BuddhaSasana Home Page
English Section

The Concept of Personality Revealed Through The Pancanikaya - Ven. Thich Chon-Thien
Institute of Buddhist Studies
Saigon, Vietnam

Part Five: Conclusion

V.1 Chapter 1

A New Course of Education and Culture


From Lord Buddha’s teachings recorded in the five collections of Paĝli Suttapitaka, the author has discussed the doctrine of Dependent Origination and its operation, the five Aggregates and their operation, and Buddhist spirits of education for Individuals. He has introduced a human being as a conditioned being, and has not come to any personality theory in which a man is regarded as an entity having a permanent self. This is, to his best knowledge, a special feature very helpful to personality theorists and educators of the coming century in opening a new course of culture and education for human beings’ peace and happiness

It is time for them to make a choice between these two things: one is considering self-thought way of thinking as the basis on which all values in life are based, and considering the fulfilment of one’s desire as a means to one’s happiness; the other is developing non-self way of thinking as the wisdom regard showing a way of life, and accepting the control of one’s desire as a means to one’s happiness in the here-and-now, regardless of all difficulties one may meet with in life. The former has brought to life a lot of troubles and crises; only the latter is a belief and a hope of releasing those social troubles and crises. This is the content mentioned in the fifth part of this work.

The truth of life, as discussed, says that:

A man must be a man of some education and culture, and an education or culture must be education or culture of man. They cannot be separated from each other.

Lord Buddha’s teachings for human beings on what the world really is, what a man really is, on individuals’ problems, their causes, their cessation, their way to their cessation, and on spirits of individualized education, really imply the meaning of a way of education which is going to be showed more clearly in the next lines.


Now, let us take a look into the following points of view on education suggested by some outstanding persons before coming to a discussion about the details of the educational problem.

Dr. E.F Schumacher, the well-known author of a very interesting book tittled "Small is Beautiful" wrote:

" Education can help us only if it produces "whole men". The truly educated man is not a man who knows a bit of everything, not even the man who knows all the details of all subjects (if such a thing were possible). The "whole man", in fact, may have little detailed knowledge of facts and theories, he may treasure the Encyclopaedia Britanica because"she knows and he needn’t", but he will be truly in touch with the centre. He will not be in doubt about his basic convictions, about his view on the meaning and purpose of his life. He may not be able to explain these matters in words, but the conduct of his life will show a certain sureness of touch which stems from his inner clarity". (1)

Dr. E.F. Schumacher defined the word "centre" in the above quotation as follows:

" The centre, obviously is the place where he has to create for himself an orderly system of ideas about himself and the world, which can regulate the direction of his various strivings." (2)

For him, the root purpose of education must be helping a man understand the truth of himself and the world he is living in, see his course of life, and be responsible for his deeds. Although he cannot say what that truth is, but his words sound very humanist and pratical. His point of view on education deserves to be considered.

As a very well-known economist, journalist and progresssive entrepreneur, an Economic Adviser to the National Coal Board from 1950 to 1970, in England, a Founder and Chairman of the Intermediate Technology Development Group Ltd., etc., his advice on problems of rural development praised by many overseas governments, his above mentioned book printed 34 times from 1963 to 1993, his ideas must be thoughtful, especially ideas on man, economy and environment. (3)

For Albert Einstein who is one of the greatest scientists of our modern age, he delivered some other special opinions on education which runs as follows:

" The school has always been the most important means of trans-fering the wealth of tradition from one generation to the next..."

" Sometimes one sees in the school simply the instrument for transfering a certain maximum quantity knowledge to the growing generation. But that is not right. Knowledge is dead; the school, however, serves the living. It should develop in the young individuals those qualities and capabilities which are of value for the welfare of the commonwealth. But that does not mean that individuality should be destroyed and the individual become a mere tool of the community, like a bee or an ant. For a community of standardized individuals without personal originality and personal aims would be a poor community without possibilities for development. On the contrary, the aim must be the training of independently acting and thinking individuals, who, however, see in the service of the community their highest life problem..." (4)

And he added:

"It is not enough to teach man a specialty. Through it he may become a kind of useful machine but not a harmoniously developed personality. It is essential that the student acquires anunderstanding of a lively feeling for values... He must learn to understand the motives of human beings, their illusions, and their sufferings in order to acquire a proper relationship to individual fellow-men and to the community. (5)

So, Einstein supposes education has a role of maintaining the wealth of tradition, but he doesn’t emphasize the role of developing it, and choosing which of the traditions should be maintained, which of it should be reconsidered, because the root purpose of life is to live in happiness but not exactly to live with tradition.

