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國際佛光會的會員以在家信眾為主,生活上均以家庭為重,現代父母最關心的問題莫過於如何教育子女。所以今天我特地對於子女的教育問題提出八點意見,供大家參考︰

(一) 養成信受的教育︰父母對於子女的教育不在言多,而重身教;不在訓示,而在開導,一切的教育都必須先讓子女懂得「信受」。不信受,如同「天降甘露,不滋潤禾苗,禾苗不能成長」;又好比將淨水灌入缺角、染污、倒置的器皿,無論水量多寡,總是徒勞無功。

每部佛經均以「如是我聞」開頭,以「信受奉行」結束,這是說明信受」的重要性。子女們若能從小懂得以謙下心、清淨心接受善言,奮發向上,才能漸有所成;懂得以慚愧心、懺悔心接受指責,改過遷善,才能日有所進;懂得以忍辱心、平常心接受挫折,不怨天,不尤人,才能平心靜氣,度過難關;懂得以包容心、諒解心接受別人,不比較,不計較,才能心胸寬闊,廣結善緣。

(二) 養成禮貌的習慣︰人我相處之道在彼此恭敬禮讓,所以古聖先賢非常注重恭敬的修持,經云︰「佛法在恭敬中求。」「端正從恭敬中來。」在原始佛教的《阿含經》中,許多章節都載有佛陀教導父子、夫婦、朋友、上下之間互相禮敬相處的方法,後世的祖師大德們訂有許多禮儀清規,為的就是要規範倫理,健全僧團;而周公制禮作樂,維繫倫常,國祚因而綿長穩固。後來,「禮崩樂壞」,國勢頹唐,四分五裂的結果,形成春秋時代互相爭霸,生靈塗炭的局面,孔子因而大力提倡禮義的教化功能,主張︰「一日克己復禮,天下歸仁焉。」嘗謂︰「其為人也孝悌,而好犯上者,鮮矣;不好犯上,而好作亂者,未之有也。」的確,一個人如果能孝順父母,兄友弟恭,親愛朋友,尊重師長,就不會作奸犯科,倒行逆施。所以,我們想要子女們將來擁有健全的道德觀念,良好的社會關係,必須從小養成他們禮貌的習慣。

(三) 養成護生的觀念︰現在的社會之所以暴戾之氣囂張,就是因為人們沒有從心裡建立起尊重生命的觀念。我們常看到一些青少年以虐待動物為樂,甚至作父母的還帶著子女們去釣蝦、銼魚、吃海鮮、獵動物。由於他們從小不知道生命的可貴,所以長大以後,自然好勇鬥狠,殘殺成性,不但造成社會亂相,也為自己招來無邊禍患。

經云︰「一切皆懼死,莫不畏杖痛,恕己可為譬,勿殺切行杖。能常安群生,不加諸楚毒,現世不逢害,後世常安穩。」父母愛護子女,應該告訴他們眾生一體,易地而處的觀念,培養他們仁慈護生的美德,崇尚和平的性格。

(四) 養成勤勞的本質︰貪逸惡勞是人類的通病,由於貪逸,造成精神散漫,做事就不容易成功;由於惡勞,所希求近利,求速成,遇到挫折困難就退縮不前,結果一事無成。所謂︰「勤有功,嬉無益。」歷史上許多偉人都是白手起家,精進有成。世間上沒有不勞而獲的事情,好吃懶做的人即使萬貫家財也會敗壞殆盡。所以,教育子女必須讓他們從小養成勤於勞動,勤於學習,勤於思考,勤於做人的本質。

機器不動就會生活A池水不流就會生蟲,懂得奮發向上,服務大眾的人,必定能夠突破一切險阻,開創遠大的未來。子女們努力勤勞,知道如何安排自己的生活,才是父母最大的成就。

