Practicing Dharma Through Television Instructed by Samana Bhodhirak.
Wrtten by Bhikkhu Samana Lakhano,
Translated in English by Dr. Ch'ueh and Prof. Cheng
In order to attract the public's attention, mass media always report weird and astonishing news, and produce exciting and sensational programs to stimulate audience and lead the trend. These programs coutinuously embed seeds of violence, sexuality, crime and weirdness in our subconscious. Exposed to such environment, we become familiar with these evil deeds.When encountering crime motive, the evil in us arises within and result in crime behavior without even a second thought. Children and teenagers have immature mind, thus are more prone to worship idols and imitate improper behavior. Being exposed to the enormous stimulation from mass media makes them uneasy, full of desires, and loss of the ability to live in a pure, nncent and peaceful life like the ancient people.
The changing world and the deterioration of human mind In the old days, when a man steals a chicken from his neighbor, the whole village would blame him . Nowadays, the public are inured to conducts of one murdering one's own parent for money without any regret. No one takes it seriously. The whole society has been contaminated, people become more and more indifferent. Even the adults cannot be saved from this, not to mention teenagers and children. There was acommercial warning us; 'Ming is seven years old watches nude women on TV alone; Chi is years old and wishes he can have a gun like the one in shooting scenes…' The criminal rate is getting higher and higher, the value of ethic is decreasing. There was no television and newspaper during the Buddha's ara, however, Buddha told people how to use right views to differentiate information that pass through our six senses from right and wrong. Although the mass media distribute many bad news, it still can be beneficial to us as long as we how to use our wisdom to deal with it. Among different kinds of mass media, we'll use television as an example to explain it.
Four principles of watching television Samana Bodhirak the head master of the "Asoke" congregation There are nine Asoke Temples and Comunities in Thailand. In early days, Asoke'congregation did not watch television. As TV and computer became more and more popular, Samana Bodhirak told his followers. "It is time for us to make a proper use of mass media. We do not watch TV everyday, nor will we watch casually. With wisdom, let us learn how to pick up gold from garbage." He made TV watching as a credit that everyone has to take, and he teaches all the disciples how to use the 4 principles to deal with TV.
The first principle: Watch the suffering instead of the happiness Instead of watching TV programs that are interesting but meaningless, one should choose those that are inspiring and meaningful. People tend to think " I am tired from working. I need interesting and entertaining program for my leisure time" Indeed, these programs are highly contaminating through inten sifying our desire, detestation and delusion without our knowing. Hence, we should not only watch those entertainment programs but use the Four Noble Truths to observe the suffering and the changing phenomenon in our daily life, and see through the rise and course of suffering and the way to get rid of it. In TV dramas, we often see rich and powerful people who live in a comfortable life, however still suffer from all kinds of worries which keep them away from a sound sleep and a peaceful mind. Some of them even need security guards and guns. If we can not see through this, we will think that fame and power bring happiness. Without guidance from adults, children will pursue them blindly and eventually lose their proper direction in life.
When we see the successful people from TV, we should try to observe the process of reaching the success. How hard did the work and how did they overcome the difficulties? Try to use these as materials for ourself learning. When we see Kings and Emperors, Observe how they manage the country to benefit their people. To see through the deep suffering in their heart and the dangerous situation that they sometimes have to face, one can realize how many sufferings are there behind the power and influence. Think of those saints who devote completely and sacrifice for justice in order to benefit more people, and the virtue they possess, They are our models for practicing Dhamma of the Buddha from watching those who did evil and got punished we can realize the law of Karma through their storieds.
The second principle: Trainging our mind through phenomenon There are many programs on love, desire, violence, and weirdness that induce one to indulge. Many songs are about either love or hatred, and watching television after work is not relaxation and entertainment, instead, they are the temptation and the taking away of our money, health, time and wisdom if we are careless. We should use right view, right mindfulness, right effort and right concentration from " the Noble Eightfold Paths " to fight against the visions, further practice observation on our own fluctuating emotions. For example, whether we appear to like or to be obsessed about sexual scenes. And observe whether we are excited and arounded by violence scenes? Buddha teaches us that we should learn to control our emotions, and watch our minds while we help others. Enhancement of our morality, concentration, and wisdom is the silf-benefiting and altruistic practice of Buddhism. When we watch television, we shall watch our mind as well. If we are drawn over, we will lose the battle against television. If we could no longer than hang on, then turn off the television for a while until the righteousness is back in us. Samana Bodhirk has a number of ways to teach; he selects the proper television programs for teaching. And warns everyone the danger and benefit in the program. He tells the followers that they should know their minds and stop watching the program if they fell lost, they should recognize whether the parts are worth watching instead of watching or rejecting blindly. Television programs are merely images, and not the reality, if they cannot fight against the images, how can they fight against the reality. If you are short-tempered, you can put yourself to test when you watch TV, When you see a short-tempered person, you are looking at another self; if you need to keep practicing on anger management. If you are moved by the beauties on TV, then it means that you are weak within, and should practice to strengthen your mind through images before dealing with real people.