He also supposes education has a role of educating men to be a man of power-or a social man with specialized knowledges; and a man himself who must know the wholeness of himself, his illusion and suffering..., and his community. This sounds very interesting, although it cannot say what a man himself really is.

As a very outstanding scientist, Einstein’s seeing things is so scientific and seeing human beings is so realistic that it should be brought into practice. His opinions on education, to the author, may suggest a good course of education.

For Bertrand Russel, a very well-known U.S writer and thinker of the second part of the twentieth century A.D., mentioning the problem of "Education and social order", he wrote:

"Three divergent theories of education all have their advocates in the present day. Of these the first considers that the sole purpose of education is toprovide opportunities of growth and to remove hampering influences. The second holds that the purpose of education is to give culture to the individual and to develop his capacities to the utmost. The third holds that education is to be considered rather in relation to the community than in relation to the individual, and that its business is to train useful citizens..." (6)

Russel’s speech reflects rather faithfully what education of today is. His view is "no one of the three is a adequate by itself", and a right system of education must apply all the above three theories.But all those three theories still lack of the most important thing which is the truth of a man and the true way to his happiness in the present. In principle, providing opportunities for the growth of individuals, and helping a man develop his capacities to the utmost are very necessary to every good course of education. For the problem of training useful citizens, it should be noticed that a citizen, or a social man, must come after a man himself; without a man himself, a citizen can never be trained. So, here emerges a significant realization that the truth of the world and of human beings Lord Buddha Gotama discovered twenty six centuries ago is an invaluable discovery for men’s new education and culture if it is to be brought today into schools for use. It must be known as a way of life bringing peace and happiness for individuals as well as for their commonwealth, and must be regarded as a major subject of philosophy, psychology, and educational psychology. This new branch of education will offer people a new regard to values and attitude of life leading to the calm of desire and ill-will, and to the destruction of wrong perception and thought. This branch of education will help individuals analyse their own mind, behaviour and trouble to find the right way to live: they will come to recognize that happiness does not ask them to do anything more than stopping their desires, and that the very present moment of the here-and-now is when they really are free from troubles, because it always is completely new. At that wonderful moment, no one, or no power, puts any trouble into their mind. However, to abide in that moment a person should know how to control his self-thought and desire by the insistent practice of wisdom regard and of the four foundations of mindfulness. Here he only needs guidance, advice, encouragement, and wakefulness from his teacher and others. This means a helping role of education is needed, but not command, force or power; school discipline is still maintained for providing appropriate atmosphere for learning and opportunities for the development of individuals’ mind and capacities; and the content of teaching aims at transferring knowledges for understanding and cultivating individuals’ mind, and for the service society in response to the commonwealth-requirements of safety, peace and prosperity. Methods of teaching are also demanded for wakefulness rather than stuffing with senseless notions.

With regard to the above way of education, the appraisal of learning skill of a student, award, punishment, exams, etc., must be reconsidered according to the new course of education.

In the author’s opinion, if the above things are adopted, a way of education for the wholeness of man, humanness and wisdom will come into existence and survive. Because the truth of life and man wears no label, so this way of education will wear no label either. Since it wears no label, it may be a way of education for all people of all time. Because a man is but the operation of the five aggregates, so no image of personality is created for any pattern of education to be followed: for individuals, the meaning of life is to live with what he is in the very present moment without attachment to it: in doing this they will realize peace and happiness in their mind and body; the meaning of life is not anything of thinking or wishing: thinking or wishing only creates an image of life which is dead. Since individuals are strongly influenced by their old kamma, or old habits, by environment and by culture, so education has another role of helping them see what influences are hindering their mind, obsessing them, from seeing the five aggregates as they really are, to get rid of them.

