Proper Dharma Seal II
We live in a time of spiritual turbidity and upheaval. As morality declines day by day, the ethical values that used to provide our lives with meaning are no longer holding up. People’s hearts have become embittered with mutual distrust and treachery. Their self-centeredness has filled the entire world with fear, violence, and crime.
Many people who lived through World War II and the Great Depression suffered great hardships, and, to this day, still cling tightly to the views they formed then and the fears they acquired, and they strive to fulfill themselves through material enjoyments. Unfortunately, this has led to advocating abandonment to sensual pleasures and self-seeking; very few people even entertain the notion of truly serving and benefitting their fellow beings.
The United States is still a relatively young country in the community of nations, and yet, because of its prosperity and technological advancements, it has ascended to the role of being a leading nation in the world. Americans emphasize freedom and advocate Human Rights. These ideals were pure and wholesome to begin with, but in the ensuing centuries, the concepts have been warped and interpretations of them are often unwholesome. To interpret freedom to mean unchecked indulgence in one’s whims and fancies, doing whatever one wants to do, and in general flowing along with desire, is to misinterpret the original intent of freedom. But in this day and age, such self-indulgent beliefs prevail and important concerns like the universal obligations that should be honored among human beings are ignored entirely. The duties of the five basic relationships between society and citizen, between parent and child, between husband and wife, between elder and younger siblings, and between friends, are considered antiquated and inapplicable. In the absence of a firm foundation in the moral structure, social relationships collapse, as we daily witness in the high divorce rate, the astounding increase in the number of broken homes, child abuse, abortions, juvenile delinquency, vandalism, and other social problems which cause a general unrest throughout the country.
Most of the youth of America, in particular, need to develop a sense of filial respect. Right now, they do not recognize the need to repay their parents’ deep kindness in raising them. Such young people misunderstand “freedom” and misuse their “rights”. It never occurs to them to make constructive contributions to help benefit their own country and world at large. In this age of prolonged television-viewing, youngsters learn about computer software, discos, hot cars, and such, but rarely, if ever, are they confronted with qualities like filiality, loyalty, beneficence, righteousness, and other essential virtues which are vital to and should be intrinsic in human value systems. Parents who indulge their children’s whims and educational systems which cater to students instead of assuming the responsibility to educate them are seriously undermining the moral fiber of our future society.
Actually, a close look at the word “freedom” will show us that the very concept itself precludes causing any harm or obstruction to our fellow beings. True freedom is wholesome, self-contained, righteous, and unselfish. It does not derive its strength from the blood and pain of others. But now, children are brought up to see “freedom” as another way of saying. “everything and anything goes.” They are encouraged to abuse it before they ever get a chance to appreciate its foundation or to learn to use it wisely and properly.
Each child is like a block of uncarved jade. Just as hidden within the uncarved block is the potential of an exquisite jade vessel, so too, hidden within every child’s make-up is the potential to be an outstanding individual and a future leader of the world. What the lapidary does to the uncarved block depends on his taste and craftsmanship. What we as adults do to the innocent untapped minds of the young is up to our moral discretion. If we fall short of an uncompromising, decisive, and correct choice of the form and content in our children’s education, it is to be feared our failure will result in a generation of dissipated and purposeless youth, and ultimately in the demolition of the things that made this nation great.
In educating children, parents and teachers should not condone unbridled, unrestrained “freedom,” letting children develop whatever way they feel like. Rather, parents and teachers should cooperate and work closely in developing constructive teaching methods and educational aids which foster positive attitudes in children and which provide them with strong moral foundations. Only then do they have a chance to grow up to be responsible individuals and world-citizens. There is an old Chinese maxim that goes,
To provide food but no teaching,
Would be a mistake on the part of a parent.
To teach without discipline,
Would be laziness on the part of the teacher.
-Three Character Classic
To bring children into the world, and then not do a decent job of preparing them to face the critical situation which exists in the world, is surely an irresponsible act on the part of parents! To take in the children of others and fail to educate them with the proper moral codes is a failure on the part of educators.
Buddhists adhere to the five precepts, the fundamental moral rules that the Buddha so compassionately set forth to teach us how to be human. The five precepts prohibit killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and taking intoxicants (which include alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes). Those who truly uphold the five precepts definitely embody the qualities of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and honesty. A person who is truly benevolent will not take the life of any creature. One who is righteous will not steal. One who has a sense of propriety will not have illicit sexual relationships. One who is wise will not deal in intoxicants that confuse the brain. And one who is honest will not lie. In this age of confusion, the five precepts are the life-saving raft that can hold us above the flood and take us across to the shore of wisdom and enlightenment.
To counter world-wide degeneration, we must take vigorous measures to rectify the education of the youth. We must find ways to instill in them proper knowledge and views. Only with a sound moral training, deep understanding, and careful regard for the laws of cause and effect will young people begin to fathom the implications of true freedom, and unerringly apply the benefits of their basic rights to helping all humankind.