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Vietnamese Buddhist Educational Institutions

The Vietnamese Buddhist leaders have always been aware of the educational needs of the Buddhist society. When in 1975 Vietnam gained independence, it already had a higher education institution which was famous all over the world. The Van Hanh University had close academic interactions with universities all over the world. Later in 1980 another two higher education institutions were formed. These institutions gave BA level education to monks and nuns. After sometime these institutions were turned into universities, keeping in mind the needs and requirements of the modern day education.

Now these institutions which are present in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City provide education not only of the undergraduate level but also post graduate level. This has been a break through for Buddhist students as now they can apply to foreign universities for a PhD. Later in the Hue City, one more University was built. Today there are certain Buddhist colleges who are confined to just giving Buddhist education at BA level. Many of these students have been sent out to study further. These students after getting their degrees come back to Vietnam and teach in various Buddhist colleges and universities.

These students prove to be a great help to the Buddhist students, as they have certainly increased the level of education in Vietnam. BACKGROUND OF BUDDHIST EDUCATION Vietnam enjoys quite a favorable geographical position in Asia. It has Cambodia and Laos to the west, whereas, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Thailand and Burma are in the east . The total length of the Vietnamese coastline is about 2,500 kilometers. Vietnam was considered as the middle part between China and India. In those days when merchants used to travel long distances in order to trade, Vietnam’s central region known as Luy-Lau was considered to be resting place .

This helped the Buddhists monks and nuns to preach their religion. Hence, this central position of Vietnam has allowed Vietnam to expand in terms of Buddhist studies. And as it was near and was constant rest place for Chinese traders, the culture of Vietnam is very much influenced from the Chinese culture. Moreover, it was also occupied by the Chinese during 111 BCE and 939 CE . The first Buddhist came in North Vietnam . Giao Chi was the central place in North Vietnam, where most of the Buddhist came. Buddhist are basically very religious, hence they tend to preach their religion as a natural tendency.

Hence, when Buddhist entered North Vietnam they started to preach their religion. Giao-Chi was the central resting place for traders; hence Buddhist had a lot of opportunities of talking to large audiences. These Indian and Chinese traders were constantly lectured and taught by the Buddhist leaders, whose main mission was to teach the mankind the right education and give them the right knowledge. Buddhist had a lot of influence on these people, and if not all of them accepted Buddhism, most of them got very impressed and helped Buddhists a lot.

Several monasteries were built, which gave formal education to people who wanted to be monks. Missionary activities were started and missions were sent all over Vietnam. During the rule of Si-Nhiep, several monasteries in the North Vietnam became a hub of education for the students . The Buddhist studies in Vietnam can be divided into four Eras: – From the very first entrance of Buddhist education to the first century can be counted as the first Era – From 11th to the 14th century is the second Era. This can be considered as the best Era in the history of Buddhist education in Vietnam

– After the 25th century the Buddhist studies began to decline. This was the third Era – And the last Era continues till today. It is the present day situation of the Buddhist studies in Vietnam It has been difficult to determine the exact date on which the first person to give Buddhist education entered the country. However, many people believe that the first Buddhist entrance in Vietnam happened in the first century hence all the period till this is considered as the first Era. According to some people, Meou-Po, was a Taoist and later became Buddhist was the first to give Buddhist education.

The missions who came before Meou simply laid groundwork for him, and later it became easier for him to give Buddhist education to people, who didn’t knew what Buddhism was. BUDDHIST SCHOOL OF THOUGHT During the second century Buddhism began to prosper in Vietnam. It had entered Vietnam through the Red River Delta region and Mekong Delta area. The Mahayana Buddhism came from China. Though Theravada (or Hinayana) Buddhism came from India, and was probably the very first kind to enter Vietnam yet Mahayana has always been more popular. The people in the Southern Delta region had accepted Theravada more than Mahayana.

The Theravada school of thought is one of the earliest teachings of Buddha and is one of the most orthodox also. The main emphasis of the Theravada school is one the meditation process and on the psychological needs of a human being. However, it can also be termed as one of the easiest teachings. According to the Theravada school of thought the purification process can be attained by following three steps. The very first is to develop your ethics and conduct. After achieving this, the person can meditate and in the last attain inside wisdom.

Therefore Theravada studies emphasize on the point that all the living things are going to die someday and that only Buddha was the divine one. If we look at Mahayana teachings, we can see that they believe that salvation is only achievable via Amitabha . This school has a very unique and different philosophy. It emphasizes on intuition and believes that a person who wants to get enlightened has and inward thinking and not an outward. Mahayana teachings believe that anyone who follows the right path can achieve nirvana, whereas according to the Theravada studies only monks and nuns can achieve nirvana.

Hence we can see that due to the strict nature of the Theravada studies, it got accepted among lesser number of people. Moreover, Mahayana ritual and imagery always attracted the Vietnamese. The main reason for this was the conformity of this school of thought with the original beliefs and rituals of the Vietnamese people. The quick way of achieving Buddhahood, explained by the Mahayana school is another reason for its popularity . BUDDHIST EDUCATION BEFORE INDEPENDENCE Though before the independence Buddhism was the state religion, yet the hostility and opposition it faced later made the Buddhist teachings come to a halt.

