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Family and Relationships : Children

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche at various locations (Last Updated Aug 13, 2009)

Educating Children

Dedication for Alice Project
Rinpoche gave the following dedication for Alice Project, a research project for the education of children and teachers, with schools in Sarnath and Bodhgaya, India.

May the supreme thought of the fully awakened mind be achieved in oneself and family members, and in the hearts of numberless human beings, animals, pretas, narak, asura and sura beings. In particular in this country, this city, in the children of Alice Project and in the kind staff here, without one second of delay.

May the kind staff, the precious kind principal of Alice Project, and the kind students have a meaningful and beneficial long life with inner happiness and peace. May everyone from this school cause happiness to all sentient beings—not only mundane happiness of this life, this short life, but also in all their future lives, and especially ultimate happiness, liberation from the oceans of samsaric sufferings, for narak, preta, human, asura, sura and animal beings.

Especially to achieve the fully awakened mind, peerless happiness, eliminating all suffering and achieving the complete accomplishment of all the realizations by having generated the precious bodhicitta, the supreme thought of enlightenment, in the hearts of living beings, in particular in India, in this city, in this school.

May no one experience global warming effects, economic difficulties, problems of disease, war, dangers of fire, water and tsunamis, etc. May this world be filled with peace and happiness. May everyone live their lives benefiting others, giving no harm. Whatever we do, may it only become the cause of happiness for others and bring full awakening. May all of us, by just being here in this universe, country, city and area, bring the cause of happiness to others.


Buddhist Schools
Rinpoche discussed starting Buddhist schools and monasteries in India, with an Indian-born monk serving there. The monk told Rinpoche that another monk attending a course in Bodhgaya had said that there was too much politics in Bodhgaya, and that a monastery or training center for monks should he started elsewhere.

A Buddhist school is very necessary, with Buddhist education, but open to anybody. Please start with this project in Bodhgaya. One should do this work where there are the most problems, where there is lots of violence. That is where we should provide education in how to have a good heart.

A monastery in Bodhgaya would be good. Ladakhi monks from Geshe Tegchok’s khamsen at Sera could help teach the monks in Hindi. One can get monk teachers from the three monasteries in the south, no problem. After Bodhgaya, then, of course, there can be schools and monasteries in Maharashta state1 and in Gujarat state, where there is so much Hindu-Muslim violence.

Once the parents of children are willing and satisfied, then we can educate those children in the Buddhist way. It depends on the parents’ consent. This is very important.

A school for Universal Education is good, but in a country where Buddhism flourished, and which is the home of Buddha, there is no problem in having a Buddhist school, with Buddhist teachings, in addition to the normal curriculum.

Notes:  1 A state in central India that is home to many Ambedkar (or neo-) Buddhists.


Best Education for Children
Rinpoche met with a nun to discuss the best way to educate children.

To educate children is extremely important. There are two places where children should be educated: one is at school, and the other is at home, by the parents. They should be educated in a good heart and tolerance, to have compassion, and be kind to others. These are the basic good qualities of human minds, so parents have a big responsibility.

Otherwise, without this education, it is like giving birth to the children to suffer. The children will have a life full of suffering, and they will also cause so much suffering, torture to their parents, and also to other people. They can cause other sentient beings so many problems with their untamed minds, without a good heart, and a sense of universal responsibility.

If the parents want their children to be kind to them, they have to teach them how to have a good heart. If the children have tolerance and compassion toward other beings, other beings will love them and help them. This way they will have a good heart, which makes them happy, and then from being happy, they will have more space in their mind to be kind to others, and this makes others happy.

The stronger influence out of parents or school is the parents, because that’s where they spend more time, and there, the way of teaching is by example. In school, you learn by the head but not by the heart.

What is needed is education for both parents and children in having a good heart.

Advice to Schoolchildren
Rinpoche visited the school run by the FPMT in Bodhgaya for Indian children, and gave this advice to the schoolchildren.

You should think of getting an education, going to school, to be able to benefit all living beings.  


