering". It is a form of suffering, but it also involves some happiness. Above all, the whole point of education or Dharma, is to enable us human beings to find a way out of it all, to reach a point of equanimity, from where we can compassionately help others reach that same point—that point of equanimity or detachedness.
Throughout this process, as teachers and educators, as mothers, as fathers, as engineers or doctors or lawyers, we should never forget that' our major companion has to be compassion or Guanyin. That will help us survive above the confusion and enable us to help others to do the same. Otherwise, we will very easily get frustrated in this imperfect world, and we will simply be angry and resentful, nothing else.
Why is education necessary, and how should one go about it? There are many ways of educating people and there are many kinds of education.
There is not one single, simple answer. The important factor, however, is to be aware of your students—of their needs, their levels, and the age they live in. We cannot ignore where they are, who they are, and what their level of education is. That is probably the hardest part—to have an empathy for your student. A teacher may know his subject very, very well, but his expectations are sometimes unrealistic. Why is this so? It's because the teacher wants to impart the best that he can to his student. And in the process, it's very easy to forget who the student really is and what the whole, real purpose of that education is.
Why does that happen? I don't think there's a single teacher in this world that doesn't want to be the best, the kindest, the most intelligent and perfect person. And yet it is very easy to get frustrated and to give up or to become angry. This is because it is very threatening to see the actual truth—where you are as a teacher and where the student is. It's very scary to look at it clearly, because there are many confusions, many mistakes, and many pitfalls. In order for both the teacher and the student to attain some success in whatever they do, compassion again—Guanyin—is the sort of facilitator—the grease—that will make the mechanism of education work. That is something that we absolutely cannot ignore as teachers. It is what turns our knowledge—that which we know—into wisdom.
To be continued
Editor's note: Dr. Akpinar originally came from the former Yugoslavia and was born a Buddhist. She holds an M. A. in Oriental Studies from the University of Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and a Ph.D. in Turkish Studies from the University of Istanbul, Turkey.
She is President of Dharma Realm Buddhist University at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and teaches a course called "A Buddhist View of Religion".
She is also Director/Research Professor of Institute for World Religions in Berkeley, California.