Monthly Archives: August 2014

Neil Amas on Panyaden Wise Habit, Khanti

Panyaden students practise Khanti moves at assembly.
DSC_1708 Panyaden School Director, Neil Amas
School Director, Neil Amas

Khanti (pronounced kan-tee) originates from the Sanskrit word kshanti and means ‘patient endurance’ or forbearance. It is the ability to tolerate provocation, hardship, pain and all obstacles in your life. It is the voluntary control of mood and temper by the training of the mind.

In Buddhist texts khanti is considered to be one of the ‘ten perfections’ (parami), a high and noble quality that, far from indicating weakness or passivity, is seen as a great strength. It is a patience that endures being hurt without thoughts of revenge, arduous tasks without complaint and illness without despondency. Khanti is the acceptance of the first Noble Truth, the truth of dukkha (dissatisfaction, suffering). As we learn to accept that life is characterised by happiness that does not last and unhappiness that at times seems to have no end, we begin to see how much time and energy we waste trying to avoid or deny dukkha. When we accept the natural instability of life, we stop feeling defeated and sorry for ourselves.

Panyaden School Prathom students concentrate on their project Khanti relates closely to other wise habits, including viriya (perseverance) and samathi (being calm and focused). Without khanti, no matter how much we persevere we will become agitated and frustrated by the obstacles in our path. If we allow the distractions that inevitably arise in our minds when we are trying to stay focused to irritate and discourage us, concentration becomes more difficult than if we simply accept them as natural occurrences. By the same token, without viriya and samathi we are unlikely to cultivate the conditions needed to train the mind to be patient.

Research shows that, contrary to traditional views, there is no direct correlation between high IQ and success in life. The old beliefs in IQ are now outdated. According to contemporary studies impulse or emotional control is a far more important indicator for success in studying, family life and career (this is a key component of what is often referred to as ‘EQ’, or “emotional intelligence”, in modern educational terms). Venerable Jayasaro advises that children who have little tolerance, are selfish or spoiled will grow up wanting an easy life and lacking emotional control. The tendency to later develop destructive habits or addictions becomes high. Having the patience and tolerance to resist unwholesome acts is a virtue that will protect a child from such negative consequences. ‘’If your 5 year old child has khanti, you can be sure that he will have a good future.’’

As parents and teachers we know that patience is one of the most important and yet most challenging requirements in raising children. How many times do we hear ourselves say – or think – ‘’I am losing my patience!’’ In the teaching of children we not only need to control our temper, but also patiently resist the urge to ‘give in’ to unreasonable demands. We all know how difficult this is at times when, tired and fed up, we think ‘’OK, OK, watch another TV show! Anything for an easy life!’’ By helping children appreciate the value of waiting, by delaying their gratification, we are teaching patience.

We should use every opportunity to point out the results of their patience, or lack of it, reflecting back to the child without judgement. ‘’You waited patiently for your turn and now you are playing so happily!’’ Having consistently applied rules at home and school that have been agreed upon with the child gives her the opportunity to practise self-control instead of interrupting whenever she wants or watching cartoons without a time limit.

Each day things happen we do not want and things we want do not happen. Khanti enables us to respond to the ups and downs in life with thoughtfulness and composure, creating the space and possibility for positive change to take place. Khanti is a truly wise habit. It will earn us respect and admiration from others and create success and happiness for ourselves.

 

lotus2 transparent

Download Thai translation here: Khanti THAI

Wise Habit, Viriya by Neil Amas, School Director

Panyaden students practise Viriya at school

Viriya (pronounced wi-ri-ya) is a very important virtue in Buddhism, commonly translated as “perseverance”, or “diligent effort”. It can be defined as an attitude of gladly engaging in wholesome activities and staying with them in order to accomplish the desired results. It is the mind intent on being unshaken and not giving up. It supports the other Wise Habits, in that making progress is impossible without resolution, and is the virtue that follows chanda, for you first need self-motivation to be able to put forth diligent effort.

Viriya originates from the Sanskrit vira which means ‘hero’ and, as such, we can see viriya as the act of conjuring forth the qualities of a hero. Viriya is identified in Buddhist teachings as a critical component of a number of qualities that lead to happiness and liberation of the mind, such as the five spiritual faculties (indriya) and the ten “perfections” (parami). It is also associated with Right Effort, one part of the Noble Eightfold Path, which identifies four types of right effort:

– to prevent negative, unwholesome states of mind from arising
– to abandon them if they have arisen
– to generate positive, wholesome states not yet existing
– to maintain them without lapse, causing them to develop and to reach full growth.

