Thoughts on being “Teacher of Life”, by Prapapat Niyom
January 24, 2017
Translated by Aviruth Sachdev
Before we step into 2560 B.E., it is customary for the management, teachers and all the personnel at Roong Aroon to cordially come together and discuss ideas and explore “food-for-thoughts” with our founder Associate Professor Prapapat Niyom. She took us through the process of appraising our experience as teachers, so that we can ‘self-reflect’ and identify the areas and ways through which we can develop ourselves further.
First of all she reflected on the project held at the school which was called “Little Novices and Nuns discover Dharma, family realise happiness”.
In her view, the ordainment program held between 5th-16th December in honour of our late King, H.M. King Bhumibhol Adulyadej, was considered a very successful project due to the fact that 99 students decided to join the program; conveying the message that the students are whole-heartedly dedicated to teachings and beliefs of their faith.
In order to participate and adhere to the rituals; apart from having to shave their heads, the students also had to leave behind the ‘comforts’ that they are very much used to at home. They also had to spend the entire period of 10 days away from home and their parents. At the very beginning it could clearly be seen that many students wanted to make sure they accomplished their goal but after facing the actual situation they realised that it was not an easy thing to do. Some students even cried and wanted to leave the program on the very first day. This provided an opportunity for the teachers to patiently manage their ability, either by showing extra consideration to the situation of each student or finding well-thought course of action in order to make sure the Novices and Nuns could stay at the school and carry on participating in the program without suffering.
“We consider this a well-accomplished project as we were able to achieve our goal in building ‘belief’ amongst the teachers, parents, family members and even passers-by who wanted to give alms. The Novices and Nuns were very determined and clear when they blessed the alms-givers which brought about quite a degree of appreciation from all those involved. Their routine typically involved waking up at 4am, reciting the morning prayers at 5am and walking to receive alms at 6am, after which they returned to have the alms that have been received. Venerable Phra Ajarns played integral roles in guiding the Novices and Nuns with advices regarding appropriate manners of accepting alms; advices such as “take only one piece each” and “leave some for others too” were constantly heeded because the Buddhism way is the way of generosity and kindness.
One should always be disciplined in one’s daily life. The core pillar of “sustainable living” that has been established by our late King H.M. King Bhumibhol Adulyadej always stressed on the principles of fairness, restraints and consideration towards others’ well being. In order to constantly evolve and understand oneself as well as others, it is imperative to live appropriately and moderately.
“The Novices and Nuns only dined twice a day (morning and noon) and no supper was dined in the evenings. This showed us that even children were disciplined enough to sustain quite a degree of restraint. Evenings were dedicated to reciting evening prayers, listening to dharma teachings and discussing about dharma.
It is imperative for every Buddhist to know and understand the road that one is taking because it determines one’s destiny and goals in life. It is essential to have a certain form of “map” that acts as a daily guide. Otherwise one may go through life just performing meaningless tasks without understanding their impacts and purpose of life at all. It is important for every person to reflect and constantly ask whether one’s daily routines and work are aligned with one’s objectives and goals or not.”
“I appreciate and gladly rejoice the current developments and progresses that have been made at Roong Aroon as well as various other “Buddhist Path” schools. When we talk about “Teacher of Life”, we refer to the teacher that is able to reach the core of the student’s life. It is neither about teaching them certain academic subjects from which they can earn a living, nor is it about transferring knowledge to the students. It is rather about mediating into the student’s heart and well being, while at the same time fostering him/her to grow and develop in the best possible manner. There may be numerous ways and terminologies that we could use here, for example, teachers should encourage the students to be “self- sustainable” or, to put it shortly, as per Buddha’s teaching; one must learn to train and restrain one self. Therefore, teachers should focus on being their “Kalayanamitta” in order to make sure that they have the best possible form of “education”.
