Venerable Luangphaw Sir, today’s society seems to be filled with so many underprivileged groups. I wonder if I should donate my money to make merit through charity or toward the support of the monastic community.
by Venerable Dhattajeevo Bhikku
Are you saying that you believe the building of a school or a hospital is better than the building of a temple. Is that correct? Would you please listen carefully? This type of question is similar to the question that asks whether a shirt or trousers is more important. In fact, they are both equally important because you cannot wear either one of them separately without the other.
In fact, social welfare works. To put it in other words, helping others out of a predicament, and the support of religion by donating to the construction project of the temple, should both be performed.
Let’s look at it closely and in this way. If you asked yourself: school is a place to do what? School is a place to teach students to become educated. Educated in what subjects? In applicable knowledge or other general subjects. To put it simply, students are taught how to earn a living and have a career.
The temple is also a place of learning. People here are taught about the subject of the mind. They are educated on the various aspects of the mind.
What is the purpose of having hospitals? Briefly, they’re places with the main purpose of curing physical ailments.
What about our temples? Temples have a similar purpose as a hospital, which is to alleviate mental ailments.
School teaches students on worldly subjects or applicable knowledge of the world. Let the students attend these schools because they are good, but you have to be cautious. Our forefathers have encountered in the past that knowledge can be dangerous in the hands of the wrong person. They will use the knowledge in the wrong direction and application. They present numerous problems to society. This is something that we have to be careful about.
For example, it would be great if a student learned the subject of engineering and applied it toward the construction of buildings, machinery, or automobiles. But if this knowledge falls in the hands of criminals, or someone deficient in the precepts or Dhamma, it could also be used to build bombs to kill others. Thus, to address that problem, whenever a school is built, it should be built near a temple, or have the school and temple occupy the same facility. One section is used as a school to provide students with the knowledge of the world, and the other section can be reserved for teaching our children about morals and virtues. Arranged in this manner, virtues will go hand-in-hand with worldly knowledge.
In former times, schools were situated on temple grounds, thus the children grew up to be adults who were endowed with knowledge as well as virtues. This meant that they were moral and intelligent.
Nowadays, schools have moved away from the temple grounds, thus there are no appropriate places for students to study morality. Now adults are complaining that there are clashes amongst different groups of students. What a pity! Clearly, temple and school must be situated together in order to put an end to the troubles. Schools and temples should be built next to each other.
In regards to the hospital, there are two types of aliments that human beings can suffer from.
1) Aliments imposed by nature such as aliments from aging, sickness, and death. These are ailments that no one can escape.
2) Aliments brought on by one’s behaviors. Alcohol consumption brings with it numerous illnesses and diseases. Roaming the streets in unseemly hours also gives rise to the chance of contracting various infectious diseases. Telling lies, robbing and cheating, bring with them their own various illnesses.
Let me put it in another way. The ailments brought on by oneself are the consequence of failing to maintain the precepts. This is why we have the campaign of “Don’t drink and drive.” In fact, if you completely abandon the alcohol drinking habit, you can drive freely at any time we desire.
So how do we solve the problems of the self acquired ailments? By building and attending a temple and making it a good place to be. Then, welcome venerable monks with deep and thorough knowledge on Buddhist principles to stay at the temples so that they can educate and train the people in the community about the precepts and about morality. The morality and precepts provided will become mental vaccinations against self acquired ailments.
Thus, both the building of hospitals, and the building of temples, should be done. Everyone should come together and contribute parts of their income and wealth for the common good of society. Donate your wealth toward the building of hospitals, schools, and temples, and help support the monastic community and the temples’ maintenance. This will bring happiness and prosperity both to Thailand and the world.