Ling Jiou Mountain School of Sramanas at Naung Mon in Myanmar set as the first base overseas to promote the LJM Six Living Values

Ling Jiou Mountain School of Sramanas at Naung Mon in Myanmar set as the first base overseas to promote the LJM Six Living Values
Dharma Master Hsin Tao, Founding Abbot of the Ling Jiou Mountain Buddhist Society (LJM), is widely known as an avid pioneer in promoting spiritual ecology by motivating followers to safeguard the Earth’s future. We at LJM have been advocating the Six Living Values proactively and these are ‘One Heart, Two Compassions, Three Goodnesses, Four Givings, Five Virtues, and Six Perfections’. The six values are all human-centric and humans are cognitive. Thus accordingly, they represent the materialization of the LJM core value of ‘Compassion & Chan Meditation’, which constitutes the foundation for its promotion of spiritual ecology. The LJM School of Sramanas at Naung Mon in Myanmar is an incubation center for future sanghas and it overcame hurdles of a lingering pandemic and political unrest among other uncertainties to offer online courses on the afore-said Six Living Values. There are plans to integrate the courses into future curricula for the long-term education of the sramanas.

The Spirit of the Six Living Values Corresponds Well to the Essence of Buddhism

Master Heng Ming, residential Master-in-charge of the LJM School of Sramanas at Naung Mon in Myanmar, pointed out that LJM has since long been promoting the Six Living Values that provide the cornerstone of spiritual ecology, which has become more widely understood and accepted thanks to an ever-increasing level of awareness of environmental protection globally. While a host of circumstantial factors renders teaching in Myanmar more than challenging, the education of sramanas cannot wait. The school’s enthusiastic consultants and teachers worked out modular programs for bhikkhus and teachers. By way of group learning with interactive approaches and open methodology of pedagogics, the Six Living Values began to be taught to the target audience in the hope that the train-the-trainers mechanism will help warrant future generations of sramanas who genuinely appreciate and practice the Six Living Values.

Master Heng Ming added that the spirit of the Six Living Values corresponds well to the essence of Buddhism and he cited two examples that follow. One Heart, for instance, refers to the Heart of Perfection of Nirvana, which is the ultimate goal of achievement in Theravada Buddhism. And, Two Compassions equate ‘Loving the Earth’ and ‘Loving Peace’ that are the spiritual embodiment of the Buddhist notions of equanimity, benevolence, and compassion for all. By the same token, Three Goodnesses, Four Givings, Five Virtues, and Six Perfections are all the underlying code of conduct of Buddhists for daily life. On that note, Master Hsin Tao has on the other hand desired another defined objective for the education of sramanas as a whole, namely attaining Arhatship on the inside (i.e. liberation through enlightenment), and practicing the Bodhisattva path on the outside (i.e. bestowing compassion on sentient beings). The School of Sramanas will make certain that its teachings be implemented in line with such institutional principles to help all its sramana pupils to practice and live by the Six Living Values.

The LJM School of Sramanas at Naung Mon has already been putting the Six Living Values to actual practice in daily life and examples abound. The daily practice of the Minute Chan Meditation enhances the pupils’ preparations toward experiencing the Heart of Perfection of Nirvana by truly appreciating what tranquility is via proper deep breathing. The ‘Loving the Earth’ notion is a part of the syllabus for Chinese learning, which will progress to modules for the environment to address issues such as ‘crises the Earth faces’, ‘what is there to do’, and DIY courses for soap-making for the pupils to get hands-on lessons in recycling, besides a closely monitored recycling system for the whole school with a rewarding mechanism.

Future Challenges: Spreading Out Spiritual Ecology via Innovative Teaching

Myanmar is a country with a culture that has nurtured indigenous customs and traditions. As a result, there were times when the promotion of the Six Living Values as well as Master Hsin Tao’s teachings required time and patience in the process of communication. A firm believer of the faith that ‘resolve brings strength’, Master Heng Ming overcame the challenges with support from all over and the promotion of the Six Living Values is gaining accelerating traction over time.

Master Heng Ming observed that Myanmar consists of different races and tribes and Buddhism co-exists with multiple faiths and cults in the mountainous region of Naung Mon, where it is believed that there is a spirit in all beings and all lives are equal. The view is commonly shared among many minority communities around the world including American Indians and Taiwan’s indigenous people. The spiritual ecology Dharma Master Hsin Tao advocates likewise draws its baseline for all beings and is not solely human-centric. Such underlying respect for ecology coincides with Myanmar’s traditional thinking and persuasion runs smoothly. Changes in the teaching methodology, however, present steeper challenges. The online courses offer a glimpse into new ways of teaching that encourage interactions and open dialogues and have witnessed enthusiastic participation in class by bhikkhus and teachers.

Teaching methodology consultant Liu Tian-Jih introduced open discussion for group learning in class. Everyone was told to close their eyes to contemplate a topic with four questions after Master Heng Ming gave his lecture on the Six Living Values. A ten-point scale was given for each of the six values and everyone was asked to assess their performance and rate it on that scale of 1 to 10. How did everyone fare? Why that mark? What did the balance mean? What can be done for improvement? The course was no longer a one-way mechanism with the class on the receiving end only, but self-examination was encouraged with a self-critique whether the failing portion was due to incapability or the absence of willingness… The net result was that all individuals found themselves motivated for action-taking.

Feedbacks to the above-said program were very positive and encouraging, and it was a gratifying experience to take note of some interesting aspects of the Burmese culture in the process. The pursuit of Nirvana is a cultural and traditional aspiration people in Myanmar pride themselves on, and the Master witnessed how fervent discussions on that singular topic nearly eclipsed all other fellow components of the Six Living Values. Such cultural differences proved to be extra mileage for Master Heng Ming as a strategic reminder when preparing the teacher’s guidebook in the future.

In wrapping up, Master Heng Ming noted that education is a major undertaking worthy of centennial operations that defies haste. It demands a systematic approach to make certain that sramanas in Myanmar can fully benefit from Master Hsin Tao’s teaching in its entirety. Bhikkhus and teachers of the school are the sramanas’ first contacts that became even more significant in the face of the pandemic. Hands-on camps for teaching and learning will be featured in the school calendar to facilitate deep-rooting of the Six Living Values among bhikkhus and teachers, so that sramana pupils will build up their sense of value through learning, acknowledging, and practicing the Six Living Values taught at school. Once the value system is properly installed, a self-monitoring mechanism will emerge from within as an auto-pilot for conduct and behavior. And that is what education is all about.

LJM is quintessentially a Guanyin-centric seeds-breeding organization, and the LJM School of Sramanas at Naung Mon in Myanmar functions as a front-runner for the promotion of spiritual ecology to showcase Buddha’s teachings. LJM’s steadfast persistence in a fast-changing world stands out remarkably amidst the calamity of the pandemic to reassure that our relentless efforts will stay their course in spreading Master Hsin Tao’s mindful and diversified teachings all over the world.