A Decent Education

ฐานิสสโร ภิกขุ

A Decent Education

If our education system were really designed for people, the core curriculum would teach how to live, how to die — how to deal with the big issues in life: pain, aging, illness, death, separation — because these are the things that plague people. The skills for dealing with them are the most important skills people can develop in life.

But one of the problems with our society is that everything is geared toward the economy. Laws are struck down because they’re not good for the economy — at least for this quarter’s profit margin. Educational systems are designed to fit us each into our slot in the economy. The skills we learn center on how to function economically. Then when we get too old to function, they put us out to pasture, and we’re pretty much left to our own devices. And many of the skills we learned in order to be good members of the economy — good producers, good consumers — are actually bad for us as we get older. This producing and consuming self we have is an especially big problem.

So as we come to meditate — which is practice in learning how to live and how to die — this producing and consuming self is one of the big issues we have to face down. What does it consume? Feelings of pleasure and feelings of pain. It tries to produce more and more pleasure but often ends up producing more and more pain. When you look at your sense of who you are, it comes down to these two things: the producer and the consumer. These are the habits you have to observe.

When you meditate, the first thing you learn is how to produce pleasure in the present moment — not for the sake of the pleasure in and of itself, but to use it as a strategy. Often we regard pleasure as an end in and of itself, but the Buddha says, No. You use pleasure and pain — both of them — as means to a higher end.

This reflection by Ajaan Geoff is from the Dhamma talk, A Decent Education, May 18, 2005.