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Teaching Children to Make Merit
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Teaching Children to Make Merit
Story by PHRA PAISAL VISALO

Boosting social immunity : Parents not only want their
children to be successful, but also to have a happy
and moral life. It is meaningless if their children,
despite their wealth, are still ridden with suffering
or are corrupt and addicted to vices.

But it is not easy for us to live a moral and happy
life these days. Youngsters need to be immunised
against all kinds of vices around them so they are not
lured onto the wrong path. They also need to learn to
think, seek virtuous things and live a meaningful
life.

Knowledge helps children to be smart. But if you want
your children to be happy and good, you need to teach
them what boon, or merit, is, because it can help
stave off all sorts of vices from your children. It
can help them solve and manage life's problems as well
as nourish them spiritually with inner peace and
happiness.

Boon means cleansing. Firstly, it is the cleansing of
one's deeds so one can live a moral life that benefits
both oneself and others. Secondly, it is the cleansing
of one's mind from the blues as well as the fire of
desire so that one can cultivate a wise mind that is
not driven by emotional impulses.

Boon also means the blissful feelings that come from
doing good deeds.

The givers get happiness : Boon starts when we know
how to give. Giving, or "dana", helps erase our
self-centredness. The mind that is always on the take
is narrow and selfish, making that person unlikeable
and making it difficult for that person to be happy.

Children grow up safe and sound because they receive
what they need from others, from the time of their
birth. If they do not learn how to give, they will
believe that they are always entitled to get things
from others.

Kids should learn that life is about give and take.
They can learn from the trees, for example: The tree
take nutrients and water from the soil, but they also
give back humidity and dry leaves to nourish the soil
in return.

But giving does not mean an exchange or a duty. For
giving essentially gives us happiness. Teaching kids
to give therefore amounts to teaching them to be happy
from their own generosity. The truth that the givers
get happiness is what all children should learn.

This is why parents in the old days take small
children to temples to give alms to monks so they will
want to do that on their own when they grow up.

One is blessed for giving alms to monks, but the
blessing from boon also comes from giving to the
distressed. Children can make merit just by giving
away their toys to poor children or by donating money
to the handicapped.

Apart from money and materials, giving life to animals
is also a merit-making act. Simple kindness such as
freeing fish that are stuck in mud and returning them
to the waterway, or watering wilted plants, is also
considered boon.

Lift the world with generosity : Teach your children
that what they give or how much it costs is not as
important as the thoughtfulness itself. You can
tremendously help your children if you teach them that
even when they have limited energy and money, they can
equally make great merit as powerful as that of
grown-ups if they are thoughtful. You should teach
your children that our qualities are not measured by
age, success or fame, but the quality of our hearts.

Take 12-year-old Duanghathai Sothisawapark, for
example. She is proof that we can give a greater thing
than money if we have empathy. When the teenage girl
found out that her cousin had cancer, she drew a comic
book to raise funds for her cousin's medication. Her
comic book might not have been polished, but her
generosity powerfully moved many. Thanks to public
donations, her cousin is almost cured now.

Or take 14-year-old Gaewjai Laonipon. Every night, she
would accompany her parents, who are volunteers of the
Poh Teck Tung Foundation, to rescue accident victims.
She helps jot down the addresses, car plates, or even
takes the injured to hospital. The girl's
self-sacrifice is hard to match.

Putting in one's time and energy to help others is
also a merit-making deed. Children should learn that
they can do this kind of boon every day in their daily
life. For example, picking up broken glass or litter,
helping out with school chores, carrying things for
the elderly, helping the blind cross the street,
growing trees in public areas or doing household
chores.

Non-exploitation : To help others, we must start by
ensuring that our own conduct does not cause harm to
other people or to the public. Harmful acts include
taking life, stealing, corruption, violating what is
cherished by others, or being addicted to intoxicants.
The boon from refraining from these acts is called
sila (morality, virtue) in Buddhism.

By teaching children not to exploit other people or
the public, you give them a fence to ward off harm,
for a simple mistake can lead to tragedy. You should
not remain passive if the children commit what seem to
be trivial mistakes, such as stealing their friends'
pens, copying others' homework, cheating on exams or
killing ants and worms.

Good deeds not only prevent us from exploiting others,
but also from exploiting ourselves. Those who do good
bring happiness both to themselves and to those around
them.

Wise consumption or simplicity is also part of
Buddhist morality. We should not be excessive in our
eating and living. We should eat nutritious food and
not let greediness harm our bodies.

This includes appropriate use of technology. For
example, children should learn how to use mobile
phones only when it is necessary, watch TV only after
finishing homework, or play computer games moderately.
Children also should learn to save, not to flaunt
wealth, not to overspend nor be addicted to shopping
or such vices as gambling and night entertainment.

Make merit with your heart : We can make merit at all
times wherever we are, whether or not we have money.
We can make merit without doing anything if we train
our mind properly so that it generates positive
feelings such as admiration for others' fortune _ not
envy.

