How are Buddhist principles reflected in our teaching and learning program?
Buddhist principles are embedded in all aspects of our teaching and learning program and underpin all student welfare and engagement.
Our focus is on building and revealing the inner qualities of each child – their compassion, kindness, generosity, wisdom and ethical responsibility to others and our environment – as well as on the physical, social and academic elements in the Australian Curriculum.
At the centre of our curriculum is our Awareness program which permeates all that we do as well as having specific topics, daily practices and approaches to model and promote Buddhist principles while building the inner qualities of our children.
“The human heart is basically very compassionate, but without wisdom, compassion will not work. Wisdom is the openness that lets us see what is essential and most effective.”
-Venerable Khandro Rinpoche-
What is the Awareness program?
“Awareness” is the name given to the many parts of our program inspired by Buddhist philosophy and practice that sets us aside from other schools in what we teach, the way we teach and the way we interact with and respond to our students, parents, teachers and the wider community.
Whilst Awareness is taught explicitly for the first half hour of each day, Awareness is also taught across the day through incidental teaching and moments of mindfulness throughout the day. It has many interconnected components.
5 Mindful Precepts (Mindfulness Trainings)
As part of the Buddhist approach of the Dharma School, we as a community, make a commitment to practice the 5 Mindful Precepts or Mindfulness Trainings, that were developed by the Buddha. The purpose of the precepts is to give an ethical and moral framework, by inviting people to follow these guidelines to develop mind and character and to ensure a harmonious community.
Thich Nhat Hanh has renamed the concept of the precepts as The Five Mindfulness Trainings. As explained below:
“The Five Mindfulness Trainings are one of the most concrete ways to practice mindfulness. They are nonsectarian, and their nature is universal. They are true practices of compassion and understanding. All spiritual traditions have their equivalent to the Five Mindfulness Trainings.
The first training is to protect life, to decrease violence in oneself, in the family and in society. The second training is to practice social justice, generosity, not stealing and not exploiting other living beings. The third is the practice of responsible sexual behavior in order to protect individuals, couples, families and children. The fourth is the practice of deep listening and loving speech to restore communication and reconcile. The fifth is about mindful consumption, to help us not bring toxins and poisons into our body or mind.
The Five Mindfulness Trainings are based on the precepts developed during the time of the Buddha to be the foundation of practice for the entire lay practice community. With mindfulness, we are aware of what is going on in our bodies, our feelings, our minds and the world, and we avoid doing harm to ourselves and others. Mindfulness protects us, our families and our society. When we are mindful, we can see that by refraining from doing one thing, we can prevent another thing from happening. We arrive at our own unique insight. It is not something imposed on us by an outside authority.
Practicing the mindfulness trainings, therefore, helps us be more calm and concentrated, and brings more insight and enlightenment.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
To make these precepts more appropriate and translatable to children, the language of the precepts is expressed using different language that is more appropriate for this young age group.
Reverence for Life (Consider Not Killing)
Generosity (Not taking what has not been given)
Body Responsibility (No sexual misconduct)
Deep Listening and Loving Speech (Not telling lies)
Mindful Consumption (Not drinking alcohol)
Our philosophy In the classroom
When teachers see children’s behaviour as “bad” or “wrong” and the child as inherently “naughty” or “mean”, this leads to ideas of punishment and correction. However, when the behaviour is viewed through a Buddhist lens and seen as resulting from causes and conditions in their immediate environment, and a response born out of ignorance rather than a malicious choice, then the teacher’s response can be based on loving kindness and can be to redirect, guide and help the child to reflect on and improve their chosen response in future. When the teacher genuinely believes in the inherent goodness of every child, even when the behaviour is undesirable, a positive result is easier to achieve.
When teachers are aware of their own flaws in mood, in thinking, in behaviour, they are more able to identify the causes and conditions they may have created which contributed to children making poor choices. For example, when a teacher is rushed, ill prepared, distracted, ill at ease, quick to judge, and so on, their response to the child may be too short, too sharp, harsh etc. This may lead to the children being agitated, noisy, distracting, withdrawn, and so on. This mindful awareness is practised throughout all levels in our school and guides our reflection and response in a situation, to help us to navigate difficulties with a calm mind and to choose wise, skilful words and actions.
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness throughout our school is linked to two core skills: self-regulation and self-awareness. Skills in these areas teach our learning community not only how to recognize their thoughts, emotions, and actions, but also how to react to them in positive ways.
Mindfulness happens when teachers and students simply pay attention to the experiences of paying attention. Mindfulness helps develop awareness by supporting emotion management, reducing stress and disciplining the mind. Practicing this awareness helps us develop the skill of paying attention in the present moment and learning to see what is truly happening in our present situation, allowing us to come up with better solutions to problems that arise and to find true joy within our community. This practice provides many physical and psychological benefits and is a central part of our philosophical approach.
Buddhadasa, B 1988, Mindfulness with breathing: unveiling the secrets of life (a manual for serious beginners), The Dhamma Study and Practice Group, Bangkok.
Murthy, KK 1966, ‘Dharma – its etymology’, The Tibet Journal, vol. XXI, no. 1, pp. 84-7.
Narada, T 1988, The Buddha and his teachings, revised edn, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy Sri Lanka
Rahula, W 1978, What the Buddha taught, first paperback edn, The Gordon Fraser Gallery Ltd., London.