(五) 養成感恩的美德︰「人生不如意事十常八九。」怨天尤人,不但於事無補,反而起惑造業,空費光陰。我們如果能擁有事事感恩的美德,對人生常懷希望,對社會常思報答,就不容易被一時的挫敗所打倒。佛門裡有一句話說︰「吃現成飯當知來處不易。」想想眼前的一粥一縷,一磚一瓦是經過多少人工的辛勤、多少血汗的結晶累積而成,我們應該心存感念。除了父母養育劬勞、師長諄諄教誨、大眾供給日用、國家覆護色身的恩惠之外,還有太陽供我光明,空氣供我呼吸,雨水供我洗滌,花草樹木供我欣賞,鳶飛魚躍為我良伴。我們應該時感慚愧,自己何功何德,而能領受宇宙世間的種種供給?一個人若能經常懷抱感恩的心情看待整個世界,必定覺得自己很富有,世間很可愛,不但沒有資格自暴自棄,無所事事,還會加倍勤奮努力,奉獻社會大眾,將快樂喜悅分享給別人。所以想要兒女擁有快樂通達的人生觀,在社會永遠立於不敗之地,就必須養成他們感恩的美德。

(六) 養成佛法的認知︰「學佛的孩子不會變壞。」因為佛法不但是世間的真理,也是做人的根本,例如︰懂得因果業報原理的人,不但不會為非作歹,甚至會積極行善;懂得持守五戒十善的人,不但不會侵犯他人,甚至會喜捨布施;懂得以四攝法結交朋友的人,必定人緣很好;懂得以六度行應世接物的人,必定事業有成;懂得以四無量心利他無我的人,必定身心健康愉快;懂得以禪淨中道安排生活的人,必定過得幸福美滿。所以身為父母者,應該讓子女在心田裡種下菩提種子,讓他們從小就懂得愛惜自己的福德因緣,開發自己心裡的能源寶藏,從而負起人生應有的責任,完成圓滿的道德人格。

(七) 養成合群的性格︰性情古怪的人不但人際關係不好,而且偏激易怒,悲觀消極,這些都與成長的境遇有著密切的關係,所以為人父母者應該時時注意子女的心態,最重要的,就是在平日培養他們合群的性格。

佛經中說的五種非人︰「應笑而不笑,應喜而不喜,應慈而不慈,聞惡而不改,聞善而不樂。」可說一語道盡性格異常的現象。怎樣才算是性格正常的人呢?一個性格正常的人,首先,應該隨緣合眾,即使自己一無所有,無法幫助別人,也要隨心歡喜,隨口讚歎;其次,應該慈悲應世,隨時隨地,盡己所能,為人拔苦與樂;第三,應該聞過能改,懂得認錯回頭,改往修來,才能百尺竿頭,更進一步;第四、應該與人為善,互助合作,團結一致,共成美事。父母應該以各種方式善誘子女養成合群的性格,好讓他們將來都能立足社會,與人共事。

(八) 養成信仰的情操︰人從呱呱墜地的那一刻起,先是需要衣、食、住、行來給予溫飽,然而隨著年齡的成長,一旦基本的欲望滿足之後,就會想要去尋求解除煩惱,離苦得樂的方法,尤其在接觸五花八門的社會之後,身心常感茫然,如果這時能擁有正確的信仰,就能幫助我們度過種種風風雨雨、毀譽得失。佛教信仰的對象?佛陀,不但具有歷史的真實性,而且道德高尚,戒行清淨,智慧圓滿;佛教信仰的內容,主要在教人探索內心的寶藏,追尋大我的人生,擴大無限的心胸,實現自我的價值,這些不但能讓我們在現實生活中安身立命,解脫煩憂,更能讓我們開展無邊的眼界,得到究竟的喜悅。所以,各位身為佛光會員的父母們,將財富傳給子女不一定能讓他們得到幸福,信仰的情操才能讓他們受用無窮。希望大家經常帶子女們前來聽經聞法,參加佛光會的活動,讓他們在無形中得受法益。所謂︰「千年暗室,一燈自明。」「燈燈相傳,分燈無盡。」將佛法信仰的明燈流傳下去,照亮自他,才是最珍貴的傳家之寶。

總之,父母們不要只偏重子女們知識技能的獲得,最重要的,是要照顧到他們身心的健康,養成他們信受的教育、禮貌的習慣、護生的觀念、勤勞的本質、感恩的美德、佛法的認知、合群的性格、信仰的情操,讓他們將來都能走在康莊的大道上,享受幸福美滿的人生。

 


 

How to Educate Our Children

The single most important unit of the BLIA is the family. If our membership is unable to create productive and harmonious families, we will not be able to succeed in our larger aims. Raising children has become more difficult in the modern world than it ever was before. The technical and interpersonal skills required of adults today are much more complex than in the past; and they are more difficult to achieve, since modern society also contains so many distractions. In the following sections, I will discuss some of the most important things to keep in mind concerning the raising and educating of children.