The third principle: Select good from bad&follow the pathway of saints There are good and bad, positive and information in TV. Even though most of them are not god, as long as we have wisdom, we can find gold from the trash. We have to select those programs that give us informative and positive value, and learn from them. We have to discard wicked TV program, increase our immunity try not to be influenced; we have to control them, otherwise, we will controlled by them. It is important for parents and teachers to teach the youngsters how to choose. Whenever we see something good it is not enough just watching. We should learn the good behavior no matter how hard it is. People usually learn from the bad instead of the good, such as smoking, drug abuse, and drinking. How sad is it that people overcome obstacles to learn evil! Watching TV is like fighting with vampire and our habits of greed, hatred and illusion, not for relaxation. It is therefore important for parents to keep children accompany while they are watching and explain to them before, during and after each program. Do not let TV to replace parents duty and allow it to deliver wrong concepts to the children.
The fourth principle: To learn & to see more, to increase wisdom There are limitations to our eyes andthus, with the aid of TV, We can see things that are happing far away. Like having supernatural eyes and ears to see the three realms. TV with ubiquitous supernatural power and as a miniature of the world, exhibits different cultures and customs of different countries and generations.
Samana Bhodhirak taught Technology for kids at Banrat chathani Asoke, in Ubon Ratchathani province, Thailand.
We can learn all kinds of knowledge from TV, expand our vision, understand how to respond to the situation, and learn the wisdom of righteousness and simplicity. The knowledge expands day by day, people who refuse to learn will have difficulties in accepting others' opinions and getting along. They tend to be selfish, unfriendly, and stubborn. Mass media, like TV, can be a very useful tool for us in learning. Just as electricity and knife, using it properly can be beneficial, but wrongful use can result in damage.
Learning the steps to transcend
1. Watching suffering but not enjoyment.
2. Using the situation to train our mind.
3. Select good from bad, learning from the right
4. Learn as broadly as possible to increase the wisdom Build up ten right views before watching TV We all know the important of learning traffic regulations, practicing driving skills, and having our seat belt fastened before hitting the road. The danger of mass media is no less than driving a car. We have to be aware of the safety of the media and learn the right attitude before watching TV. Ten right views are suggested by Master Samana Bhodirak
1. Actively select and evaluate TV program, not passively receive information from it.
2. The instructor should know and analyze TV programs and understand their influences, like any road guide who should know all the directions before guiding others.
3. According to the teaching of Buddha, information, in mass media can be divided into 4 categories.
3.1 Six bad behaviors drinking alcohol, visiting prostitute, wandering, gambling, hang out with bad friends, laziness.
3.2 The objects of the five senses vision, hearing, odor,taste tangible object, phenomena.
3.3 The eight influences which fan the passions gain,loss,defamation, eulogy,praise, ridicule, sorrow and joy.
Most of them are only targets of capitalism: to gain advantages with small with. To ue right view can help us find gold from frash. For example, some sport news only a matter of winning and loss, sometimes even involves gambling activities; most advertisements induce our material desires: Most people waste their money in appearance as well as health in drinking and smoking; Moreover, advertisement in media is the major cause for these misbehaviors. People should not watch programs of greed, anger, and delusion.
4. Be aware of four conditions while watching TV
4.1 Be aware of the feelings of like or dislike.
4.2 Be aware of how much you like or dislike.
4.3 Be aware of the fluctuation of like or dislike.
4.4 Find a solution, either by stop watching TV or look for self improvement
5. Watching with four foundations of mindfulness
5.1 Body… human body and media as composites
5.2 Sensation…the feelings that arise while watching
5.3 Consciousness… observe the reason of feeling (including the past conceptions, experiences etc.) use reverse thinking instead of being driven passively.
