Gautama Buddha (c. 563 BCE or 480 BCE)
The mustard seed
During Buddha’s time, there lived a woman named Kisa Gotami. She married young and gave birth to a son. One day, the baby fell sick and died soon after. Kisa Gotami loved her son greatly and refused to believe that her son was dead. She carried the body of her son around her village, asking if there was anyone who can bring her son back to life.
The villagers all saw that the son was already dead and there was nothing that could be done. They advised her to accept his death and make arrangements for the funeral.
In great grief, she fell upon her knees and clutched her son’s body close to her body. She kept uttering for her son to wake up.
A village elder took pity on her and suggested to her to consult the Buddha.
“Kisa Gotami. We cannot help you. But you should go to the Buddha. Maybe he can bring your son back to life!”
She immediately went to the Buddha’s residence and pleaded for him to bring her son back to life.
“Kisa Gotami, I have a way to bring your son back to life.”
“My Lord, I will do anything to bring my son back”
“If that is the case, then I need you to find me something. Bring me a mustard seed but it must be taken from a house where no one residing in the house has ever lost a family member. Bring this seed back to me and your son will come back to life.”
Kisa Gotami went from house to house, trying to find the mustard seed.
At the first house, a young woman offered to give her some mustard seeds. But when Kisa Gotami asked if she had ever lost a family member to death, the young women said her grandmother died a few months ago.
She moved on to the 2nd house. A husband died a few years. The 3rd house lost an uncle and the 4th house lost an aunt. She kept moving from house to house but the answer was all the same – every house had lost a family member to death.
Kisa Gotami finally came to realise that there is no one in the world who had never lost a family member to death. She now understood that death is inevitable and a natural part of life.
Putting aside her grief, she buried her son in the forest. Shen then returned to the Buddha and became his follower.
Shirley Jackson (1916-1965)
What is lacking in the existing education systems? Let’s see what a grandfather from Richmond, Canada had to say.
I try very hard not to walk this particular dark path, but there are times when I am overcome by a deep despair when I assess the kind of social, economic, and environmental legacies we will be leaving for my two grandsons.
They have come into a world which is rapidly becoming dangerously overcrowded, where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening, rather than diminishing, where the health of the natural environment continues to be compromised and unchecked growth and industrialization is depleting our natural resources at a frightening rate, and where ideological, religious, political and cultural divisiveness and conflict continues unabated.
Their young minds are bombarded by media and cultural messages telling them that the obsessive accumulation of wealth and one’s capacity for conspicuous consumption are more important measuring sticks of a person’s character and worth to society than their capacities for empathy, sympathy, generosity, or compassion, and they are learning far too early that there might not be logical or justifiable reasons to believe that our political, business, or religious leaders are either trustworthy or altruistic, or are interested in attending to anything other than their own ambitions and needs.
My grandsons are experiencing a culture that is working hard at trying to convince itself that happiness and fulfillment can only be achieved through the use of miniature technological devices, binary-code applications, and/or the consumption of particular products.
And they are passing through narrowly focused education systems that have less to do with the promotion of learning than they do with social engineering and the actualization of the goals of particular political/social/religious ideologies.
It is impossible to imagine what skills my grandsons will need to develop in order to eventually secure a decent life for themselves or even survive in the world they will be living in — I only know that given the evidence of our refusal to dramatically alter our priorities and behaviours they will have to have a lot more adaptability, flexibility, perspicacity, and resilience than was and is the case for those generations that have come before them.
We obviously continue to evolve technologically, but I see the question of whether or not our moral and ethical evolutions have kept pace with our technological growth as being the more important issue. This is the legacy I think about as I watch my grandsons learn about the world around them.
It has everything to do with how they grow and behave as human beings and very little to do with how quickly they can type a message with their thumbs or accumulate wealth.
Drug dealer ethics
One of my enlightened students:
“4 years ago I was making money from illegal activities. When I started I didn’t have much money and thought that if I had money I would be happy. When I got money, I wasn’t happy. Nothing made me happy at that time. I knew the consequences of my action, I have wrecked many people’s lives and understand it now, more clearly. I was a selfish human being, with nothing to look forward to except more money. After I got arrested, I was still ignorant. They put me in a concrete cell with nothing but a bench, a toilet and toilet paper. It was far different from what I was used to. At night when I went to sleep, I had to use the toilet paper bundle as a pillow. It was very nerve wracking with no freedom. My life flashed past me, I wondered to myself… Where did I go wrong? I had a normal childhood, I had everything. Why did I do what I did? Then I came to the conclusion ‘What did I do?’ and felt shame. I was looking at myself as just an individual. I was only out there for myself. I did not know of the consequences and pain it would cause to others around me. I didn’t care if I died back then. But if I died it would affect all the others around me… my mother, my father, my brother, and all those people who I called ‘friends’. After that episode in my life I lost everything. My car, money, and people who I thought were ‘friends’ . I realized how vulnerable I was. I thought to myself compared to what I was then, I am nothing (now)… I now realize that I have myself, what I had before… without all of the materialistic stuff. At first I felt shame because I didn’t have anything, but all that is beginning to change. [underlining added] I am looking for a new chapter in my life now. I feel as though I needed philosophy when I was younger. Then perhaps my life would have been different?”
Your student xxx.