Buddhist School
Rinpoche had some discussions with a student about a school that was supposed to be run according to Buddhist principles. The student reported that not all the children’s parents were Buddhist, and that the school was trying not to be too overt about the Buddhist principles they were teaching. The school was having financial difficulties, and there was concern about losing students. She also asked whether Rinpoche was happy with the school in general, and whether she should continue helping to manage it.

The school should have very clear objectives. It is different from a general school, and what makes it special is that its main objective is to bring up children with kindness and to raise them to be kinder, more loving, and compassionate toward others. The aim is to develop a thought of universal responsibility, so that each child feels responsible for every living being’s happiness and peace. The object is for each child to become a source a peace and happiness for every living being. That is the whole aim of the school.

In this way, when the children have this great quality of a human mind, a good heart, they don’t give harm to others. All other living beings do not receive harm from them, and that absence of harm means they receive peace and happiness from those children. On top of this, the more the children develop, the more peace and happiness they bring to others. Others can receive the peace and happiness of this life from them, and the peace and happiness of future lives as well, up to the highest happiness: liberation from all suffering and its causes. That means the children can bring so much peace into this world, into other universes, in this and in future lives, by continually developing a good heart. Besides bringing peace and happiness to their own country, their own area, and own family, the children can bring great peace and happiness to other countries, areas, and families.

It is OK if there are parents who don’t have an interest in Buddhism and they want to take their children out of the school. You are trying to develop the rest of the children more deeply, and you couldn’t if those parents were blocking you. It would block the development of the children’s inner wisdom and good heart. If you explain it in this way, there should be no negative reaction due to a child leaving the school.

Alternatively, you could give less Buddhist instruction to those children whose parents are not Buddhist, and teach the rest in a fuller way. This would allow the other children to stay in the school.

If the objectives of the school are very clear, people will be happy to offer the school financial help.

Educating Children
An American student asked Rinpoche about working in a school and he gave the following advice on educating children.

The idea for Universal Education was founded by my master Lama Yeshe, together with Connie, a nun. Connie is a teacher and enjoys working with children. The objective of a school is to bring up children so that they come to have a compassionate nature, and to have the quality of loving kindness in their minds, so that they grow up with the thought of universal responsibility. They need to have the idea, “I have the responsibility to free others from their problems” and grow up having these qualities. That stops them from giving harm to others; they only benefit others. If we develop the mind in this life, then life to life, as the mind continues, of course it affects our future lives. So, from life to life there is benefit. The children are able to benefit all sentient beings, to bring them to liberation and enlightenment. Many people will not understand this, but this is our goal: to create less causes of suffering and to create more causes for happiness. It brings peace and happiness to the family, country, society, and world.

There is so much violence in the world. In Florida, for example, in recent years, there was a shooting involving a child in a school. And in Columbia, where we have a Dharma center, there are a lot of murders, all the time. What has been missed out in the schools is teaching loving kindness and compassion. Even though the children learn many things, these precious qualities are missed out. By having these qualities, then they only benefit others. For example, look at Osama Bin Laden. His Holiness the Dalai Lama says that Bin Laden is incredibly intelligent, but this increases the harm that he gives. We do not want it to be like that. We want intelligence to only to be of benefit. There is so much violence in schools, and it is difficult for the teachers to control the children. And there are too many drugs available. So, Universal Education is not offered.

There are three main points to Universal Education. First is to develop a good heart. We will supply books explaining how to develop a good heart. Secondly, we will teach inspiring life stories, from different religions or from no religion, using anyone who is an example of compassion in this world, such as Gandhi or St. Francis. Also, we will include the stories of Buddha’s previous lives, such as when he was a bodhisattva offering charity to sentient beings with his possessions and with his body. So, there are different things to teach. We could perform these life stories in the form of theater, so that the children have those beings as their model. If they are able to have these beings as their models, then it will be very beneficial.