5.4 Mental objects realize obstacles that we cannot overcome
5.4.1 Insentient things the temptation and desire from the material world
5.4.2 Opposite sex …to be attracted by the opposite sex, unable to go through them
5.4.3 Same sex…expulsion from the some sex, difficult to get along well with
5.4.4 Self attachment egoistic, self-centered, unable to detach from it even a single moment Three glasses of dirty water are used to describe three kinds of people The first kind of people: People who refuse to see and listen, disconnect oneself with the outside world to maintain temporary quiet mind which is protected by the clear and non disturbing environment. However, when the environment turns complicated,the mind becomes disturbed. second kind of people: People who have all kinds of desire and anxiety know how to satisfy themselves, and pursue the outside word. They are like dirty water with cotton ; the surface looks perfect, more contamination and worries are inside. They desire for things they like, and accumulate more desires. Mass of the people belong to this type. third kind of people: By way of observing the five precepts, eight precepts, ten precepts ten precepts, etc. practicing meditation and developing wisdom they gradually take out the stones from the water They watch TV and receive it with correct methods. This is so called the way of clearance.
6.To distinguish the two intelligencess by mass madi
5.5 Intelligence with sacrifice ( real intelligence which benefit the society)
5.6 Intelligence (wits) through taking advantages of others (most mass media distribute this King of wits)
6. Training oneself with four basic essentials for human being (clothing, food, lodging, and medication) to diminish desire, be satisfied, and resist temptation. People are generally greedy; they accumulate treasures instead of the truly beneficial Dhamma treasures.
7. Thoughts come after watching and feelings arise after thoughts, we should practice to observe how feeling arise. Just watch how they arise, They will disappear eventually. Continue to watch the program-feeling arises-observe the feeling-disappear, etc. Keep practicing until you become familiar. For those who never practice it will be impossible for them to stop thinking.
8. Realizing impermanence and no ego If we don't know Buddha Dharma watching TV will certainly increase our attachment. Impermanence has two sides. Either increasing more affictions or reducing affliction, depends on how you practice. Separating from our beloved ones and encountering those we dislike are the really of this world. Only when we understand imper manence, we will not be tempted by TV programs and increase affiction.
10. Obseving five precepts Folowing the precepts in daily life, we can be protected from dangerous situations. It is just like that one should learn how to swim before going into water, wearing helmet before riding motorcycle, the damage will be reduced with proper protection
Use the above ten right views to judge whether it is worthy or not to spend time to watch TV programs. If the answer is no, then don't waste it. Three steps to teach others how to watch TV There are three steps for us train others how to overcome TV 1. The first: preparation before watching. 2. The second: give hints while watching. 3. The third: discussion after watching Preparation before whatching TV. TV set should be placed in a public place with proper monitoring and control. Unsupervised watching is not allowed. Programs should be chosen by a teacher of wisdom. Size of TV screen should be proper, not too big or too small. Before watching, instruct with the four principle, and remind the important points to be paid attention to. Hints giving while watching The instructors should always remind, " what are you watching? How do these help you or hurt you?." Remind the audience when dangerous situation appears, " watch out who will lose under this circumstance? and who will again from it? " Throughout the process, instructors should have good communication skills; neither talk too much nor too less, highlight need, anger and delusion, add a little wisdom, bodhicitta and selfishness to help the viewers look at it from all perspectives. It is just like a commander who takes in inexperienced soldiers to practice those with experience are needed to help the apprentice.
Talking questionnaire and discussion after watching TV In addition to the questionnaire, group discussion is also necessary. Through discussion, opinion from the audience can be head. Encourage those who are more expressive to share their opinion and feeling with others because of they can help those who still don't know how to watch TV correctly. The content of questionnaire can be based on the four principles listed below About the play What is the meaning of the play? What are the good and bad features of each character? Is there any suffering? What are the reasons? How does the program influence you? Can it be used to change you? Were you moved by it? Did you observe the fluctuation of your mind while watching ? Did it win or lose? Is there any cultural or intellectual knowledge that can help us to improve ourselves? While filling out this questionnaire, people can realize clearly their own situation for people who are more competent to write but reluctant to talk, it is helpful for them to express through this opportunity. At the end of the discussion, it will be beneficial for the instructor to conclude and summarize.
