Turning the Wheel of the Dharma

Caring for children, and a very special long life practice


Two teachings given by the Venerable Thupten Rinpoche at the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre, 15 September and 6 October 1996. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was in Dunedin on 13 September, consecrating the stupa for Gen Rinpoche, and giving a public talk to a large gathering in the Town Hall. Thupten Rinpoche's first teaching below mentions both of these. From 19 September to 1 October, Thupten Rinpoche and many members of the Centre were in Sydney for the Kalachakra Initiation given by His Holiness. Thupten Rinpoche's second teaching refers to this.
Caring for Children
Sunday 15 September 1996
This morning before I talk about topics that I think would be beneficial for our minds, I have two important things to tell you. As you all know, only two days ago the stupa was consecrated by His Holiness and what a wonderful time it was for everybody. The successful conclusion of our efforts was blessed by the consecration by His Holiness, but that conclusion would not have happened if everybody had not contributed. Everybody gave their best effort, their time and energy. I'm extreme-ly grateful to all who have given their best and I would like to say thank you very much, from the bottom of my heart.
It was not just the completion of a stupa. In fact the stupa that is now on the site has far exceeded my expectations in terms of standard and quality. The high quality and standard of the stupa is due entirely to the vision and the skill of the people involved. Here I would like to say that Ani Chödrön and Dieter were outstanding in their dauntless vision. Although I do sometimes regard myself as someone who is courageous, nevertheless when plans for the stupa went beyond my estimation I started feeling a bit discouraged and was daunted by the task before us. But Ani Chödrön and Dieter said, "Don't you worry, things will come together." And they not only said it but they also worked very hard, and things did come together. This really verifies a Tibetan saying which goes: "If you have courage the size of a mountain the result will also be the size of a mountain." I thought that was quite true and how fitting the adage was. So to them I want to say "Thank you very much," and I am saying it from the bottom of my heart. And it's not just me: I say thank you on behalf of Gen Rinpoche as well.
"... With a kind heart and a sense of mercy and compassion, no matter how dreadful and how deadly the opponent may be, and how wild the other side may be, one can always exert a positive impact on them through kind heart."
As good fortune would have it, on the very day that the stupa was finally completed and adorned with the consecration by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, on that day His Holiness announced to me that Gen Rinpoche's reincarnation has already been conceived. That is obviously very happy news for all of us. There is every reason for celebration and happiness and joy. However I would like to say that we still need to pray for Gen Rinpoche's quick return. He's only in the womb and is due to be born soon. We need to pray that his birth is quite smooth and that everything goes well after he is born. I will fix a day of offerings and puja so that any obstacles that there are for the correct identification of the reincarnation be removed.
I've announced these two pieces of good news at the beginning to start things on a joyful note, knowing that they will make everyone extremely happy.
Now for the actual topic this morning.
First of all I'd like to say that we must always try to recollect the talk His Holiness gave in the Town Hall last Friday. In previous Sunday meditation classes I have laid a lot of emphasis on the need to shape one's own mind, transform one's own heart. His Holiness verified the importance of a good heart and peace of mind. He said that even from the point of view of health, good health is dependent on a good heart and actual peace of mind. For the general public he could only relate good heart and peace of mind from the point of view of their significance to health. He couldn't go beyond that in a talk to the general public. For others like ourselves who claim to be practitioners, followers of Buddhist religious spirituality, kind heart and peace of mind are the foundation of spiritual growth and development. With kind heart and a sense of mercy and compassion, no matter how dreadful and how deadly the opponent may be, and how wild the other side may be, one can always exert a positive impact on them through kind heart. In this connection the great Tibetan master Sakya Pandita has said, "The soft can make the soft softer, and the soft can soften the rough and the raw; whereas the raw and rough will only make the rough and raw even more rough and raw and will also make the peace-ful and gentle rough." Therefore it is very important to have a genuine, gentle and kind attitude, and to be very peaceful.
"... The human mind, in fact the minds of all living beings, is by nature neutral, soft and gentle. The roughness, aggression and cruelty that beings exhibit is entirely conditioned by constant exposure to a rough environment and rough behaviour."