Receptivity

The foundation of learning is receptivity. If a child is not receptive to instruction, it will be very difficult to teach him anything. Children learn by example much more than through direct verbal instruction. The first goal of parents should be to inculcate attitudes of receptivity in their children. When children are young, they can be taught curiosity and receptivity if their parents frequently engage them in stimulating, playful activities. Since we want to encourage curiosity and receptivity, it is important not to punish children for exhibiting these traits. When we observe them learning these healthy attitudes, we can reward them subtly with praise and affection. When they become recalcitrant and stubborn, it is best to redirect their interests and ignore the immediate mood. Children are usually most wary when they do not understand what is happening or how to behave. Sharp words and anger can only increase their wariness.

Receptivity is an important trait for all people in all walks of  life. For Buddhists, it is absolutely essential. Learning the Dharma completely depends on our being receptive to it. We “enter Samadhi only through listening, thinking and cultivating” ourselves. There is no other way. No one can train himself in higher awareness by being close-minded.

Every sutra begins with the words, “Thus have I heard.” And they all end with the words, “Believe, receive and practice these teachings.”

Once children have learned how to be receptive, we can begin   to teach them patience, endurance, humility, tolerance and fairness. Receptivity is the foundation. When it is well established, the higher virtues necessary for successful practice of Buddhism can be learned.

Manners

Manners lubricate social relations. The basis of good manners is nothing more than having consideration for others. As children grow, they need to be taught how to be thoughtful of others. Just as with receptivity, good manners are best learned through example and patient accumulation. No one learns them overnight. As we teach our children manners, it is important not to be too critical or rigid in our thinking. We don’t want to teach them to be formal and anxious when they are in the company of others. We want to teach them to be pleasant and thoughtful.

The Agama Sutra says, “The Dharma is found in respect.” In another place it says, “Moral propriety is discovered only in respect.”

As children grow older, it is time to begin teaching them that the basis of consideration and thoughtfulness is respect. It is impossible to be thoughtful of another person yet not accord them respect.

In the Agama Sutra, the Buddha devotes many passages to teaching his listeners how to show one another respect, and how to behave toward each other with good manners. There are passages on how parents and children should interact, how husbands and wives should behave, and how friends should treat one another.

Buddhist masters have been concerned  with  these  subjects  ever since the Buddha’s Parinirvana. Manners and respect are very important for the smooth functioning of the monastic community, and they are essential for the peace and productivity of society at large.

The basic core of good manners always is having consideration for others. It is important to remember, though, that different societies do this in different ways, and the same society will do this in different ways at different times. Manners are relative and changeable. They are a system of rules followed by the people in a community. In this, they resemble language or styles of dress.

The basic core of good manners always is having consideration for others, but the form this takes is never the same over a long period of time. And it is usually not the same from one place to another. In America, people shake hands. In Japan, they bow. The way parents raise their children must depend on the society in which they live.

To say manners are relative is most definitely not to say that they are unimportant. Chinese history is full of examples of what happens when manners and rules of behavior completely break down. Chinese Confucianism was a reaction to the internecine strife of the Warring States period. That period was so full of violence and contention, it has never been forgotten by the Chinese people. To this day, Chinese still emphasize manners and rules of propriety above all else in their relations with each other.

Confucius said, “Discipline yourself daily and follow the rules  of propriety, then all under heaven will be merciful.” He also said,  “It is rare to find anyone who understands filial piety but does not respect his elders. He who respects his elders will never disturb the peace.”

That is true. If a person is able to respect his parents, teachers and friends, he will not be likely to commit crimes or cause other sorts of trouble to society. As we teach our children to be thoughtful of others, we must also teach them the rules for doing this. When children have learned both of these aspects of good manners, they will have the tools necessary to function in society and get along with others. They will grow up to be a benefit to others and themselves, and they will be in an excellent position to further their studies of Buddhism.

Respect for life

Most violence in the world today can be traced back to a fundamental lack of respect for life. All over the world, we find young people who think that sadism is a game. We see parents teaching their children to hunt and fish as if killing were something to be proud of. If we raise children to believe that life is cheap and expendable, why should we be surprised when they grow up to be terrible people who stop at nothing to gain their samsaric ends? And what right do we have to express surprise that society is in turmoil?