The social responsibility of the religious teachers Living in this industrialized and commercialized society. TV is the best mass media for merchants. Commercials are like fascinating blood-sucking tools they suck away our time , money, wisdom, health, etc. All the commercials are trying their best to convince people that their product is the best, the greatest the most fashionable, the most necessary, etc. So we should buy it right away in order to follow the fashion. All the chasing merely exposes the unwise and uncertain inner mind of our modern people. We are used to use weapons in the war; everybody realizes very clearly to avoid them. Nowadays, the economic invasion takes a different from through a variety of attractive commercials. Instead of being dragged by our weakness, we have to train ourselves to use wisdom for correct judgments on right and wrong. The environment we are living in now is full of danger and temptation. To use TV programs to cultivate our judgment before we actually indulge is like taking vaccination before getting the disease; the whole immunization process can protect us from the evils. The human desires overwhelming everywhere and the moral standards collapse, how can we avoid all the natural disasters of which we are the true cause? The poison which mass media spread to the whole world is much more serious than the damage resulted from flood or earthquake. We are distributing sex and violence to the next generation through newspaper and television programs. How can we expect any result from them?
There was once a TV news program reporting a kissing contest held in a university campus in Taiwan. The program was seen by a few Buddhist teachers from Thailand, astonished, as they asked our local Buddhist teachers "What are the religious teachers doing in this country? Why didn't someone come out and say something to correct it? How can you let these kinds of things happen on a university campus? The students there shall be the main support to our future society, the leader of future government; they should be using their knowledge wisdom and morality to lead the society. In Thailand any university student who attends a beauty contest, would be criticized because university students should not use their body to attract others. Your students here do not understand their role in the society; instead, they start to lead the wrong fashion In addition the mass media continue broadcasting to strengthen the influence. The obnoxious magazines and videos can be seen everywhere without criticism from the society photographs with naked body were posted in the bus and exhibited at every corner of the city. Why don't the religious scholars and educationists stand out to say something?" One should not practice Buddha Dharma reclusively without paying attention to the society. We should face the reality and meanwhile, use our right view and wisdom to remind and to warn others. Together, we can improve the society we are living in, little by little. This will be the tr4ue spirit of Buddhahood.
Changing garbage to fertilizer If we watch TV correctly, it is like changing garbage into fertilizer. However, we should not to be bounded by TV either, always ask ourselves, "Am I bounded by the TV? Am I attached to it?" Since we cannot change the trend of mass information in this era, hearing no way to fight against mass media can become an incubation place for the six bad behaviours-drinking alcohol, visting prostitutes, wandering, gambling, making bad friends and laziness, an ostrich will hide its head in sand when facing danger, but the situation will not be solved. So we, human beings, have to open our eyes to see the problems in our environment or in the people clearly. Through practice of TV watching and learning in our daily life, we can tame our habits. This is why Master Samana Bodhirak of Santi Asoke Buddhist community emphasizes that the beginners should keep their eyes wide open and practice The Noble Eightfold Paths. Through sacrificing and contribution, we can contribute positive values to the society we are in, and meanwhile, train our mind to get rid of our attachments. By the time when our greed, anger and delusion are all eliminated, and only minute. According to the teaching of Buddha, if we don't get rid of our rough habits and annoyance before we practice Samadhi, there will be two situations facing us; we will be trapped in either 'drowsiness' or agitation. In either case, we are wasting our time and contributing no benefit to our society.
Use eight sufferings as our teacher We have to learn how to utilize knife and electricity for beneficial results instead of being injured by them. Four Noble Truths can be learned from watching TV, especially on observation of suffering including birth, old age, sickness and death, unable to attain the desired, separation from beloved, and the mental and physical sufferings arisen from the full-orbed activities of the five skandhas in TV programs. If we can realize that all kinds of suffering originated from our greed, anger, and delusion, we can apply Eight Right Paths of Seven Enlightenment Factors for meditation-use four principles to observe our own mind; select right from wrong, keep learning enthusiastically, tame our emotions of greed, anger, and delusion Then we can be truly joyful, peaceful, stable, and balanced which is the way of practicing Seven Enlightenment Factors.
Renounce the world with right view Through fighting with mass media, we can transcend ourselves from this world to become free. We will no longer be trapped by the situation, and can realize that suffering of all sentient beings are originated from ignorance; hence, we develop great compassion to help others and gain the wisdom of seven wondrous understanding-the clear understanding of the. Living in the age full of crisis, if we can make proper use of buddha's method to help ourselves and others, and transform six bad behaviors into realization of wisdom, we will be able to turn crisis into good opportunity.
Well That's Practicing Dharma Through Television Instructed by Samana Bhodhirak. Written by Bhikkhu Samana Lakkhano.( Shi-Jing -Xiang ) Translated in English by Dr. Ch'ueh Ling-ling and Prof. Cheng Chen -huang.