Thai language and traditions came alive today for Panyaden students through dances as well as a play from a section of the epic Ramayana performed by the students themselves. They also painted the colourful backdrops with the help of their teachers. Thank you all for the lovely performances!
There was also storytelling in Thai using handmade puppets and props and fun alphabet games. Students also had a chance to make and sample delicious desserts, play traditional Thai games and make handicrafts.
Mattannuta (pronounced ma‐tan‐yoo‐ta) means ‘knowing the right amount.’ When practised, it helps us achieve a healthy balance in life. It is the quality of understanding that, whatever goals we set ourselves, there is an optimum amount of material and non‐material things that we need. It is the ability to assess what is enough, and to know when we are being over‐demanding on ourselves, others or our environment.
The Buddha taught that the middle path should be followed by both body and mind. It is a path of neither sensory indulgence nor extreme austerity, but rather one of moderation and balance. This does not only refer to specific actions or thoughts in isolation, for example consuming the right amount of food, but also to achieving the right balance between all the different things we do each day and throughout our lives.
To illustrate this, Phra Prom Kunaporn refers to the importance of balancing the indriya, or five spiritual faculties: conviction (saddha), perseverance (viriya), mindfulness (sati), concentration (samadhi) and wisdom (panya). For example, if our conviction or faith is very strong but we do not use wisdom, we have a tendency to become gullible, a person that follows without question. Conversely, high intelligence but little faith leads to scepticism, and an inability to look inside oneself for the truth. If our perseverance is strong but our concentration is weak, we are likely to become agitated and stressed. Too much concentration and insufficient perseverance, on the other hand, leads to excessive daydreaming or idleness. To find the right balance between these, we need strong mindfulness (sati), the self‐awareness to observe and control the impulses that habitually drive our actions and thoughts.
In today’s world of branded ‘must‐haves’ and ubiquitous advertising, teaching the new generation how to consume the right amount is very important. Natural resources are stretched and we are experiencing increasing environmental degradation. Understanding mattanuta, therefore, is vital for our students as they grow up and shape the future of our society and our world. Venerable Ajahn Jayasaro, in his book on the 12 Wise Habits, counsels that if we think more is better simply in order to make our lives more comfortable, we will end up just wanting more and more and will never be satisfied. He advises us to encourage children to work out the mattanuta point for themselves. Whether eating, sleeping, studying, playing, using the computer or talking, the ability to find optimal balance through self‐regulation is a skill which will lead to maturity and social responsibility. This means not dictating the rules to children, but rather helping them see the results of too much sleep – irritability and heaviness – or not enough – drowsiness and the inability to concentrate, or over‐eating – stomach ache – and so on. When we ask our children how much sleep they think they need, how much food should they eat, instead of routinely imposing our own limits, they begin to understand mattanuta.
Venerable Jayasaro suggests that a family which practices mattannuta is one where parents and children are able to come to mutually acceptable agreements. This means deciding how long we think children should watch TV or play on the computer, for example, but also respecting our child’s ability to think for himself and come to a sensible agreement on the right amount of time. When the time has passed, we simply remind our child of the agreement. In this age of ever‐increasing ‘screen time,’ as adults we also need to reflect on the amount of time we spend on ‘smart’ phones or laptops in the presence of children, and the message we are giving them about what we consider to be important.
Practising mattanuta helps us to understand the desires and aversions created by our mind, and that understanding in turn increases the peaceful moments we experience. Mattanuta is, therefore, a vitally important wise habit to teach our children, but also to practice ourselves if we are to find true balance in our lives.
Panyaden School students planted these teak and gmelia in February 2013 at Pur Farm in Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai (read post here). This was part of our efforts to get our students actively involved in environmental projects such as reforestation, recycling materials to create art and so on. We will continue to keep you updated on the progress.
Another disciple of the Kung Fu Chef, Master Mattanuta and her team of apprentices arrived this morning at Panyaden to teach our students this week’s wise habit, mattanuta or ‘knowing the right amount’ in situations such as eating, using glue for artwork, sleeping or playing.
P5-6 students visited the Chiang Mai Zoo today to observe the external characteristics of animals. Back at school, they will help each other put the animals into different categories like Fish, Mammals, Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians.
Avihimsa (pronounced awihingsa in Thai, is a Pali word which means not causing harm. It originates from the Sanskrit himsa, meaning injury or harm which, when a‐ is added, takes on the opposite meaning, non‐ harming (a‐himsa). Not causing injury or harm has a broader meaning than simply not physically hurting a fellow human being or animal.
To practise avihimsa is not to say or do anything that creates suffering for oneself or for others and also not to say or do anything that creates or encourages the cause of suffering in oneself or others. We should not do anything which provokes negative thoughts or instigates harmful actions. For example, we might say something to a friend which, though not directly hurting them, may lead to angry thoughts and therefore creates negativity within that person’s mind.
Avihimsa relates particularly to the Buddha’s teaching on moral conduct. He taught about the benefits of ‘’right speech’’ and ‘’right action’’ and proposed an essential minimum of 5 moral precepts (sila) for lay people to follow:
1. To abstain from killing any living creatures
2. To abstain from stealing
3. To abstain from sexual misconduct
4. To abstain from false speech
5. To abstain from intoxicants
These are not an empty formula dictated by tradition or religious scriptures, but rather a practical means to ensure one’s speech and actions harm neither others nor oneself. They are essential pre‐conditions for the development of a peaceful mind (samadhi) and arising of wisdom (panya).
False speech is not only about whether we are telling the truth or lying. It is defined by the intention of one’s speech and whether that intention is against the best interest of the other person or is for personal interest or gain. A child who teases a classmate because they are ‘fat’ may claim she is only telling the truth and so is not breaking the sila. But if the child’s words cause the classmate to feel inferior and depressed, she is causing harm.
We are teaching our students that avihimsa means not harming others with your actions, your speech and even your thoughts. That thinking badly of others is just as harmful as saying something mean to them and this is because it is also harming you. Thoughts of revenge make us unhappy. Gossiping about somebody else, even if they are not in the room, creates a negative mind and atmosphere for yourself and those present. We can use our children’s actions and reactions in the classroom and at home to teach them the negative impact of harming, and positive impact of avihimsa. We should point out how bad an atmosphere is after someone has used hurtful words. Or we can reflect on how much more fun it is playing with friends when there is no teasing or name‐calling. We need to help children see negative thoughts as they arise and redirect them to something positive, to encourage them to see the good aspects of others instead of getting caught up in ill‐will or resentment.
Avihimsa means neither physically nor mentally hurting humans, animals and nature. From killing ants to polluting rivers. We want to help our children understand that harming others is unwise, not because it is a ’sin’ or breaks a ‘rule’, but because of the very direct consequences such actions, words and thoughts have on us as well as others. Practising avihimsa creates a community based on trust and good intention, one which knows how to forgive instead of blame; moreover, making it a habit in daily life will help us to reduce our own negative thoughts, making our lives lighter and increasing happiness.
“To keep our children’s minds working to their fullest potential, at Panyaden we practice meditation and mindfulness. Throughout the year we will be running activities that help students develop those wisest of wise habits, samadhi (being calm and focused) and sati (being mindful and alert).” Read about this and more on the upcoming June-July issue of our school newsletter. Out soon!
We continue to focus on ‘not harming’ this week. Since the Kung Fu Chef has retired, his apprentice Master Avihimsa took over the Panyaden wise habit session this morning. Her able assistant apprentices from P5-6 helped her to emphasize the practice and value of the virtue by acting out a short skit about preserving our waterways
by not dumping rubbish.