“We learnt a lot from this ordainment project; it can clearly be seen that the way of practice adopted by the Novices and Nuns should be the way that the teachers teach their students, and also the way parents should teach their children. However, before we reach that point, it is essential for us to practice and train ourselves first in order to fully reach our potential as true teachers in both, status as well as honour. As the saying goes, when one becomes a teacher, one is no longer a layman or any ordinary person in society. Teachers must always look after their position and standing with integrity, which means that they may have to lead an alternative kind of lifestyle and undertake different types of responsibilities so that they are able to absorb and discover the true meaning of “Teacher of life”. It can also be said that if one is a teacher of life, one is no different from a priest. This is a significant factor that must be noted and understood.”
“Teachers who were in charge also expressed doubts regarding the appropriate behavior and relationship between them and the Novices and Nuns, as they were not sure if it was appropriate for them to be “teachers” of those who were observing the 10 precepts (this was down to the notion that the teachers were not holding/practicing as many precepts as the students who were under ordainment, therefore the general thought was that it may not be “fitting” for them to be their teachers). However, the teachers should note that if they would like to be “teacher of life” for their students, they must observe a higher path than their students in order to be their true teachers. Hence, the teachers must evaluate how they expect to manage this subject in the future.”
“As teachers, we may do a lot of meritorious deeds, however, they may not be sufficient in changing our lives for the better, if we do not meditate on our being and understand our own position in everyday life. As teachers can you practice dharma? Of course, it is a very appropriate thing to undertake. But in order for you to have the privilege and right to be their life teacher, your life must be led at a ‘purer’ degree than theirs. Since we are all congregated at Roong Aroon in practice and in faith, I would like to see the outcomes that is a true reflection of our efforts so that we can spread and propagate this kind of effort to larger crowds and the general public too.”
“Yesterday I carried out the evening recitals along with the Novices (those that stayed behind after the project was over) and one of them asked me why when we recite our prayers, we only recite the word “Buddho”, and not “Buddho– Dhammo – Sangha”; a question to which I had quite an easy answer because these 3 words is a generic short form signifying the “Three Gems” (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) that we all use as a perpetual guide. However, the word “Buddho” is a meditational word used in our search for “the learned, the awakened and the blissful“ within ourselves. We use this term to guide and focus our thoughts and to block out any form of distraction(s). Reciting “Buddho” repeatedly while synchronising each utterance with the rhythm of your breath (in and out) helps harmonise various elements together. Hence it is a generally-practiced principle to focus on one’s breath in order to be aware of one’s being in order to search for “the truth” through “the learned, the awakened and the blissful“ within ourselves.”
“I wish to convey that it is a good thing to perform charitable and meritorious deeds and I would also like to point out that for teachers like us; the opportunities to carry out these deeds are plentiful but we must utilise this platform properly in order to achieve a purer and higher level of living (through prayers, meditations etc.). We all have one life and we cannot be overconfident about it, as we never know what the future holds. Will we carry on having these opportunities in the future? No body can ever tell, so we must derive the best out of these opportunities that we have.”
“Roong Aroon school is now in its 20th year, which direction are we moving towards in the coming year? There are various elements and factors that have brought about changes to the educational systems throughout the globe and these comprise many factors that are quite wide-ranging. One clearly- visible trend that we have witnessed is the need to be a “Global Citizen” (for us and every school that wants to be in the field of education). We are not and cannot just be Thai citizens anymore. Roong Aroon is no different from any other school and unless we maneuver it in the right direction, we will be “kicked off the stage”. However, we must prepare our very own stage first in order for us to have a certain point of reference that we can move ahead from. As a first-step, we will try and experiment in becoming more “international”, which, for a start, means that all the teachers must be very good in English (just having passable skills will not suffice). Some of you may have heard that we are in the process of creating Roong Aroon 2 but before we get to that point we will create Roong aroon 1.1 first. Education is moving in this direction and it is very difficult to avoid such changes. We will also require teaching teams to be involved in a “co-teaching” system (for both, foreign and Thai teachers) but one necessary condition that remains is that all the Thai teachers must be very good in English, therefore we must think and come up with the best way to help each other adapt in the best possible manner.”
Monday December 20th 2559 B.E., Prapassorn Hall, Roong Aroon School.