The Buddha On Teaching
May 13, 2012 3 Comments
As a teacher, I was particularly interested in the Audio Dharma podcast episode entitled “Teaching the Dharma.” It’s one of a series of talks that Gil Fronsdal gives at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, and on this occasion Gil elaborates on a list of five qualities that the Buddha said should be established in those who are going to teach the dharma.
Here are the rules, using Gil’s language but omitting his commentary.
1. I will give a discourse step-by-step.
2. I will give a well-arranged discourse.
3. I will speak out of compassion.
4. I will not speak for material reward.
5. I will speak without harming myself or others.
Now, I don’t teach the dharma and I don’t follow all of these rules, but I still find these guidelines illuminating. At the least, it’s interesting to hear a conversation about pedagogy that has come down over centuries.
I live in a time and place where teaching tends to be more interactive, so while I sometimes give a discourse — and sometimes it’s even arranged! — I often teach seminars via the Socratic method. I do try to speak out of compassion, and without harming, as I like to treat education as a place of cultivation rather than punishment.
I’m torn, though, on how much I speak for material reward. Certainly I didn’t choose my profession for the money, but I now depend on it for my rent. The way that Gil describes it, though, it’s not a rejection of salary, but a mindset in which one does not vary the lesson depending on, for examples, which topics fill up the tip jars faster.
Speaking of which, I should start bringing a tip jar into the classroom…