Friday, October 21, 2011

Hey! Teacher, mother-father, leave them kids alone!

Last year in one of the most prestigious colleges in Delhi, the HoD of a certain Department along with many of his colleagues threatened to resign if a certain boy, the Principal had caught in a compromising position with his girlfriend in the college compound, on Valentine’s day, was rusticated for his behavior. The boy had earlier, on being checked several times, spoken back at the Principal saying that it was not his business to check his behavior as he was over 18 years.

The Principal gave in to the pressure raised by his teaching faculty.

Really, most of them had used the opportunity to strike back at the Principal, holding the gun on the boy’s shoulders.

In another incident, a school going girl threatened to kill herself if she was not allowed to bring in her boyfriend and spend hours with him locked inside her room, without being interrupted. The boy was a college going indulgent lover, ten years older than her. The parents, who had always been reasonable and taught the girl to reason out things and talk with them, had lost the battle with their brat. When they saw a Child Psychiatrist, they were advised to ‘keep their cool’ and not push it too much. The girl was only rebelling and it would soon change. It has been three years since then. The parents are now seeing a councilor to keep from breaking down.

What we are facing today is a fall out of what we as parents did in the past. We dropped the stick and reasoned with our children. Friends and doctors adviced, that parents and teachers must not wield the stick or be too adamant about what is right and wrong. The child had its own voice and its reasons too and that has to be respected. We did just that. How could we as parents, educated in Public Schools and convents, living in cities and hugely exposed to public opinion and parent peer pressure, reveal ourselves as rudimentary by picking up the stick and striking the calf muscle or the buttock of our child? Or even raise our hand on our child? Of course, we had to bear the tantrum and comply to every whim and fancy of our child. We could not scream or shout for fear that the child might take to rebellious behavior. When they were in their teens, we had to project the image of being a friend rather than a parent, so that we fitted into the prescribed formula of a city bred, yuppy parent, who is managing her home and her work efficiently. Also as a friend, we believed the child would not be afraid to tell us everything!

But alas! When the child grew up, in many cases they exhibited behavior that spoke louder than words – their actions spoke to say, that we as parents failed to be parents and they as children, grew up not really knowing what is right or wrong because, we gave them the liberty to do and to say, whatever they liked, because, after all, we were parents who wanted to see our children, free and creative.

Dr Eric Burne, famous author of Games People Play and founder of Transactional Analysis (See: ) spoke of three states –Parent, Child and Adult. In his breakthrough work, he states that the Parent symbolizes the figure of authority, one which has rules and regulations, do’s and don’ts, and is generally thought to be rigid in content. The Child is the one which is just opposite, it is free and without bindings and rules is the seat of all creativity. The Adult mixes the two extremes and is rational and thinking. We as humans therefore change and interchange these states to suit the requirement of our needs. Thus, an adult in real life might want to act like a Child or may be caught in the other extreme of being a rigid Parent and not reasoning Adult depending on what the situation asks for.

“Please do it for me, pleeeeeese!” is a Child speaking

“Listen, we can talk about this.” Is an Adult speaking

“No, you will not do that!” Is an Parent speaking.

At most times, we are only too anxious to be a Child with a child or become a rigid Adult.

Do you think then, that there is a mismatch here and the fault lies with the way we have dealt with our children or are we going to say that Mass Media, globalization etc etc are to be blamed more than the homes we gave our children?

Reference read: My question is: Who is to blame?

Immortal songs: The Wall by Pink Floyd

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Book Review: Ten thousand miles without a cloud

Ten thousand miles without a cloud by Sun Shuyun

Don’t get carried away by the title and think that it is a book on Zen Buddhism. No, this is a travelogue really, sprinkled with a generous helping of personal experience and travel tracing the same route taken by Chinese monk Xuanzang,( who travelled across from China to India, via the silk route to study Yogacara, ( see Wikipedia: the 8th century. This according to Mahayana Buddhism is the practice of meditation and yoga which together can give rise to pure consciousness, a state which is to be totally alert, awake but “thought-less” – pure consciousness.

We know from History that it is the Records that Xuanzang kept so meticulously that lead, the British to find and resurrect the teachings of Buddha, only over a century ago. Buddhism was a thriving practice and a study in the early 6th Century, India, which later was all covered by the already existing Hindu religion. Not to speak of the Muslims who came later to destroy as much as possible and instill in its place, Islam, forcefully. Many Buddhist monuments were raised to the ground and many Buddhist monks fled to finer pastures where they were welcomed, like in China and Japan.
However, for a keen learner, Xuanzang would have nothing except the truth, straight from the horses’ mouth. He had heard that in the great University of Nalanda, he could learn from him, who knows best the on Yogacara ( Sanskrit Yogācāra (योगाचार), Vijñānavāda (विज्ञानवाद), Vijñapti-mātra, Vijñapti-mātratā, or Cittamātra) which is the art and science of arriving at enlightenment, or a thoughtless state of Being.  

This book is a beautiful account retracing the journey that Xuanzang took and the author, Sun Shuyun, makes all the effort to reach each and every spot that the Chinese monk had travelled through, taking time to be in these places and make notes on the place as it existed now, in the late 1900 around, 1998 – 99, 1300 years after Zuanzang had visited these places. Many things had changed and yet, for the author, being in a place where the monk had been was a very live experience.

No, please do not think the author herself is a monk. Perhaps this journey was the closest, deepest brush she had had since her days with her grandmother, who was an ardent believer in Buddhism, placed in a very traumatic time, when China was undergoing its cultural revolution.

Although the book does not explain the title, I would like to dwell on it with my readers, just for a little bit.

Bertrand Russell once said – No matter; never mind! He was right, although his inference may have been borrowed from Indian thought travelling via the Greeks to his motherland.

We have known it for ages, that the world is, and therefore the mind too is. Mind is matter in a subtle form. Therefore thoughts which arise in the mind are matter too. Thought is material, no matter how subtle.

When the mind is trained over time, it can hold on to fewer and fewer thoughts through the practice of yoga and meditation. A carefully trained mind which has practiced for years, can hold on to one thought only. And at that point, also allow it to go, so that there is nothing left except pure consciousness, uncluttered even by a single thought. This has been the true pursuit of the Mahayana Buddhist, this state which is the ideal state of no thought. It is pure consciousness. This state is considered to be the highest.

Clouds are figurative language for thought, hence, ten thousand miles without a cloud, would literally mean, ten thousand miles without a thought, just pure consciousness. Yes, Xuanzang travelled the whole distance only to learn from Indians practicing Yogacara, the art of practice that lead to a state of “cloud-less-ness”.

“Self nature, complete and clear,
Like the moon in the water.
The mind in meditation, like the sky,
Ten thousand miles without a cloud.”

About the author
: Sun Shuyun is a Chinese writer. She was born in China in the 1960s, graduated from Beijing University and won a scholarship to Oxford. Her books include:

Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud
The Long March: The True History of Communist China's Founding Myth
A Year in Tibet, a book made in conjunction with the BBC documentary A Year in Tibet.

Publisher: Harper Perennial (2004)
Price Rs 350