A Buddhist liaison committee, which was formed to distinguish between the supporters and opponents of Buddhism, had a vision to build a new Buddhist society free from all feudal systems. Though this committee tried a lot to prove that the Buddhist religion was a peaceful one and that by teaching Buddhism the monks and nuns do not intend to create any chaos. However, the communist leaders at that time could not stand this. They constantly tried to hinder the Buddhist studies and were always against the monks. It is a universal fact that the monks are calm and never engage themselves in any violent activities.

The communist leaders at that time made sure that the Buddhist activities, which were there to merely educate people about Buddhism, should be stopped. They confiscated all their holding and kept them under house arrest. All missionary activities were stopped and monks and nuns were confined to the four walls of the monasteries. It was not a big problem as Buddhist monks do not lead a secular life, however, stopping the Buddhist education meant bringing the teachings to a halt and this was not acceptable to the Buddhists. In 1981, a Buddhists committee was formed representing all the Buddhists of Vietnam.

This was a bold step for the Buddhists as almost all the pagodas and monasteries were destroyed by the communists. No new monks and nuns were allowed to be ordained and Buddhists students were not allowed to educate themselves. BUDDHIST EDUCATION AND INSTITUTIONS In early days it was very difficult to teach Buddhism as very little literature was available. Vietnamese culture is very much influenced by Chinese and most of the people at that time knew how to read and write Chinese. Vietnamese language lacked its own script hence many books were translated in Chinese so that scholars could read and educate themselves.

This was between 544 and 602 and is regarded as one the best era in the history of Vietnamese Buddhism. Another time in which the Buddhists made a lot of progress is between the years 603 to 939. Vinitaruci and Vo-Ngon-Thong, were two missions sent from China to Vietnam and made a significant progress. Almost 500 monks were preaching Buddhism at a time during this era. 20 shrines were built and scholars were taught day and night. Though at that time there were no formal schools and colleges, yet a lot of scholars came to get educated and stayed in the monasteries.

Large Stupas and shrines were built and were continuously visited by thousands of people who had accepted the religion. The Chinese government at that time was aso particularly interested in the education of the Buddhist scholars, and hence helped the Vietnamese built many shrines and monasteries. The education system of any country is of importance as it represents the deepest core of the nation, its human intellect. Likewise the education system of Vietnam represents the identity of its nation. It is defined by the cultural and religions background present in the country.

As almost 85% of the Vietnamese population is Buddhist hence Buddhism has the most influence on the education system. This Buddhist culture also represents the culture of the entire nation. Buddhists have always been very concerned about their education system. Almost 9 missionaries were sent to all parts of Asia in the third century in order to teach people about Buddhism . This can be refereed to as one of the oldest examples representing the Buddhists concern about education. Due to many of such missionaries, Buddhism had been spread in every nook and corner of the world.

Most of the emperors in those times were also Buddhist and showed a lot of concern in the Buddhist education. Many emperors made Buddhists scholars and monks. Ngo-Chan, was one of such scholars who was made the leader of the Sangha by an emperor. These steps encouraged the people and they took more interest in the propagation and spreading of Buddhism. Monks of those times were considered as the most learned people and were called for advice by the nations’ leaders. Each and every person in the country used to respect a monk.

This shows the Vietnamese people concern and respect towards education and educated people . The Vietnamese leaders have always been concerned about the needs and demands of the education system. They not only have tried to establish am excellent education system but have succeeded in doing so. When Vietnam got independent it already had a higher education institution present for the Buddhist students. This was the Van Hanh University. The education system at that time had contacts all over the world. Students were sent all over the world I order to get higher education.

These students late came back to the country and helped other students educated themselves. In 1980, yet another school was formed and after sometimes the Ha Noi City also had one of its own Buddhist schools. Both of the schools present in the Ha Noi and the Ho Chi Minh City were confined to teaching monks up to BA level. At that time there were no resources and teaching staff available, in order to change the college in to a university. Later when students went abroad and came back to help other students learn, it was then that these institution offered post graduate degrees also.

In 1997, another university in the Hue city was formed. These past few years have proved to be very lucky for the Buddhists. Many colleges and universities have been made during these years, not to mention several grass root educational institutions which are working for the benefit of the Buddhists. Monks now travel all over Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, United States and United Kingdom, in order to get higher education. Students come back with MPhil and PhD degrees hence not only increasing the literacy rate of the country but also helping other monks to learn.

Buddhist students have proven to be one of the bets as they have never engaged themselves in any political situation of any country. They never try to alter the cultural and traditions of any place, rather learn to adapt and educate people. According to their teachings, all the things in the world have their own dimensions and qualities and altering them means destroying the true nature of that thing. Hence being such a peaceful religion, it has been easier to promote it. Education can be called a tool which helps a human being grow, transform and learn.

Education in many areas of the world is a social liability, but never can we see that it illuminates the light of truth and goodness like Buddhist education. The prime responsibility of Dhamma schools is to transform a character. A person has values which are responsible for his character. These values come from ideals. Buddhist educators determine these ideals and teach students about a proper Buddhist life. There are five qualities that Buddhism education brings from the teachings of Buddha. The first one is concerned with emotions of a human. Second is related to education and wisdom.

Others relate to better living styles like avoid killing, stealing, sexual abuse and drinking. The Buddhist education transforms a character in real terms. The character and intelligence, both are tried to be balanced. Buddha, the Divine power, has also explained the importance of education by saying that there was knowledge and wisdom present inside him . This knowledge can obviously be imparted only by learning and education. Before the French people were known for their education , today the Buddhist education is also known all over the world. The Vietnamese have made a lot of progress in this regard.

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