Teach the Students to “Go Towards the Good”
By Bhikshu Heng Shun, 9-12th Grade Core Teacher, Boys Division
Our fundamental aim is to instruct children at an early age the underlying principles of being a good human being. We teach them how to be pillars of the state, how to help society, and how to go towards the good. Since we want to help society and humankind, we teach our students to get rid of greed, hatred, and delusion. We help them develop good character. We teach them not to harm others in order to benefit themselves. We teach them to nurture beneficence and virtue rather than to concentrate on how to make money…
We may teach worldly subjects in our school, but only as part of the process of laying a firm foundation for becoming a good person. And that foundation will enable people to transcend the world. That is why I consider the establishment of the schools more important than my own life.
By the Venerable Master, the Founder of the Schools and the City of 10,000 Buddhas
This excerpt from the Venerable Master’s instructions for educators, sums up very well our purpose in teaching in the schools. Developing institutions of Buddhist education was one of the Master’s Three Great Vows, in addition to developing the monastic life in America and translating the Buddhist Canon into English.
I have now been teaching in the Boys High School for 12 years. I have seen that we have made much progress in achieving the very lofty goals set by the Master. When I first began to teach in 1994, Mr. Agis Gan was the principal. During his tenure as the principal, we developed a very strong system of taking care of the business of the school by holding weekly faculty and staff meetings. Those who were most devoted to the school never missed this meeting. Over time we learned how to work together and make decisions on a consensus basis. It has been 12 years since this practice was first set up, and it continues to serve the school very well.
After Mr. Agis Gan served as principal for about five years, then Dr. M. C. Lee served as the principal for about four years. Dr. Lee has since become a fully ordained Bhikshu and is now known as Jin Yong Shr. During his tenure the curriculum became more developed and for the first time, all of our courses were submitted to and approved by the University of California system. That very important move enabled our courses to be recognized by all the colleges and universities in the United States. This helped to insure that all of our graduates would have the potential to attend any college in America.
Now during the last three years that Mr. Lewis “Mack” Bostick has been serving as principal, we had started the process of receiving accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Two years ago we completed the first and most important step of becoming a Candidate for Accreditation. And by the end of next school year (June of 2007) we will have completed our two-year self-study document and will become fully accredited. I believe that will make us the first fully accredited Buddhist high school in the United States.
It has been a pleasure to teach in a school with such small classes--my classes range in size from 5 to 15 students. Although my area of greatest ability is teaching the one-year course on Buddhism, I also teach a one-year World Religions course and have taught the Junior High Buddhist/Virtue Studies class and Senior High U.S. Government when needed.
Based on the Master’s guiding vision of what the school’s purpose is, I have found that in order to inculcate the basic virtues of being a good human being, one must first cultivate one’s own self. For example, it is difficult to teach the students to be kind and harmonious with other students, if I myself get upset or angry with others. It is so important for the teacher to be a good model to the students. And it helps so much, if one has a solid grounding in spiritual cultivation by attending the daily ceremonies and adhering to the daily program of one’s own private spiritual practices. The Master would always say never neglect your “homework” meaning one’s own daily spiritual practices- especially the “dharmas of compassion” that he taught us.
When teaching a group of pretty bright 10 to 12th graders in a small classroom setting, I find it to be challenging, joyful and rewarding. I learned early on that one must maintain a standard of total honesty and openness to the students. They quickly see through any façade that one may wish to hide behind. And for a monastic teaching Buddhism and World Religions, they expect one to maintain a very high standard of integrity in accordance with the Venerable Master’s teachings. Although we may stumble at times, I find that the interchange between the teacher and students serves both very well. I cannot think of a better way to develop one’s own spiritual practice and virtue, and at the same time help others--the students--so as the Master said, “go towards the good.”
If the students who graduate from our school are outstanding academically, but do not have good character, then we have failed. Our success is measured by having the students who go to our school leave here as exemplars of integrity and virtue. Although we still have much more work to do to achieve this goal, I see that we have made real progress in this respect every year. Thus I feel quite gratified that we are going in the right direction- towards the good. All we need to do is to expend our effort and energy in our work as educators (as the Master would say “try your best”) so the school will continue to progress towards the goal of being truly worthy of the names Instilling Goodness and Developing Virtue.