Saturday, May 16, 2015

Education and Buddhism

The following is the excerpt from Thay's dharma talk of Singapore Retreat in 2010. Watch the following video from 58:05 to 1:06:35.

There is a professor of mathematics coming from Canada. His name is Henry. He came to Plum Village during the summer opening and he learned how to breathe, how to walk, how to do things in mindfulness. He told us that the life as a professor of mathematics can be very hectic, very hard. And he told us also that the life as students are also very difficult because there are so many exams to take, so many homeworks to do. And when he was in Plum Village, he was able to learn how to release the tension in his body and in his mind and he felt much better.

And when he went back to school in Ottawa, Canada, he was completely transformed. The first time when he came back to the classroom, he was practicing walking meditation, walking slowly and peacefully. And his students were very surprised because he never walked like that before. He walked mindfully to the blackboard and he tried to erase the things on the blackboard in a mindful, relaxing way. And his students looked at him and said, "Papa, are you sick?" Because his students love him, they call him Papa. He said, "No, I'm not sick. I practice mindfulness."

And he told his students about his practice in Plum Village walking mindfully, drinking mindfully, breathing mindfully and so on. And he wanted to bring some practice into his classroom. He proposed that every 15 minutes, both the professors and the students stop and enjoy breathing in and out for one minute. And he appointed a young man sitting in a front row that every 15 minute he should clap his hands two times. Because he did not have any bell. That lies that when people hear the sound of the two hands clapping, they have to stop thinking, stop talking, stop teaching, stop learning and enjoy breathing in and breathing out.

And in a few weeks, the atomosphere in the classroom has completely transformed. Both the teachers and the students are much more relaxed. And the students actually could study much better than before. And after a few months, every class in the school, they learned about the practice. Because the students in his class had made a lot of progress in the studies. And that is why later on other teachers in school also adopted his way of mindful breathing every 15 minute. And the school was doing very well until the time when he had to retire. But the principal, the school asked him to stay three more years in order to help the school. So, he agreed to stay on for three more years in order to help.

He went to Plum Village every year to attend the summer opening retreat. Now he has become a lay dharma teacher. And he has written a book in English to tell his story of practice in Plum Village and his story of practice with his students. After this retreat, you may like to go to your teacher and ask him or her whether it is possible to practice mindful breathing every 15 minute. And if you are a school teacher or a college professor, why don't you put into practice that kind of a teaching so that your class or your school will function better?


Thich Nhat Hanh

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