Last night perhaps some of you saw a wildlife programme on television about apes. It was said that apes are really quite rough but when humans show kindness and love to them they respond in the same way. This clearly shows that when you show kindness and love to others and care for others, they will be touched by love and kindness and you will receive the same sort of reaction in return. One can draw lessons about the importance and significance of kindness even from television shows like that. We shouldn't just watch them because they are interesting and fascinating: we should try to draw some lessons as well.
Another point that His Holiness touched upon was about how to make people's minds kind and soft and peaceful. He said that one way to go about that was to set examples of kindness and peacefulness in one's own lifestyle to the younger generation, the future generation, in our own homes and at school. I have been a teacher in various Tibetan schools and have spent a great deal of my life with children, dealing with children, and I have some knowledge about it based on experience. I have experienced and seen for myself that children who have a rough upbringing at home, or who have experienced occasional roughness or unhappy incidents, also manifest roughness at school. However if the teachers are quick to notice this and try to interact with these children in a kind and caring way, things change. There used to be one child who was a really difficult child to deal with. He didn't have any sense of fear or respect for any Indian teachers. Let alone teachers, he didn't even bother to respect the Principal of the school. However the child was there in the school to be educated and trained, to be prepared for his life in the future, and I had to take responsibility. So I intervened and I dealt with him in a most peaceful way. It had a tremendous impact on him, so that he would listen to whatever I said. That clearly shows that when someone like this boy realizes that there is someone who cares for them, looks after them and is kind to them, they naturally respond in the same way. He was a hard case, but at the same time he was hard-working, so I wanted him to change. I had already shown him kindness and love and he had responded to that, but I wanted him to change further and so I wanted to give him a position of responsibility. I thought of appointing him the head boy of the entire school. But that would have annoyed other children who would have said, "How come such a bad boy has been appointed to the head of the school?" In order to avoid the appearance of prejudice by me towards this boy, I managed to appoint him the prefect of a house in Tibetan schools children are put into different houses. When he was elevated to a position of responsibility, the weight of responsibility touched him and he changed tremendously. So when His Holiness was talking about how the young need to be nurtured by love, kindness and a peaceful environment both at home and at school, it reminded me of the experience I had with this boy.
We need to remember His Holiness' talk and in order to bring about change in future generations we need to raise children in kindness and love. In order for that to take place it goes without saying that parents need to show constant love and care and provide a peaceful environment for their children at home. On top of that I feel that what would help children is, as far as is practicable or possible, to have them avoid watching violent TV shows. When they see aggression and violence on television, it really hardens their mind and consciousness. That constant exposure to violence and aggression can harden people's hearts and minds, can be illustrated by two instances: young police recruits, and seasoned police who have been in the service for some time. When young recruits see a bloody scene they feel very upset and are not able to cope with it because it is quite new to them. But for policemen and women who have been in the service for some time it is a matter of fact for them: they don't seem to be much disturbed or moved by violent scenes. If this happens with adults it must happen with the young. I felt that it is very important that we all note these finer points.
Likewise it is bad for young minds to read books which deal with violence, aggression and murder etc. In the beginning children are quite frightened by such books but as they get used to them they become addicted and such things become more and more fascinating, capture their imagination, and they become engrossed in such aggression. It becomes habit for them so that they will want to read only such material; they won't want to read literature that would uplift their mind. With teenagers it could be difficult to control reading and television: they have some degree of autonomy and independence and it would be quite difficult to keep a constant eye on them. But we can make sure that young children do not fall into the trap.
The human mind, in fact the minds of all living beings, is by nature neutral, soft and gentle. The roughness, aggression and cruelty that beings exhibit is entirely conditioned by constant exposure to a rough environment and rough behaviour.
If you note these matters I'm quite sure they will help small children.
Meditation: This morning we need to spend some time reflecting on what His Holiness said about how to transform one's mind in order to get lasting peace of mind, the foundation for good health, and good heart, the foundation for spiritual development. I have reminded you of what His Holiness said and supplemented it with my own experience. Please spend some moments thinking about these topics.