Doing the very best that you can in the present moment
There is a common misunderstanding that in Buddhism, all desire is ‘bad’ and leads to suffering. In fact the Buddha recognised that there are 2 different kinds of desire. One is desire borne of ignorance, an unwholesome or negative desire (tanha) which gives rise to suffering. The second is wholesome desire, or chanta, which originates from a clear understanding of the way things are. It means doing the very best that you can in the present moment. It’s a basic Buddhist idea of wise effort.
As explained by Ajahn Jayasaro during a talk at Panyaden last year, this is an important principle in the education of children or in the raising of children by parents. We should not be overly obsessed with results, but, rather, look for quality of action in the present moment. There will be disappointments and things will not always work out how you want them to be, and there will be outside influences that you cannot control, so the best you can do is put effort into things that you can. This is right motivation. Ajahn Jayasaro explained, “An over-emphasis on results in the future tends to have a number of negative consequences in the present, such as anxiety, restlessness, boredom, dissatisfaction, or very easily can lead to dishonesty because if you feel that something you do in the present is merely a means to get what you want in the future, the temptation to take short cuts becomes very strong.”
As parents and teachers we all want our children to be healthy and happy. But if this desire is not wise it may lead to us becoming overly protective causing our children to become too dependent on us, or we may become over-controlling and create alienation and rebellion in our children.
Chanta, then, is positive desire and arises from compassion and unconditional love. In the classroom, as well as at home, this means encouraging our children to be enthusiastic in developing their own learning and knowledge, to try hard to succeed no matter the consequences and to maintain and create good behaviour. For example, a sister who helps her younger brother get dressed for school purely out of love and a desire to help him has chanda. A group of students who are enthusiastic about learning a new subject at school solely from their love of learning and desire to work hard at it regardless of the results, are displaying chanda.
We all know how precious a parent’s praise is to a child. If we concentrate on praising effort, we will help them develop chanta, a wise habit for life.