Viriya has to emerge from your heart, from a place of Right View and Right Intention and in balance with other Wise Habits, such as patience (khanti), concentration (samathi), awareness (sati) and wise reflection (yoniso manasikara). If we put our energy and effort into actions without the right mind we will cause more harm than good. Venerable Ajahn Pasanno teaches, “while it is important to put forth effort it is also important to slacken off at times. If you are always pushing, the mind can get on edge, restless and unsettled. We need to gauge and reflect on what is appropriate effort.’’ When we fix our sights too firmly on the goal, will power tends to take over and only gets us so far before we feel frustrated. Viriya is a relaxed energy, a peaceful vitality which continues to sustain us without irritation or despondency.

Venerable Ajahn Jayasaro explains the role of viriya ineducation. ‘’While it is important to be relaxed when we are learning, we also have to teach perseverance and determination. Enthusiasm (chanda) leads to perseverance (viriya) which leads to concentration (samathi) which leads to skilful use of the mind (yoniso manasikara). If we have chanda we are eager to know, learn the truth and value what we do. From there viriya will occur and be followed by patience and tolerance towards any obstacles we find in our way.” When the mind is motivated yet patient, we are more able to make decisions calmly and with wisdom.

For children to understand viriya we can encourage them to reflect on their feelings after completing a task with perseverance. To encourage greater effort, we can try setting mini-goals on the way to achieving a greater task, extending the distance between these steps as the child gets older or gets better at cultivating perseverance. We must also lead by example with our own displays of viriya. When we see others refusing to give up despite obstacles and setbacks, it can be very inspiring.

Having desire to do something is essential because it gets us going, but actually sustaining effort and energy is where a lot of the hard work is. We might have the desire to get off the sofa and get some exercise and even make a start, but in order to achieve the desired long term results such as weight loss or fitness, we need to keep at it!

lotus2 transparent

Click here for Thai translation: Viriya THAI pdf

Panyaden Science Fair 2014

Panyaden School Science Fair 2014

Did you know that many everyday materials could be used as ingredients for science experiments? We had first hand experience of this today when we participated in a series of interesting experiments led by our schoolmates during Panyaden’s annual Science Fair today. We used cornstarch with water to create quick sand, turned balloons into rockets and mixed food colouring and drinks to create colourful liquid rainbows! These fun experiments helped us to understand various scientific concepts like Newton’s Law of Gravity, density, sound, light and air pressure. Enjoy the photos of this special day on the blog.

Student experiments at Science Fair 2014, Panyaden School Chiang Mai Student presentation at Panyaden School Science Fair 2014, Photo by Playpixels 3 Panyaden School Science Fair 2014, Photo by Playpixels 7 Science Fair 2014 rocket balloons, Panyaden School Chiang Mai

More photos here on the blog. With thanks to PLAYPIXELS for contributing photos to our albums on FB and the blog.

Panyaden Recycle Band

Panyaden School Kindergarten 2 student Recycle Band learn about different tones 2
We do not always need brand new, state-of-the-art instruments to play music. Panyaden’s students have created their own instruments by recycling used glass bottles, caps, tin cans and others. Here are our Kindergarten 2 students learning about high and low tones using these unconventional devices found around the school.

Kindergarten 2 student Recycle Band learn about different tones 1  Kindergarten 2 student Recycle Band learn about different tones 5
More photos on the blog.

22 August @Panyaden School

Panyaden Science Day 2014

Science Day & Flea Market, Panyaden School

Panyaden will commemorate the Thai National Science Day on Friday morning, 22 August 2014. Parents are welcome to join us in our Science activities and experiments starting from 9am till 11.30am.

Our parent-teacher association, Friends of Panyaden (FoP), will also run a flea market the same afternoon (3-5pm). Drop by if you love a bargain!

‘Chanda’ by Neil Amas

DSC_1716 Neil Amas, Panyaden School Director

img_7798 Students of Panyaden School enthusiastically showing off their flower arrangements
Students enthusiastically showing off their flower arrangement for Wai Kru Day.

Chanda (pronounced chan-ta, ฉันทะ) means being enthusiastic or having aspiration. It is the desire to achieve a worthy goal, of having intrinsic motivation to apply oneself in order to achieve knowledge, truth or good behaviour.

