Chanda by Neil Amas

DSC_1716 Panyaden School Chiang Mai Director, Neil AmasWe are currently learning about Chanda at school. Here is some information that we hope you find useful when reviewing this wise habit with your children.

Wise habit Chanda session at Panyaden School

Chanda (pronounced chan‐ta, ฉันท) 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 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.

As explained by Venerable Ajahn Jayasaro at a talk at Panyaden in 2011, 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. We need to recognise that there are outside influences that we cannot control, so the best we can do is put effort into things that we can, such as our own actions and reactions. We should water and nourish a young tree to give it the best chance in life, but understand that the sweetness or abundance 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. In fact, chanda is usually a ‘prerequisite for the job’ of parenting or teaching, in that we feel naturally motivated to help develop and maintain the best possible qualities and behaviours in our children. 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 over‐ controlling ‐ creating alienation and rebellion.

IMG_2404 Students sharing their learning in class, Panyaden School
Kindergarten students in class

In the classroom, as well as at home, chanda 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 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 helps them to generate further motivation. Praising effort instead of 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.

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 praising effort, we will help them develop chanda, a wise habit for life.

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Thai translation of above article: Chanda_TH

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