The Dharmapada says, “All sentient beings fear death, and there is not one of them who does not dislike being beaten. We all can see this truth from our own experience; none of us should kill or harm other beings. If you can be peaceful toward all and not defile yourself with violence, then you will not be harmed in this life, and in your next life, you will be happy and secure.”

Parents must teach their children that all life is one, all life is precious, and all life is worthy of deep concern.

Industriousness

Fear of hard work is a disease. Dislike of work is a foundation on which only trouble can be built. Nothing good will ever come of it. No achievement worth its name can ever be built on laziness. When people constantly try to avoid work, they start to lose themselves in immediate pleasures. They become devious as they try to find ways to get others to do what they should be doing themselves. When they come across even slight difficulties, they quickly give up and then look for someone else to blame for their failure.

“When work is done to the fullest, it is like play with no end.” This old saying is true. Whenever we  work hard and  willingly,  it  is enjoyable. History is full of stories about people who  started with nothing but ended up creating wonderful things. None  of  those stories would have happened if the people in them had been unwilling to work. When people are industrious, they can make anything happen. When they are lazy, even if you give them a fortune, they will waste it.

When raising children, it is important that we start teaching them the value and pleasure of work from a very early age. To be effective in teaching them industriousness, it is important that we set a good example for them. If you come home every night and complain about your own job in front of your children, what kind of an example do you think you are setting? We want to communicate the pleasure of work to our children. If we ourselves are able to deal with life’s many ups and downs in a positive and industrious manner, our children will be quick to follow our examples.

Sometimes work is hard. Life is hard. But life never gets any easier if we spend all our time trying to shirk our responsibilities. An idle machine begins to rust. Stagnant water quickly becomes foul. In times of hardship, we must remember these truths. When we work to overcome difficulties, we succeed. When we give up, success becomes impossible.

This is a crucially important example for all parents to set for their children. A positive, willing attitude toward work is more valuable than gold. A self-sufficient, independent, confident child who knows how to make his own way in the world is the greatest reward a parent can hope for.

Gratitude

“Out of ten things in life, eight or nine of them will be contrary to what we want.” This saying is true. If we base our attitude toward life on an awareness of the inherent difficulty of existence, we will be in a position to deal with whatever comes our way. If our response to misfortune, however, is characteristically one of complaint and resent- ment, we will only succeed in adding emotional trouble to the original problem.

Be grateful that you are alive. If we are grateful just to be breathing, everything else will fall into place. Respect for others will come naturally, work will be enjoyable, and the hardships that inevi- tably beset all of us will not seem so bad if our fundamental attitude toward life includes a large measure of gratitude.

Parents must strive to exhibit attitudes of gratitude toward every-thing in the world so that their children will grow up firmly blessed with these values. Children should be taught to appreciate the sky, the sun, the rain, the earth and all the things that grow and move. Stop to appreciate a bird’s call, a flower’s radiance, so that your children can learn to appreciate these things as well.

Children learn first to appreciate the things around them. When they are able to do this, it is time to begin teaching them to appre- ciate the people around them. Most of us would be entirely helpless without other people. Children must learn to appreciate their brothers and sisters, their friends, their teachers, their neighbors and, of course, their parents. Once they have learned to be appreciative of the people in their world, having a sense of gratitude toward everything that happens will follow naturally.

It is a great good fortune to be alive in the human realm. A human body is hard to attain. Once we have learned to feel properly grateful for existence itself, we will possess the right frame of mind with which to discover the expansive and awesome awareness of Buddha nature. Gratitude is a fundamental attitude that makes room for higher virtues to grow. When children grow up within the vast security of this basic attitude, they have gained a foundation on which enormous achieve- ments can be built. There is no such thing as a bodhisattva who lacks gratitude anywhere in this universe.

The Dharma

“Children who study the Dharma will never go bad.” This saying     is quite true, because the Dharma is the best foundation for human character in the whole world. The Dharma is true, and by its truth it imparts wisdom to all who learn it.

Children who are taught the truth of cause and effect will not waste their time trying to gain petty advantages through immoral means because, before they even start, they know full well that the karmic “costs” will be higher than any samsaric “advantage” they could ever hope to gain. At the same time, these same children will understand the value of generosity and compassion. They will understand the very deep reasons why they must treat friends well, and why they must respect the ways of the world.

