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  • Teaching Dhamma to the General Public

    Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

    What is the best approach that we need to take to teach Dhamma to people in the world? Do we wait for the right opportunity and then answer, even this approach doesn't work that much?

    Ajahn Brahm mentioned that not to go around telling this to people, and through experience trying to tell people about the Dhamma I've realized that this is true to a great extent.

    And what to do with unintentionally giving wrong information due to lack of understanding?
    And also I tend to become too animated when speaking about Dhamma to others.

    However the times that I've taught the Dhamma to people, sometimes I felt that what I did was good and the memory of that produces lot of joy but sometimes I wonder why I spoke such things to people who show no respect. And who may even try to damage me in return, or ruin my reputation or become very suspicious of me.
    Speaking about meditation produces lesser side-effects.

    And what about this tendency of people to not like people who teach them things?

    And as a male is it advisable for me to speak these things to women, since it had produced not so good consequences both from my side and the female side.

    As a result of all the damage I've taken in trying to teach people, I've lost interest in teaching anyone, but this has resulted in lesser motivation for me to practice, but giving Dhamma inturn gives me inspiration to practice and read the Dhamma. So how can teaching be done more skillfully?

    With Metta.

  • #2
    Dear Abhishek,

    What is the best approach that we need to take to teach Dhamma to people in the world?
    The most effective way to teach the Dhamma is to exemplify it through one's conduct. Beautiful conduct is much more inspiring than mere words. Even if you never teach anyone verbally, if your conduct is right, people will still get inspired.

    So if you are going to teach others - and I think teaching others can be very beneficial - put most of the emphasis on how you do it, rather than the words themselves. Try not to be attached to the outcome. If the other person is not interested, or perhaps even hostile, let it go straight-away; don't allow it to "ruffle your feathers". Teach others out of kindness and compassion, not because of your own needs (e.g. because of your own doubts about the Dhammma). When you are acting from kindness, you will be peaceful and much more persuasive.

    And what to do with unintentionally giving wrong information due to lack of understanding?
    Be careful with what you say. Be humble. Don't overstate your case. If you do your best but still get it wrong, that's ok. If your intention is pure, there's no problem. However, if you know you've made a mistake, don't be too proud to admit it. In the long run, humility will impress people.

    And what about this tendency of people to not like people who teach them things?
    Only teach people who you know are interested. One of the things that has always impressed me with Buddhism is that we are not trying to convert people for conversion's sake. Buddhism is a teaching that only works when it's practiced, and thus the only converts we want are the converts of the heart. The converts of the heart are normally the people who come to you to ask, not the one's you have to approach.

    And as a male is it advisable for me to speak these things to women, since it had produced not so good consequences both from my side and the female side.
    If it doesn't work, don't do it.

    With metta.

    Comment


    • #3
      The most effective way to teach the Dhamma is to exemplify it through one's conduct. Beautiful conduct is much more inspiring than mere words. Even if you never teach anyone verbally, if your conduct is right, people will still get inspired.
      they have to know you are a buddhist though for that to happen.

      Nevertheless, This is pretty much what my zen teacher said to me when i asked him about mahayana practice recently. I concluded from this that there is no practical difference between a theravada monk and a mahayana monk. Although i call my teacher by his first name which is conducive to good relations and we all bow to each other as a show of respect.

      Although i was asking him about the practice of compassion. He said the best way is by example and generosity.

      Abishek, i am familiar with that drive to teach that you have. Its a bit of a fault to be honest - something to be eradicated. In western psychology this practice is sometimes called rescuing behaviour. You are trying to boost your self esteem or ego by being the strong one, the all knowing one, the expert, in a two-way relationship. Often-times it backfires. You can't really be a teacher and practice humility when you still have so much to learn yourself. We (you and me both) need to concentrate on learning, not on teaching. Do the dharma for yourself first.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Andrea Collisson View Post
        Abishek, i am familiar with that drive to teach that you have. Its a bit of a fault to be honest - something to be eradicated. In western psychology this practice is sometimes called rescuing behaviour. You are trying to boost your self esteem or ego by being the strong one, the all knowing one, the expert, in a two-way relationship. Often-times it backfires. You can't really be a teacher and practice humility when you still have so much to learn yourself. We (you and me both) need to concentrate on learning, not on teaching. Do the dharma for yourself first.
        Yes, the reasons that you've mentioned for teaching is definitely there. But there are a lot more reasons for this than meets the eye.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thank You, Venerable Ajahn Brahmali for that reply.

          Also when the Buddha said that the best way to repay back one's parents was to teach them the Dhamma, did he mean that it is our responsibility to teach our parents or is it the case that it was just something meritorious.

          The reason I ask is that I heard this thing about a Thai monk who ordained because he felt he owed a karmic debt to his parents. Is there really such a thing as karmic debt?

          With Metta.

          Comment


          • #6
            As a general rule I think it's only really possible to teach people who feel inspired by you or at least have some kind of positive feeling towards you, mainly they actually have to be desirous of hearing what you have to say.

            If you teach on the basis of your desire then it's kind of... I don't know how to say it... the wrong thing in charge. Rather it's the recognition "this person is desirous of being taught" that needs to be in charge. And I mean, they really have to want it, almost be desperate, don't get fooled by people pretending to be interested out of politeness. If you WANT them to be interested, then be careful, you'll probably fool yourself into believing they are interested. If you're going to lot of effort to try and get them to listen to you then you're definitely doing it wrong. Don't expect people to tell you that you're wasting their time, some people will got to great troubles to avoid seeming rude, so read between the lines, or try asking directly if you're being unhelpful.

