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Children's Direct Seeing

Dr. Thynn Thynn

Not so long ago, I bought a monopoly game for my children with the intention that all four of us my husband, the children and myself - could sit down on weekends and play together.

At the time that I bought the game, it seemed to be a good idea, as monopoly appears to be a game where adults can participate without getting bored. But in actual practice, things did not turn out as I had envisioned.

My seven-year old son Tet got very upset whenever he lost. After the first game together, my husband never joined in again. As for myself, I persevered only a few more times. Still, the children continued playing whenever their friends come over.

On one particular day, my little son lost as usual. This time it was too much for him and he got into a fit of anger. I thought, 'Now is the time to talk to him about playing games.' So when he had cooled down a bit, I started to explain to him what a game is all about and about winning and losing. He listened attentively, but could not be reconciled to my ideas. I kept wondering how much good my talk was doing him, but suddenly he piped up, "Mommy why is it when I play with balls or other toys I don't get angry but when I play with money I get so mad?" To be honest, I was dumb- struck by his question. I thought to myself, 'My goodness, why didn't I have that kind of wisdom when I bought the set?' I could only marvel at the way the children are teaching me more than I teach them.

While I was busy rationalizing and intellectually explaining away the concept of winning and losing, obviously my little son found it hard to follow such a discourse. He resorted to looking directly into his own mind and taking a clear look at the cause of his own problem. Meanwhile I, as the mother was too preoccupied with my intention to teach him and failed to see his state of mind at that particular moment.

I also noticed that from that time onwards my little son stopped making a fuss over monopoly and began to relate better to the game. Prior to this he would always blame his sister or others for his losses and it was becoming a habit. When he saw what was happening in himself, he must have assumed responsibility for his own anger. That must have been the magic cure. If we adults could learn to do the same, there would be little discord among families and communities.

One fine day about a year ago, my nine- year-old daughter Win asked me very sweetly, "Do you know, Mom, what my friends in school say about you? They said you look more like my grandmother than my mother."

She did not criticize, nor judge nor express any opinion about it, but the message got through to me immediately. Her friends had made a straightforward comment without malice or ill intent, and it went straight to my heart. Since then I have been trying to dye my fast-greying hair and lose weight, to the delight of my daughter.

Obviously, children in their innocence are more adept at looking directly into themselves at others and at certain situations whereas we adults tend to complicate and distort things with our rationalizations, criticisms, and judgements. Hence, the fault is always with others and the outside world.

I suppose we were also direct and innocent when we were young, but as we grew older we lost this directness and innocence. How did we become so distorted? What went wrong?

There is no simple answer. Maybe it was the conditioning that attended our education, the inculcation of established values in family and society.

Early on in life, we were taught to discriminate and judge for ourselves in a polarized manner. In every aspect of life, everything was split into opposites, good versus bad, success versus failure, wealth versus poverty and so on. As our young minds got caught up in this dualistic way of looking at things, we gradually lost our original way of viewing the world as a totality.

In becoming educated, we are trained to be critical and logical as proper preparation for adequate performance in our careers. As our intellectual abilities are enhanced, we develop our minds but not our hearts. As we lose more and more of our childhood innocence, our lives become more and more competitive; confusion and frustration almost inevitably result. We may find we need to seek help, either from psychologists or from religion.

Many have found consolation in Buddhist meditation. For example, vipassana meditation can be viewed as an inward-looking practice which is strictly non-judgmental and non-discriminatory in nature. It is an exercise in looking directly into ourselves in an effort to undo all the conditioning that has taken place within our lifetime.

In fact meditation is nothing sophisticated. We are just relearning what we have forgotten. We are actually learning to shed the sophistication of our intellect and the accumulation of mental possessions. We are learning to go back to the simplicity of our childhood, and to our original nature which was so pure and untainted.

That is why many sages are esteemed for a childlike quality in their nature. This does not mean the wise man has reverted to childhood. A child is innocent but lacks the maturity and the wisdom to handle his own life. Adults have the maturity to some extent, but lack the innocence. This innocence bestows wisdom, it can only be achieved through the practice of "direct seeing" into one's own mind.

From: Sakyadhita Newsletter, 1994, vol.5, no.1