Education: Teaching People to Love the Country, Love the Family, and Cherish Life
A talk given by the Venerable Master at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, August 28, 1993
The Ancient Sage-Kings Had the Most Exalted Virtue and Understood the Essential Path
The Classic of Filial Piety says,
Zengzi attended upon Confucius. Confucius said, “The ancient sage-kings had the most exalted virtue and understood the essential Path. The people applied this Path and lived in harmony. Did you know this?”
Zengzi stood up and said, “I am not intelligent. How could I possibly know this?”
Confucius said, “Your body, hair and skin are a gift from your parents, and you do not dare to harm them. That is the beginning of filial piety.”
When Confucius was at leisure, his disciple Zengzi waited upon him. Confucius told him that the ancient sage-kings had the highest virtue and understood the most important Path. When people practiced this Path, they all got along well. Peace prevailed, and there was no fighting. No enmity existed between leaders and citizens. He asked Zengzi if he was aware of this. Zengzi stood up and said, “I’m not very smart. How could I understand such a profound principle? I’m not up to that level and don’t have that kind of knowledge.” Confucius said, “Who gave you your hair and skin? Your parents did. You should not harm them. That is the starting point of filial piety.”
The Goal of the Elementary School Is to Teach Filial Piety
At the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, there is an elementary school, a high school, and a university. In the elementary school, we teach our students to cherish their bodies. Why? Taking care of one’s body is the beginning of filial piety. The responsibility of a teacher in elementary school is to educate students about the principle of filial piety, so they will keep themselves pure and chaste, care about their bodies, and cherish their families.
In our elementary school, we try our best to teach students how to practice filial respect, how to make their parents happy, and how to accord with their parent’s wishes.
The Goal of the High School Is to Teach Devotion to the Country
In our high school, students learn to be devoted to their country and to protect their country. Why is education the true national defense? Nuclear bombs are weapons that harm people. They use force to fight force, and evil to fight evil, and they lack the spirit of peace. They are built to kill mankind, and their use involves great cruelty. Therefore, we don’t teach such things. In our school, we teach students to be devoted to the country. A powerful country should not oppress or invade a small one, just because it has the power to do so. We should love our country, and love other countries as well. We must not use military force to harm people. We have to educate people to understand this clearly; this is the basic cause for a genuinely strong country.
However, the people of the world ignore this point. They know only to build airplanes and artillery and to invade other countries. If you attack another country in order to rob the people of their wealth and children, you are just being disloyal to your country. Why? When you attack another country, you are sure to cause great losses of lives and wealth. Only after sacrificing those lives and wealth can you obtain the wealth of another country. However, the losses are already incurred. Even if you obtain the other country’s wealth, the game is not worth it. In the future, when other countries become powerful, they will invade you in turn. Therefore, if you attack other countries, you are being disloyal to your own country. We should love the country, love the family, and cherish life.
If you are in the university, you should cherish your life and cultivate the qualities of humaneness and justice. If you are humane and just, you will not do anything that will disappoint others. You must be humane and just in handling matters and interacting with other people. These are our aims in education.
Today, I will take the opportunity to tell you all—otherwise, you will think, “Oh, how foolish the Master is! He himself doesn’t want money, but how could he ask others not want money either?” I want to tell you that in all my life, no matter what I do, I have never wanted money. I do everything for free. No matter how great a service I render to others, I don’t wish to be compensated. Even if I save someone’s life, I don’t want a reward. That’s how foolish I am, and so I’m also teaching you to think in this foolish way.