A Buddhist philosophical approach to awaken awareness
“The emphasis of this school is to teach the noble qualities of loving-kindness and universal responsibility. We are not trying to change these children, but to awaken and nurture their own deepest qualities – their innate sense of loving-kindness and compassion and their own natural tendency towards positive behaviour.”
What sets Daylesford Dharma School apart from other excellent schools?
“The main principles guiding the Daylesford Dharma School are the two views that are fundamental to Buddhism. They are like the two wings of a bird. On one side are the method teachings and on the other are the wisdom teachings.
The method teachings include the principles of non-harm and loving-kindness and guide the cultivation of behaviour. They form the basis of ethical behaviour and as principles, are shared in common with all other religions.
On the other side are the wisdom teachings. These teachings are particular only to Buddhism. The wisdom teachings hold with the view of interdependence. They are a tool to see how phenomena exist, especially when viewed in relationship to difficulties. They are a framework for understanding our present and unpleasant situations. The wisdom-view teachings promote the efficient use of our intelligence to overcome the difficulties, rather than to be overcome by our difficulties.
What sets the Daylesford Dharma School apart from other schools (and there are many excellent schools in existence that train the child with external skills and objectives), is the attention being paid to the inner resources of each child, without ignoring the external aspects.
If in the formative years of a child’s education, the focus is strongly on how to get ahead in this life and achieve, without the focus on inner development, then there is not much chance of these inner qualities of compassion and kindness coming to the fore. Children who fully develop their inner qualities through balanced education with attention to both inner and outer development will influence their life choices because of these qualities. Compassion is more likely to be in their motivation even when engaging in business. There is a greater chance that they will engage in ethical business development that will take into account the potential effects on the environment and the impact on others.”
Defining a Buddhist Education, Geshe Konchok Tsering, Daylesford Dharma School founder.
How is Buddhism integrated into a contemporary Australian education?
Buddhism has developed into two traditions with Theravada being the oldest canon, and the Mahayana having been developed further from these foundation teachings. The Buddha’s teachings are inclusive, allow diversity and have a fluidity that has embraced the emergence of these two major traditions. At the Dharma School we recognise these different traditions. The school founders are from the Mahayana tradition which is why many of our practices at the school reflect elements of this approach. All of the traditions of Buddhism abide in the teachings of the Buddha that originated in Northern India in about 560BCE, spreading throughout the world across the centuries until at its peak of dispersion, a third of the population of the world identified as being Buddhist.
As Buddhism took root in different countries, it adapted to different cultures without sacrificing its basic principles. This resulted in the development of several forms or basic principles. Many of these schools have now spread to the West. In our state of Victoria in Australia, we have 14 different cultural groups who follow the Buddhist tradition.
The Buddha taught from his own direct experience, and his teachings which are called the Dharma, become a guide for others to also realise that understanding and awakening. In this way the Dharma is not an ideology or a religion in the conventional sense, but rather an invitation to embark on a journey of experiential learning – that requires individual responsibility, discernment, and practice. It is this experiential inquiry approach that holds Buddhism in good stead as a model for inner development in a modern education setting, as a graduated path of mental development that can guide individuals from ignorance to full awakening. Over 2,500 years ago in India, Prince Siddhartha Gautama became a Buddha (meaning awakened or able to understand). He realised that a complete end to suffering and dissatisfaction is possible.
The Buddha recognised that despite myriad individual differences, all beings have mind that is in its nature, pure and luminous, and so all beings have the same potential for understanding and awakening. Unhelpful habits and misperceptions of a causal, everchanging and interconnected world cloud this essential quality. When the Buddha became Enlightened he found the answer to the question of why there is unhappiness and suffering in the world and these teachings became known as the 4 Noble Truths.
“I consider education to be an instrument. Whether that instrument is used rightly or wrongly depends on our basic human motivation…”
– His Holiness The Dalai Lama-
What are the Buddhist principles that are embedded in our school?
The Four Noble Truths comprise the essence of Buddha’s teachings. In our school we understand them in this way:
- The truth of suffering: suffering exists. Pleasure and happiness are fleeting, change is inevitable.
- The truth of the cause of suffering: it has a cause. In Buddhism, desire and ignorance lie at the root of suffering. If we cling to and crave pleasure, material goods, and immortality we can never be satisfied, we succumb to disappointment, fear, sadness and we suffer. If we do not see the world as it actually is, our ignorance leads to vices, such as greed, envy, hatred and anger, and we suffer.
- The truth of the end of suffering: it has an end. When one has achieved Nirvana, which is a transcendent state free from suffering and our worldly cycle of birth and rebirth, spiritual enlightenment has been reached.
- The truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering: it has a cause to bring about its end, by following The Noble Eightfold Path.
To awaken Awareness, individuals need to develop both perfect compassion and perfect understanding (wisdom). The Six Perfections offer a clear method of practising to develop these qualities. Each perfection develops a particular aspect of our mind and understanding.These qualities become our behaviors that are supported through our learning programs and our community culture, to reflect our school values.
The 6 Perfections
Generosity (charity) … adopting an attitude of giving, sharing and open-heartedness.
Morality … acting to avoid harm, from a clear sense of what is right.
Patience … developing a steady mind as an antidote to frustration and anger.
Perseverance … applying oneself with enthusiasm, despite obstacles and challenges.
Concentration … maintaining focus while seeing the whole picture.
Wisdom … probing into the nature of things, cultivating deep understanding.
Read more about how Buddhist principles are reflected in our teaching and learning program.