A mother has to bear great hardships for her child. She has to sacrifice many things. She has a lot of pain during childbirth, and she has to make many sacrifices day and night to look after a child. She can’t rest, is always changing the child’s diaper and bearing so many hardships for the child. As the child grows up there are many disturbances for the parents. They put many years into the child’s education, and then into its career. The parents give food, clothing, and education. If children take inspiring beings as their role models, then all the parents’ work will have been worthwhile. I advise people to make a plan for the child’s life before having a child. Then the child can bring benefits to the world.

The third main part of universal education is philosophy: to develop a deeper understanding about the mind. This will be taken mostly from the Buddha’s teachings that explain about the mind. There will be simple subjects and more complex subjects. One time when was reading a book on Western psychology I looked for a definition of mind, and I could not find it. In a Tibetan text, a child could find a definition of mind.

So, like a scientist looking for details of atoms etc., we will be making an investigation of the aspects of the mind. However, unless Highest Yoga Tantra is studied, you don’t get a complete understanding of the mind. The subtle mind is only explained by tantra. Sutra explains about the gross mind, but not about the subtle mind. The negative mind is like a poisonous seed that can only produce poisonous fruit. Mainly, we will focus on Buddha’s philosophy, but we will also introduce Hindu and other philosophy. It will be universal. These are the three main points to Universal Education.

The other areas are optional. They are to help beings solve problems. The first of these is feng shui; the second is healing; the third is yoga; the fourth is astrology, to solve problems by doing things at the correct time; and the fifth is psychology. There can be many more, but what makes all of this special is the good heart.

We are in the process of publishing books and training teachers. The main task is teacher training. Then we will begin with one school in the East and one in the West, perhaps in places where there is a lot of violence, such as Columbia. We already have a school in California, at the retreat center Land of Medicine Buddha. It is called Tara Redwood School, and has been going for about three years. The aim is to develop compassion and be kind, for example, to not harm insects, and other animals.

In India we have a Universal Education school in Bihar state in northern India. I think it is the poorest area in India. There are many acts of violence and killing in this state. For some reason, the children needed to go to another school to take their examinations. The children went to the other school and found it to be very rough. When they returned to their own school, they found it so peaceful. Even though the school has only just started, there is so much more peace. Now, the idea is to start many branches in the area and then to have these schools in other countries.

According to my observations, it would be very good if you can be involved in Universal Education. You could start a school here and organize it. We can send you materials and you can make suggestions. If it is successful, then it can help the US, other countries, and the rest of the world.

Often in this life, when you meet beings for the first time, they seem very kind, but there is no continuation of this. After some time they become the opposite. In order to not become like that, there are certain vows we can take. There are the 16 human dharmas to help achieve this. To achieve liberation from samsara there are the Pratimoksa vows; to achieve enlightenment there are the bodhisattva vows; and to achieve enlightenment quickly there are tantric vows.

We must practice kindness not only with humans but with animals and all beings. We must also practice tolerance, not harming others. World Wars I and II occurred because of not having tolerance. Another practice for this life is forgiveness. This is very important, because if somebody says something that you don’t like, then you feel angry and relationship problems can develop. This makes you suffer pain, because you are not practicing forgiveness. If you feel forgiveness, then you don’t hold a grudge. There was a woman in the US whose child was kidnapped and murdered. Despite this, she showed forgiveness to the man who did it. It was the most difficult thing to bear, but she offered forgiveness. There was also a man who was shot twice by a sniper, but he didn’t wish for the sniper to be killed.

Rejoicing is also an important thing in this life. When we see someone has a beautiful car or house, then we should think, “How wonderful. How happy I am that they have found this happiness.” When someone who wants children has a child, when someone looking for a friend finds a friend, when someone has success in business or wins the lottery; whenever any good thing happens, we should rejoice. Each time that you rejoice you collect merit. By planting a small seed of merit, a huge tree follows. Rejoicing becomes the means for success. In this life and future lives everyone will be kind to you. Kindness to others looks simple but the results are huge.

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