            You don't get to choose who you get to teach, you might not even like the people who actually decide they see something in you and want to learn from you. But here is the difference between compassion and one of it's near-enemies which might be called "controlling". Compassion comes from another's need and it's not about what you want. Controlling is totally about what you want. People deeply appreciate compassion and absolutely loathe controlling. This controlling is a "near-enemy" of compassion, because it masquerades as compassion. You can recognize it because it says things like "I'm doing this for their own good, but they wont listen, they must be stupid".

            If you do want to teach, then you first have to be absolutely willing to listen to and understand a person. There are few things more frustrating to endure than a misdirected and irrelevant teaching from someone who loves the sound of their own voice. If you listen and understand first then there is a much higher chance of being able to provide relevant wisdom, or perhaps, you'll recognize that you're really not able to help that person after all (other than by listening). And of course you can't force a person to trust you. If a person doesn't want you to understand them, there's really nothing you can do about that other than let them be.

            Please know that it's really not easy to teach others. Even if someone is really respectful and hangs off every word you say it still may not work, because they may be simply unwilling to follow your advice or change their ways. Lots of people are like that, they aren't really teachable even if they behave properly. Eventually, instead of expecting it, you'll be amazed and astounded when someone actually heeds your words or follows your advice. Even if they listen to only 2% of what you say and ignore the other 98%, you'll still think "wow". This is the reality of teaching. Think about it from your own experience, how many words from the people you consider your teachers, have actually benefited you? How often have you actually followed their advice or even made a sincere effort to? This will indicate how low you need to place your expectations for every word and sentence that comes out of your mouth. Also consider the times you've listened to someone you don't consider your teacher, out of politeness or whatever.

            Ajahn Brahm gives the good general advice "if you want to be happy in life, lower your expectations". It works the same with teaching, if you want to be happy and effective, throw your expectations out the window.

            I'll also touch briefly on parents. When it says that best way to repay one's parents is to teach them the Dhamma, I suggest that you should think of it more as "show them" or "demonstrate" the Dhamma, rather than actually giving them verbal teachings. A parent knows their child very well. This provides a good opportunity. If through the power of the dhamma, you abandon your unwholesome qualities and cultivate wholesome qualities, then your parents may eventually notice and will be very surprised that you have actually changed, and will wonder what could possibly effect such a transformation. I think this is the most powerful way to demonstrate the power of the dhamma to your parents.

            With metta.

            Comment


            • #7
              Dear Abishek, Andrea, and Bhante Nandiya,

              Thank you for sharing I've got some of my questions answered here especially on how to repay our parents by showing Dhamma - I've been struggling on that one! I've been thinking how to approach that issue concerning my dearest mother (my sister and I grew up under a single parent) who is a devout Roman Catholic. Thank you Bhante Nandiya for shedding the light! Sadhu to everyone! Anjali and Metta

              with Aloha and respect,
              Russell

              Comment


              • #8
                "I'll also touch briefly on parents. When it says that best way to repay one's parents is to teach them the Dhamma, I suggest that you should think of it more as "show them" or "demonstrate" the Dhamma, rather than actually giving them verbal teachings. A parent knows their child very well. This provides a good opportunity. If through the power of the dhamma, you abandon your unwholesome qualities and cultivate wholesome qualities, then your parents may eventually notice and will be very surprised that you have actually changed, and will wonder what could possibly effect such a transformation. I think this is the most powerful way to demonstrate the power of the dhamma to your parents."

                Hi Bhante,
                I am a novice to Buddhism but a very inspired one and in my short time following the path as best I can, the transformation that I have gone through is very evident. Unfortunately my life story is that my parents wont have the opportunity to see this, but I know that those close to me and others I am in contact with do and as you mentioned above, this is probably the best way to teach or 'demonstrate' the dhamma. Wise words from you indeed.

                Thansk you.
                Eamonn

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Andrea Collisson View Post
                  Abishek, i am familiar with that drive to teach that you have. Its a bit of a fault to be honest - something to be eradicated. In western psychology this practice is sometimes called rescuing behaviour. You are trying to boost your self esteem or ego by being the strong one, the all knowing one, the expert, in a two-way relationship. Often-times it backfires. You can't really be a teacher and practice humility when you still have so much to learn yourself. We (you and me both) need to concentrate on learning, not on teaching. Do the dharma for yourself first.
                  Well said Andrea. I have been thinking a bit along the same lines as of late. You put it together for me. Thank you.

                  Jerrod : )

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Dear Abhishek,

                    You've already got a good reply from Ven. Nandiya, but here's a bit more.

                    I think the point about repaying our debts to our parents is that the service they have provided us is so great that the only way we can give an equal service in return - or a greater one - is by teaching them the Dhamma, or more precisely, getting them to practice it. It is getting them to practice it that the Buddha really praised (see AN2:33). Is it our responsibility? It really depends on whether our parents are open to these teachings. If they are not, then there isn't much we can do, except, perhaps, hope that they will come around when they see the beneficial effects the Dhamma has on us. This often takes time and a serious long-term commitment on our part. But, certainly, if we truly can help our parents it is very meritorious.

                    With metta.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thank You, Bhante Nandiya, that was very useful information.

                      Thank You Venerable Ajahn Brahmali for the reply.

                      With Metta.

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