Children who understand the four means of embracing will under- stand how to deal well with others. Children who understand the six perfections will have the resources necessary to accomplish almost anything in this world. Children who understand the four immeasur- able mind will know how to help others as they help themselves.

The Dharma is for people; it is for young people every bit as much as it is for adults. When children learn to behave in accordance with the Dharma, they are learning the greatest lesson in the universe. As time goes by, they will see the benefit of what they have learned.

Learning the Middle Way of peace, concentration, industriousness and compassion confers immense benefits on children. Is there any better way to enter adulthood than within the embrace of Sakyamuni Buddha’s Dharma?

Parents can best teach the Dharma to their children by planting seeds for further growth whenever the opportunity arises. We don’t want to preach to them so much they become tired of listening to us. Rather, we want to encourage them to see with the clarity of their own minds that the Dharma is the highest expression of the bodhi mind. If we are convinced of its value, our conviction will be felt by our children.

Stability

People who develop unstable personalities have many troubles in life. They are hard to get along with, and they often are prone to depression and negative emotions. These tendencies nearly always can be traced back to the homes in which they grew up. Parents must realize how profound and far-reaching the effects of their treatment of their children can be. If we want our children to develop stable personalities, it is important that we send them clear and stable messages. We send them these messages by our behavior more than anything we say.

An unstable personality is well described in the Ekottarikagama Sutra. The sutra says an inhumane person is “One who does not laugh when we ought to laugh, one who does not feel joy when he ought to feel joy, one who is not compassionate when he ought to be compas- sionate. When he hears of evil, he does not try to stop it, and when he hears of goodness, he feels no joy.”

The first rule of teaching our children to have stable personalities is to not act like the person described in the quotation above.

If parents are careful not to display contrary traits like those described above, they will have gone a long way toward helping their children achieve stable personalities.  Beyond  this,  it  is  important to show children how to cooperate with others, and how to accept themselves as part of a larger group.

Children must be taught compassion and caring for  others.  They need to learn how to expend energy in these fields whenever that energy is called for. Caring and compassion are partly reactions to situations, but they are also positive activities that stem from the individual. Children need to learn that one does not always wait to be compassionate, and that one’s circle of concern should be wider than the few people one sees every day.

Beyond this, children need to learn how to admit mistakes and change for the better. Honest self-reflection is something that can    be learned. When we notice that we are mistaken, we should gladly accept this awareness and seek to change ourselves immediately.

Stubbornness and pride are impediments to change. Children need to be taught this in a way that maintains their self-respect. True self-es- teem must be built on active character traits, not static, emotion-laden moods.

Belief

Strong belief in the Dharma is crucial for well-being in adult life. If children witness their parents’ reliance on belief as they grow up, by the time they become adults, they will have had a long lesson in the importance and value of belief. Belief is most important for us when everything else fails. When the conditions of life really rock our boats, it is hard to be stable, and it is hard to hold onto our moral values if we lack a foundation of belief. If our faith is strong, however, nothing will cause us to lose our way. Belief is a guide through darkness. Faith gives us purpose when all else seems lost.

As Buddhists, our basic faith comes from the Buddha himself. His teachings and his life are an example of truth, virtue, wisdom and perseverance. The heart of Buddha’s teachings lies in our own hearts. The Dharma is based on a reliance on our own innermost Buddha nature and the wisdom of our own inherent bodhi mind. When children learn that their parents have successfully based their lives on these truths, they will learn to base their lives on them, too.

When faith is strong, compassion, generosity and wisdom rise naturally to the fore. Grateful knowledge of the immensity of life comes naturally to people who have faith, and with this knowledge comes joy. There is nothing better to give our children than this! Nothing.

When we give our children money, we do make it possible for them to enjoy life a little more than they might have without our gift. When we give them faith, however, we make it possible for them to 

understand life, and there is no greater joy than this. I hope all parents will work to teach their children the value of the Dharma. Bring them to your temples and to your BLIA meetings. Don’t leave them out. Don’t wait for them to find all over again what you already have found. “A thousand years of darkness are dispelled by a single light.”

“Light is handed down from one generation to the next. It can be multiplied a thousand times and never diminished at all.”