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Buddhism and musical education

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  • Buddhism and musical education

    Dear all,

    I have a bit of an maybe unusual but nonetheless to me very relevant question which I would like to inquire about here.

    I consider myself to be a somewhat devoted Buddhist, at least in principle the Buddhist teachings appear to be meaningful and the Buddhist Path of renunciation to be the only possibility to liberate oneself from suffering.

    At the moment in my life I am faced with a difficult decision. This year I decided not to continue my previous field of work and decided to become a school teacher. In Germany, I have to choose at least two teaching subjects. My first subject will either be German or English. With regard to the second subject I am swaying between arts or music.

    However, I am looking for ways of how to reconcile or even to unify teaching the subjects I choose not only, but also, with a Buddhist lifestyle. Whereas regarding art I think Buddhism is full of it. However, regarding music, I think Buddhism might even be antagonistic to it, isn‘t it?

    The Buddha prohibited his monks and nuns to listen to music, since - understandably - that would be an indulgence in worldly pleasures. However, I also regard music as having a huge therapeutic potential in stabilising and uplifting children emotionally that is far more accessible to children then, say, the pleasures of meditation.
    And perhaps, music is the one of both subjects which I am more proficient in and even feel slightly more drawn to.

    Would you have any ideas of how to implement Buddhist values in a musical education for children? How to implement an element of renunciation into it?

    Anyone here any ideas of how to make a wholesome and even a profoundly informed decision here? I'd also of course be interested in answers of lay Buddhists here.

    Thank you & kind regards
    Michael Steinfeld

  • #2
    Dear Michael,

    Venerable Upekkha is on holiday in a monastery in Thailand for one month. While she is away she asked some of her nun-friends to answer the questions on her behalf. So here goes...

    You have to remember that it is only monastics who are prohibited from listening to music - along with not watching movies or reading novels etc. The reason for this is to restrain our use of and seeking pleasure from the five senses. There is no prohibition for lay people to enjoy music, movies or novels. So I wouldn't feel bad about teaching music to children. Especially, if as you say, it has a "huge therapeutic potential."

    I think being a teacher who is passionate about the subject they teach and who sets a good example is the best gift you can give to children. We very rarely remember the details of the subjects we are taught but we do remember our favourite teachers/mentors. One thing all my favourite teachers had in common was a passion for their subject.

    At university I remember almost nothing from the unit on Partial Differential Equations that I took and it has been completely unhelpful in my life as a nun. But I do remember my lecturer. He was a small, little, old fellow and he just loved maths so much and he loved explaining it to everyone. Unlike many other lecturers he also taught the tutorial classes and he never seemed to tire of explaining things over and over again, with much good humour, to those of us with not-so-brilliant minds.

    So I say go for it and teach whatever it is that you feel most interested and inspired by. As for imparting Buddhist values - the best way to do that is through your example. If you provide an example of being a happy, kind, honest and peaceful person then the kids you teach will naturally pick up on these qualities and learn from watching you in action.

    Good Luck!

    Kind Regards,
    Venerable Acala
    Last edited by Upekkha Bhikkhuni; 14th-December-2018, 04:34 PM.


    • #3
      Thank you Venerable Acala,

      that is quite a helpful and uplifting reply! What you write sounds meaningful, I guess I have to brood over my decision for some more time....

      Kind regards



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