ARTICLE: Thinley Norbu Rinpoche on Raising Buddhist Children
Thinley Norbu Rinpoche on Raising Buddhist Children
When children start to see objects and start to talk, you can put the seeds of good habits in their minds gradually, with skillful means and patience, for the long term, showing them how to practice for enlightenment and also for this life. It is important to put the seeds of how to settle their minds from the beginning.
Ordinary people cannot be forced to think or act beyond their capacity, because it can cause craziness. Unless they have especially gifted minds or are a sublime being’s incarnation, very young children cannot understand subtle, immaterial spiritual ideas. So therefore, they have to be taught gradually about spirituality at the right time, with skillful means, through the objects of the five senses in the material world, even though the source of material energy is immaterial and the basis of spiritual phenomena is insubstantial.
Children must be taught initially through material examples which they can touch, which they can see, and which they can hear, in order to connect them to immaterial spirituality. At least they will not have an unstable mind or mental disorder. Ultimately, this can be beneficial to attain enlightenment if they practice continuously. If they have faith, it can benefit them even momentarily in this life. Then, as they grow up, they have to change again, because they develop their minds. Their minds become more refined, and they become ready to learn more refined ideas. As they grow up further, a more expansive point of view has to be gradually taught.
The main key is to make children’s minds very balanced, very stable, and not speedy. Nowadays, many people are very speedy from the habit of competition, but this always causes mistakes. It is not right to think about the past or future just to be expedient for one’s own instant gratification which leads to many disastrous consequences. The problem is that they have to continuously repair their mistakes.
Of course, samsara is like this world; it is not a buddhafield. There are always mistakes, but Americans make many more mistakes than anyone, I think. I say this with good intention, not to be negative, hoping they will decrease and cure their mental halitosis. There is so much technology and material wealth; people don’t believe in the spiritual idea. People don’t believe in rest. They are so afraid of delaying anything, and they always have to rush.
This automatically seeds extreme nervousness, frustration and fear, so when they age, they are more unhappy and depressed. They can no longer deal with the material world in the same way because their physical energy is decaying, yet reminiscence of their youth continues in their minds. It is very difficult to help them through substance, and their misery cannot be cured easily because of their lack of spiritual development. So, spiritual development cannot be ignored, in order to always have a positive life until attaining enlightenment.
This article was originally published in the Vajradhatu Sun.