Teaching your children how to be happy for others will
give them the seeds of good-heartedness.

Children should also be taught not to go it alone in
their good efforts, but to give an opportunity for
others to join in. Wishing others to share the
blessings from one's good deeds is also a boon in
itself.

Humility is also a merit-making deed. Children should
be taught not to look down on others just because they
are younger, less educated or poorer. They should also
be taught not to be overbearing with household maids.
Humility as a merit also includes not being prejudiced
against people of different faiths.

Making merit with our heart leads to a positive and
happy mind. Envy and arrogance, meanwhile, lead to
anxiety and stress. We should teach children to train
their minds so they can smartly manage external
stimulants affecting their emotions.

Training for a calm mind : Meditation calms the mind
by effectively extinguishing anger. For a start,
children should be taught to breathe in slow, deep
breaths at least four to five times when they feel
angry.

But meditation is effective when practised regularly
as part of daily life. The methods vary. For example,
focusing on the breathing in and out, or walking
slowly and calmly. It will be more effective if
parents join the children in meditating. Only five
minutes of this practice every day will do wonders in
your mental development.

For small children, games can help. For example, the
robot game. Ask the children to move each body part
slowly and separately, just like a robot. The rule is
that they must observe every sensation that arises
during the movements. This method helps make it fun
for children to learn to cultivate mental
concentration as well as consciousness of one's body.

Actually, we can practise meditation with all our
activities. We can teach children to be mindful when
brushing their teeth, washing dishes, or doing
homework, for example. We should also teach them to do
one thing at a time. Not eating and reading at the
same time, for example. This can help strengthen one's
ability to be focused.

Bedtime is a good time to teach children to cultivate
mental concentration and calmness. This can be done
through simple prayers, followed by the paying of
homage to the Buddha, dharma (his teachings) and
sangha (the community of monks), and then to parents
and teachers. Children should make their minds calm
for a while before going to sleep.

Projecting compassion is an effective mental practice
that can protect oneself from anger. Accumulated anger
is like fire burning our heart. Parents should teach
children to emanate good will and compassion before
going to sleep.

Cultivating compassion is also possible through
regularly expressing admiration and thankfulness for
other people and things around us.

Children should be taught not only to be thankful for
their parents and teachers, but also for maids,
drivers, janitors, etc, who help to make sure their
lives run smoothly.

They also should learn to be thankful even to the
trees, the mountains, the sea, as well as things they
use _ pencils, bags, blankets, cars, etc. This helps
instil gentleness, concern for the environment and
frugality.

If children are still very little, teach them to water
plants or to keep a pet and teach them to wish the
plants and their pets to be happy and free from all
suffering. If they do this regularly every morning and
evening, their hearts will be brimming with
compassion.

Emanating compassion is a great merit. The Buddha says
the blessings it brings are greater than giving alms
to the Buddha or to 100 enlightened monks. This is
because it is the deed that directly makes one's mind
positive.

Training for right thinking : After training the mind
to be calm, the next step is training it to be wise,
or to have right thinking.

Your children should learn to use goodness to guide
their deeds, not using their likes and dislikes. They
should be taught that when rebuked, even when they are
not happy with it, they should ponder if the reprimand
is correct or not. This attitude will help ease your
children's distress and help them to benefit from
rebukes.

Likewise, children should learn early that when
eating, they should not go for what please their
palates, but for that which is useful for their bodies
and is also economical. This right thinking helps your
children learn what right consumption is, and how not
to be slaves of consumerism.

Right thinking also can be cultivated by exposing
children to useful information. You should help your
children listen to good guidance, to read good books
or to watch useful TV programmes. You should also be
with your children when watching TV so you can give
your kids appropriate guidance.

Teaching your children to do good deeds is itself a
merit-making act. If they follow your teaching, they
are joining your boon.

The right boon is one that makes one's mind pure,
clear, calm and full with true happiness.

You may be ready to give your children all the
material things they want or need. But one thing you
cannot forget is to teach them to know what boon or
merit is, and to live a life full of merit.

What a great inheritance you can give your children!

This is a translation of the Thai language booklet
entitled 'Teach Children to Make Merit', published by
the Network of Buddhists for Buddhism and Thai Society
and supported by Thai Health Promotion Foundation. To
obtain the booklet, call the network on 02-866-2721 or
fax 02-866-2722, or see www.budnet.info

TEN WAYS TO MAKE MERIT

1. Give money or other materials.
2. Cultivate generosity and refrain from bad deeds.
3. Keep the mind calm.
4. Sacrifice one's time and energy for others or the
public.
5. Be humble.
6. Appreciate the successes and good deeds of others.
7. Help others to do good or to share in one's own
merits.
8. Listen to dharma or good thoughts.
9. Give dharma and good thoughts to others.
10. Think rightly in line with virtue.

 

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