Respect, or giving honor and not dishonoring, is the basic morality which should be cultivated from childhood so it can, like a flower, blossom well. Children should respect their parents, and students their teachers. However, this virtue seems to have been forgotten as the world moves forward.
In terms of respect for Buddha and his teachings, the Triple Gem holds the highest place and should be treated with utmost respect, because it is the pillar of Buddhism, consisting of Buddha, Dhamma (teachings), and Sangkha (monks). Sadly, it is viewed by many, particularly the young generation of Buddhists, as outdated, and irrelevant in today’s world.
In Thailand, several monks have tried to persuade young people to visit temples by chanting prayers like a musical performance, or adding a dance beat to the prayers. The new versions have been uploaded on social media channels to entice a wider audience.
But if this approach really works, why don’t we see more younger people actively practicing or trying to restore the Dhamma, as in other Buddhist countries which strictly follow the original practice?
Although the Eastern religion is flourishing in the West, the practice and teachings have been modified so much that they have turned into a commercial form of Buddhism in the so-called de-stress and relaxation programs, with most of its core teachings stripped away. While the purpose of simplification was aimed at bringing as many people to practice meditation without feeling overwhelmed, it has resulted in the true Dhamma being forgotten.
But isn’t the fact that our mental and spiritual well-being can be felt even though we only practice a tiny part of Buddha’s total 84,000 teachings, and should it be a good enough reason to hold the prophet and his religion in high regard?
If we look closely, the popularity of Buddhism largely stems from well-behaved and well-disciplined monks who are the exemplar of virtues. It is their ascetic routines and simple mannerisms that strengthen faith among Buddhists and draw non-Buddhists closer.
Such a deep sense of respect, while requiring time and practice, can be cultivated in children. In a world where inequality is plaguing all levels of social strata, the need for mutual respect of different views and beliefs, with the right view and attitudes, has never been more crucial.
This can begin with our commitment to make sure that whenever we hear them say, or see them do something wrong, we need to correct them quickly, but with gentleness and understanding. There’s no better way to instill our children’s sense of respect than respecting their thoughts first.