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A Study on the Pedagogy of Buddha Shakyamuni

2009年04月01日 11:39:00 佛教在线 点击:0

Bhikku Musang Pobhyun

Head, interchange-cooperation, Taego Order, Korea


 Table of Contents

1. Buddha as an Educator
2. Why was the Teaching necessary?
3. In What Posture the Teaching was given?
4. What was taught?
5. What Educational Method was used?
     1) Non-verbal Teaching
     2) Verbal Teaching
        (1) sutra
        (2) geya
        (3) gatha
        (4) nidana
        (5) itivrttaka
        (6) jataka
        (7) adbhutadharma
        (8) avadana
        (9) upadesa
        (10) udana
        (11) vaipulya
        (12) vyakarana
6. Summary

Key words: pedagogy    non-verbal teaching    verbal teaching    upaya

1.  Buddha as an Educator

Born 2600 years ago in India, Buddha Shakyamuni was best educated by selected scholars and teachers for all the curricula needed as a prince. After leaving home to seek the path to enlightenment, he looked for the best teachers and learned from them. But he was not satisfied with what he had learned, and found his own way and attained enlightenment.

In the 80 years of his life, he spent 35 years in the preparation for enlightenment, and after his realization, devoted the rest 45 years for delivering the people, that is, educating the people. In short, he devoted all his life to education. His willingness to educate people is more than a wonder. Regardless of location, time and people, he taught them to deliver the truth. Sometimes, he didn't care about his own health and illness. Even at the last  moment of his life, he gave a solemn and careful lesson. After thousands years, the impressive last scene makes his modern followers reconsider their attitude and their life as a whole.

Worrying over the losing of their leader, the beloved disciple, Ananda, asked his teacher, "Whom should we rely on when Bhagavan has gone?" Upon listening to the serious question, Buddha answered in a devout posture, "You should rely on nothing except yourself and the Dharma." This is the important teaching well-known as "Be a lamp unto yourself, and use the Dharma as your lamp", listed in Nirvana Sutra.  A lamp is useful when walking in the dark night. Buddha teaches that one should rely on oneself and the Dharma to navigate the breakneck road of life. The original word 'island' was replaced with 'lamp' in the course of Chinese translation to consult the Chinese taste. For the navigators in the high seas or the survivors of a ship-wreck, it is surely a great relief to find an island to drop anchor and rest.

We can appreciate and understand the meaning of 'island' in the original sutra. However, in the deep inland of China, the situation was different. The expression 'lamp' must had been more appealing to the Chinese feeling. The substitution by 'lamp' should be considered as a decision out of an educational concern.  Buddha also requested his disciples to abide by the precepts provided for them, and to keep vigilance throughout their lives. Then he passed away form this world.

2.  Why was the Teaching necessary?

When Buddha was once asked why he came to this world,  he answered his disciple. "Tathagata (Thus Come One) has come to this world for the Great Enterprise of Causality (一大事因缘): To open the Buddha-Wisdom (开), to teach it to the people (示), to get them enlightened to the Wisdom (悟), and to let them be in the Buddha World(入).”  This is a famous story in the Lotus Sutra.

The meaning is clear when the word  'Tathagata' is substituted by 'teacher' in the following story to express the same in another way. Suppose that a pupil in the elementary school asks his teacher, "Why are you remaining in school after you have graduated?" The teacher answers, "I teach you the lessons I had learned so that you may have as much knowledge as I have now. That's the reason I remain in school after I have graduated from it." The story suggests why Buddha is teaching. The goal of Buddhist education is the same, to enhance the quality of the living beings' mentality up to the World of Buddha, like the elementary school teacher aiming at elevating the pupil's intellectual capacity. The teacher should have self-esteem in that he is educating the staff in the industrial fields and even in the educational institutions. In Buddhism, such a figure is called Bodhisattva.

3.  In What Posture the Teaching was given

After enlightenment, Buddha taught his disciples the Middle Way (中道) and Four Noble Truth for the first time. Watching them grow for a while, he taught them how to educate people.

"You attained liberation (解脱) now. Therefore, please go on a mission work to propagate the truth for the benefit of people and their comfort. When you visit a village, it should not happen that two of you visit the same place. You should be compassionate to the people and accept them. Teach them the truth in a reasonable way so that they may understand it correctly. In the course of mission work, the first part should be good, and the middle part should be good, and the last part should be good." ‘佛本行集经’

The advice that not two men go to the same place was to deliver the truth to as many people as possible. Buddha's teaching, 'Go alone like the horn of a rhinoceros' is conducive to the above proclamation of mission. It is interesting to find that Jesus Christ told to go in pair, but Buddha told his disciples to perform mission work alone. Buddha was convinced that his disciples realized the truth as he had and wanted them to deliver the truth to many people. On the other hand, Jesus thought that one man may fail to bring back his memories or, fail to give enough explanation on the truth. In that case his companion could supplement him and cooperate with the mission works.

Even more important point in the Buddha's proclamation of mission is, "In the course of mission work, the first part should be good, the middle part should be good, and the last part should be good." Buddha didn't believe in the slogan, 'If the end is good, all's good.' Buddha thought the process of mission project is as important as the result.  Further, the teacher's art of linguistic sense, facial expression count.

There is a teaching on this theme in the Lotus Sutra ‘法华经 法师品’.“When you teach people, enter the room of Tathagata, and dress yourself in Tathagata's apparel, and take the seat of Tathagata. (入如来室著如来依坐如来座).” To enter the room of Tathagata means to treat all living beings with great compassion. To dress in Tathagata's apparel means to have a gentle and cooperative mind and patience. To take the seat of Tathagata means to deliver message in the spirit of the Emptiness (Sunyata, 空) that there is no real substance in the ephemeral beings.

Buddha described the ideal image of a teacher as follows. First, the teacher should love his students equally. Second, the teacher is expected to use gentle expressions and in patience, regardless of the status of the students. Third, the teacher should prepare himself with useful knowledge and information, and take efforts to collect them.





















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