Tag Archives: Avihimsa

Panyaden 12 Wise Habits: Avihimsa

IMG_8449 Panyaden School wise habit, Avihimsa (not harming)

Avihimsa (pronounced awihingsa in Thai (อวิหิงสา)), 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. This includes avoiding words or conduct which provoke negative thoughts or instigate 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 she is ‘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.

Grade students presenting examples of harmful things to avoid
Panyaden students presenting examples of harmful things and actions to avoid

We are teaching our students that avihimsa means not harming others with your actions, your speech and even your thoughts. Whether thinking badly of others or saying something mean to them out loud, we are creating harm. Thoughts of revenge make us unhappy. Gossiping about somebody else, even though they are not in the room, creates a negative mind and atmosphere for oneself 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 the positive impact of avihimsa, such as pointing 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. This is using the Wise Habit yoniso-manasikara, or applying the mind skilfully.

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.

lotus2 transparentClick here for the Thai version of the above article.

Panyaden Wise Habit 2014: Sati

Mindfulness

‘Sati’ by Neil Amas, Panyaden School Director

Wise Habit Sati session at Panyaden School Chiang Mai
Sati is most commonly translated as presence of mind, awareness or mindfulness. It originates from the Sanskrit word smṛti, the root meaning of which is ‘to remember’ and as such an important aspect of sati is retention or recollection. To have sati is to be fully present, not lost in daydreams, anticipation or worry. It is being alert and attentive to everything as it is, not filtering things though our subjective opinions. It is also remembering to be aware of something or to do something at a designated time in the future.

In order to cultivate sati one needs to faithfully return back to refocus on an object whenever the mind wanders away from it. Venerable Ajahn Jayasaro explains, ‘’Mindfulness is not a floating, nebulous ‘awareness.’ You can’t just be mindful. You always have to be mindful of something.’’ The Buddha identified four objects for us to maintain calm awareness of in day-to-day life (satipatthana): our body and bodily functions (such as the breathing), sensations (feelings), state of mind (whether concentrated, scattered, discontented etc) and mental phenomena (such as the Four Noble Truths).

Sati is part of the Noble Eightfold Path. Practising Right Effort (samma vayamo), Right Awareness (samma sati) and Right Concentration (samma samadhi) together helps us to train the mind to be calm, balanced and, ultimately, freed from the dissatisfactions that cloud our thoughts. As unwholesome or negative thoughts arise in the mind, we apply sati to recognise them and prevent them from causing difficulty or unpleasantness. Sati is the moderating tool we use to assess our practice and progress in the other Wise Habits. For example, if we make a strong determination to avoid harming others (avihimsa), “we immediately illuminate, whenever it arises, the intention to harm. We become mindful of the intention to harm” (Venerable Jayasaro). Sati also helps us identify the right balance between the Wise Habits. We might become aware that although we have plenty of enthusiasm for a task (chandha), we lack sufficient patience to complete it (khanti). Sati is like a mental witness, a built in system of notes and reminders which helps us stay present, learn from past mistakes, do things better next time.

Ajahn Jayasaro, Panyaden School Chiang MaiVenerable Ajahn Jayasaro advises parents and teachers to realise clearly what we are doing at the present, what we are teaching now, what students are learning now and whether they are listening to us. This helps us to keep focusing on teaching or parenting, doing our best to teach and guide our children continuously without being distracted. There are times when we talk to our children with one eye on the computer, or with our minds thinking about what happened at work today or what chores we need to do later. And yet we also experience times when we give full attention to what we are doing with our children. This tends to result in a happier, healthier experience for everyone.

We need to encourage eye contact from our children, remind them to place their shoes neatly on the shoe rack, ask them to describe the taste of their food, have them check their bags routinely before school in the morning, encourage self-awareness of sensations and feelings when they get angry or upset and remind them of their home and classroom responsibilities. A child who kicks off his shoes, gulps down her food, forgets her school book or loses his temper easily does not have sati. We might encourage ourselves and our children to choose a particular activity such as preparing or eating a meal, washing the dishes, or taking a walk, and make an effort to be fully mindful of the task as we perform it. In time we will find ourselves paying more attention to everything.

Changing the mental habits and conditioning of a lifetime, no matter how short, is not easy. But as we develop sati the mind becomes lucid, the body alert and we are able to think with clarity and composure, to make wise choices, to know our responsibilities and improve ourselves. No matter how brief the moment that the mind is fully focused and attentive to the present, it is very powerful.

If we are unaware of our present actions we are condemned to repeating our mistakes from the past and never achieving our dreams for the future. It is said that if you miss the moment, you miss your life. How much of our lives have we missed? Be mindful!

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คลิกที่นี่ สำหรับภาษาไทย – คุณธรรม ๑๒ ประการ โรงเรียนปัญญาเด่น : สติ

Avihimsa Session

Students practising wise habit, Avihimsa kung fu moves, Panyaden School

This week’s wise habit at Panyaden

Our Wise Habit Grandmaster, the Kung Fu Chef appeared at school again today! He came with his young disciple, Chippy, also known as the Carpentry Kid, to teach us about this week’s Wise Habit, Avihimsa (not harming). They were joined by our Prathom 1 students who had made a poster illustrating examples of the some of the harmful things we should avoid. We learned that saying, doing and even thinking something hurtful towards other living things harms ourselves as well as others. Chippy finished off by practising the 12 Wise Habits moves with the whole assembly.

Avihimsa wise habit session 2014 b, Panyaden School c Prathom 1 students present examples of harmful things to avoid, Panyaden School

Click here for more photos on the blog.

Avihimsa by Neil Amas

DSC_1716 Neil Amas, British director of Panyaden School, Chiang Maidsc_1830 Teaching our students to respect and be kind to each other the Thai way

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.

Avihmisa: role playing at Panyaden Schoolto learn about wise habit
Teaching avihimsa at Panyaden through role-playing

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.

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Panyaden Wise Habit – Not Harming

dsc_2611 Students in assembly hall of green school Panyaden (Chiang Mai)

Our first wise habit this term is Avihimsa or ‘not harming’. Wise Habits Grandmaster, Kung Fu Chef, has now grown old and handed over some of his teaching duties to his disciples. Today he introduced Master Avihimsa to the students at morning assembly and his disciple showed two skits of how words and actions can hurt yourself and others. Firstly, a student was mean about another student’s book. Then, two students were gossiping about a friend when he walked by and caught them.

Our students volunteered 3 suggestions of how to practice this virtue:
1. Use polite words to everyone
2. Playing fairly and nicely with friends
3. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all!

dsc_2634a Teachers acting out roles to teach students school's wise habits, Panyaden School Chiang Mai dsc_2690a Learning about wise habit, Avihimsa at Panyaden School Chiang Mai

Photos of this morning’s session are on the blog image gallery. Click here.