Educating Grown-ups

by Ven.Pajalo (Austria), published in 'Daily News', July, 15. 2000

"You may strive to be like your children,

but seek not to make them like you."

K. Gibran

Personally I think that the biggest problem about education is parents. To prepare and lead somebody on the right path through the jungles and deserted areas of life does not happen by coincidence. Can those who are lost in all kinds of futile and superficial things, teach others how to discover a deeper meaning in life? And are not those who have found an inner harmony and who have overcome external conflicts, teaching others even without any words of advice?

I am grateful for my parents for all the freedom which they granted me when I grew up; with that they protected my opportunities to discover by myself the bright and the dark sides of this precious coin called 'life'.

The way I was brought up is reflected in my mother's attitude towards our dog: Instead of protecting his life under any circumstances, by closing up his body and soul at home, she prefered to give him freedom and therefore happiness with the risk that one day he might get driven over by a car or get lost in the forest.

Sometimes it seems that adults are giving advice to their children in the same way as people try to sell lottery tickets: If they themselves are really convinced in what they are saying, so why don't they buy all their tickets themselves and win all these promised millions?

Parents want their children to be well behaved, but how do they conduct themselves when they are stuck in a traffic jam or when a beggar requests just one of their coins? They want their kids to observe 'Seel' in Dharma schools and temples, but how much do they live a pure life themselves? They are often convinced that they know better, which studies and profession their sons or daughters should undertake and to whom they should get married, but are they themselves satisfied with their jobs and happy with their own marriage?

Why aren't we, for example, more surprised about a father, who fell, in his teens, in love with a girl, but who was forced from his parents to marry somebody else, that he is now getting upset about his daughter; and why? - because she has a boy-friend who is 'unacceptable'?

Why are the same mistakes being made from generation to generation between the generations?

The great desire of teenagers to explore the world beyond the boundaries set by traditions, will always be misunderstood by parents as long as they forget how similar their own desires were, before they became 'grown-ups'; when their hearts were still full of creativity and openess, and not made dull by the adults' world of conventions, 'education', business and money.

Doesn't education become hollow, when teachers only expect from their pupils to 'swallow' and 'spit out' facts and numbers, without learning to reflect on all these 'truths', without acquiring the skill to question oneself, ones teachers, parents, elders and life itself? What's the use to pass through schools and universities, when we don't grow in wisdom and compassion to pass through life without inner and external conflicts? . . . at the end we might get a 'good' job and earn a lot of money; but what do we gain from that, if we didn't learn the great art of sharing and, instead, are getting lost in the useless act of acqusitiveness?

There is no degree and title available if we want to know how to deal with life in a proper way. There is no encouragment from a corrupted, mass-media spoiled society to walk an independent path towards inner freedom. To go against the main stream towards deeper satisfaction in life is not an easy task. Most of us are swept away by the common muddy floods towards a lifeless sea. We have to learn first how to deal with that situation before we can teach those who are following us. Nobody takes us serious if we talk about the sweet fruits which life can offer with a face full of bitterness.

Hermann Hesse describes in one of his novels this ageless conflict in timeless words:

"He saw his father lonely mourning for his son; he saw himself lonely also with the bonds of longing for his faraway son, he saw his son also lonely. The boy eagerly advancing along the burning path of life's desires. Each one concentrating on his goal, each one obsessed by his goal, each one suffering."