If the performance of all above requirements is done, that way of education is then regarded as education of humanness, reality, wisdom and creativeness. This is the meaning of a new course of education.


From a new course of education, a new course of culture originates.

As quoted in (V.1.1), Albert Einstein, a creative scientist, thinks that Education plays a role of maintaining, transferring and developing culture from generation to generation. This culture is defined by The Random House College Dictionary as, "The sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings transmitted from one generation to another" In the author’s mind, it may be understood as all aspects of life of a group of human beings made up by education and its creative works to cope suitably with nature and to be improved on. Regarding this meaning, a new course of culture is discussed.

As mentioned before, the current culture of human beings is dominated by self-thought which has created the meaning of goodness, badness, gain and loss, success and failure; superiority and inferiority, etc. These meanings appear in life as a strong worldly wind that makes men’s life-boat rock in the ocean of suffering: it is those meanings which act upon men’s mind and cause troubles to arise; these troubles, in their turn, hinder men’s regard to things from truth, and pull off their mind from abiding in the very present moment, and so pull off men from true life - besause true life only exists in the present.

That self-thought makes arise in one’s mind perception of "I am", "I am this" "I am that", "I am not this", "I’m not that", "I was", "I was this", "I wasn’t this", "I was that", "I wasn’t that", "I will be". "I will be this", "I will be that"..., "May I be", "May I be this", "May I be that", etc. These perceptions therefore are root causes of craving for sensual desire, craving for existence, cravingfor non-existence, hatred, anger, etc. They lead men to sorrow, lamentation, grief, suffering. Such is the operation of self-thought.

Regarding the doctrine of Dependent Origination, self-thought means ignorance (avijja), and its operation really is the operation of ignorance: this is the arising of Dependent Origination leading to suffering, and is the truth of this current culture. Self-thought, therefore, exists as what determines the fateful suffering of human beings. If all efforts of those who are searching for happiness are based on self-thought, happiness will always be out of their reach. Such is the current culture.

In fact, all efforts of human beings to build up a culture aim at true happiness as the final purpose of life. So, to achieve that intimate purpose, self-thought or ignorance must be replaced by the destruction of ignorance, or wisdom (vijja or pannaaĝ): all actions of human beings must be put into the operation of non-self thought as what Buddha taught. This operation will open a new culture or a new course of culture leading to the destruction of suffering. Here is happiness.

Non-self thought will function as an intelligent architect who ardently constructs new aspects of life, such as:

* The most important aspect of life, called the most important architectural work, is love for life: love for human kind, for a country, for parents, for husband or wife, for children, relatives, neighbors, etc. This love led by wisdom (right view and right thought) comes from one’sseeing the truth of selflessness of existing things. It can extinguish a lot of causes of suffering in life.

* The next architectural work is giving the true sense to "loyalty" and "justice": morals group, or right speech, right action and right livelihood, is the giver of the sense. If a person practises right speech, right action and right livelihood, he must go on the way of "loyalty" and "justice" faithfully: right action implies the meaning of "justice" right speech means "loyalty" and so on.

* Morals group itself means morality and humanity.

* Non-self thought leading to happiness shows that: happiness of individuals, the commonwealth and the culture, tradition of a country are two separate things: in the case culture and tradition cannot bring happiness to individuals and the commonwealth, they must be revaluated and improved.

* Non-self thought helps people see the co-existence of human beings and environment so that they come to protect environment from pollution and human beings from war. Tragedies and sufferings.

* Non-self thought will open a way of thinking for men, creating new concepts of value for the beauty, architecture, painting, etc.; serving happiness of men.

* All the above new aspects of life will make up a new culture, or new course of culture, for peace and happiness.

* The world is in serious crises: social crisis and environmental crisis. If the course of culture is not changed, those crises cannot be resolved, and human beings will be drowned in that ocean of crises. It is time for the world to make a choice between the operation of self-thought and that of non-self thought. The writer’s belief in the latter is clear. It will be shown next.

Part 1.1 | Part 1.2 | Part 2.1 | Part 2.2 | Part 3.1 | Part 3.2 |
Part 4.1 | Part 4.2 | Part 5.1 | Part 5.2 | Biography | Contents
Top of Page

[Back to English Index]