There is a common misunderstanding that in Buddhism all desire is ‘bad’ and leads to suffering. In fact the Buddha recognised that there are two different kinds of desire. One is desire borne of ignorance, an unwholesome or negative desire (tanha), for example towards an object of greed, which gives rise to suffering. The second is wholesome, skilful desire (chanda), which originates from wisdom, from a clear understanding of the way things are. It means bringing up motivation or desire to do the very best that you can in the present moment because you have a coherent understanding of the benefits, even if the results are not immediately apparent, or are out of your control.

Ajahn Jayasaro, Panyaden School Chiang MaiVenerable Ajahn Jayasaro explains that 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 instead look for quality of action in the present moment. It is natural that as parents or teachers things will not always work out the way we had hoped and we feel disappointed. But when we recognise that there are outside influences that we cannot control, we are better able to put effort into things that we can, such as our own actions and reactions. We water and nourish a young tree to give it the best chance in life, but when it matures the sweetness of its fruit is beyond our control. This is ‘right motivation.’ Venerable Jayasaro cautions that ‘an over-emphasis on results in the future tends to have a number of negative consequences in the present, such as anxiety, restlessness, boredom and dissatisfaction. This 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. We feel naturally motivated to help develop and maintain the best possible qualities and behaviours in them. Chanda is a ‘prerequisite for the job’ of educating children. But if this desire is not wise it may lead to us becoming overly protective – causing our children to become timid and dependent on us – or over-controlling – creating alienation and rebellion.

In the classroom and at home, chanda means encouraging our children to be enthusiastic in developing their own learning and knowledge, to give their best no matter the consequences and to create and maintain good behaviour. Because chanda has to come from the heart and cannot be ‘taught’, the best we can do is create opportunities for children to develop their own passions and interests and help them reflect on how it feels when they put good effort into achieving something. This leads them to generate further motivation. Praising effort over results, encouraging them to try something despite initial reluctance or helping them reflect on the benefits of what might otherwise seem like a boring task – such as tidying their room – can all help generate chanda. At school, we refrain from giving rewards such as stars or treats because this tends to encourage working for a ‘prize.’ Directing focus towards self-assessment and reflection is more likely to cultivate a true love of learning.

Chanda arises from a place of genuine and unconditional love. 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. A boy who happily undertakes a chore because he sees the wider benefits for himself and his family, has chanda.

We all know how precious a parent’s praise is to a child. If we concentrate on celebrating effort, we will help them develop chanda, a wise habit for life.

lotus2 transparent

Download Thai version here: Chanda (Thai)

Live and Learn: Inattentional Blindness

“Hello? Is anyone listening to me?”

Why it is so difficult to get your child’s attention

by Neil Amas, Panyaden International School Director

Neil Amas, Panyaden International School Director
Neil Amas

“Do I have to repeat myself three times?’’ Ever said that to your children? They are engrossed in a book, or watching the TV and despite your attempts to get their attention – including turning up the volume of your voice, waving, dancing, holding up a bar of chocolate – all you get is…blank!

But experts in neuroscience are telling us that our children may not be deliberately ignoring us, in fact they are experiencing ‘inattentional blindness’. Knowing this may not only help parents to be more patient with their glazed-over little ones, but also helps raise our awareness of important safety issues.

Professor Nilli Lavie

Inattentional blindness is the difference between hearing and listening, or seeing something and actually registering its presence. An article featured on the BBC draws on research by Professor Nilli Lavie of University College London which demonstrates that children have a limited ability for awareness outside of the focus of attention.

“Parents and carers should know that even focusing on something simple will make children less aware of their surroundings, compared to adults. For example, a child trying to zip up their coat while crossing the road may not be able to notice oncoming traffic, whereas a developed adult mind would have no problem with this. The capacity for awareness outside the focus of attention develops with age, so younger children are at higher risk of inattentional blindness.”

The reason for this is that the primary visual cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for perceiving things, is less developed in children. They simply have less peripheral awareness than adults.

However, we adults do also tend to miss the ‘blindingly obvious’. The now infamous ‘selective attention test’ has shown that adults focusing intently on one thing can totally miss another object that very obviously comes into view. (Click on the link and try it for yourself!) Even experts in observation can miss what’s in front of their very eyes. One study found that 80% of radiologists from the Harvard Medical School did not spot the image of a gorilla that had been photoshopped on some of the 239 chest scans they had been asked to scrutinize for signs of lung cancer.

We are all prone to inattentional blindness it seems, but it is worth remembering that while parents may be more aware of what is going on around them, when we get zero response from our spellbound child, it does not necessarily mean they are ignoring us. Patient understanding and a gentle touch on the shoulder is likely to get us a lot further than yelling across the room while also lowering the frustration levels for everyone!