Daily Archives: April 12, 2005

How to Make Merit the Proper Way

This morning I was up early to visit my school. Today the students came into school with their parents with food and other essential items in order to offer them to the monks.

They also took part in a bathing ceremony which involved pouring rose scented water over a Buddha image, the monks and their teachers. Once these formalities were over, the students enjoyed a water fight in the playground.

I want to take this opportunity to tell you about some of the rules for how to offer things to the monks properly. This might be useful if you are planning to visit the temple during Songkran.

How to Present Things to Monks

According to the Vinaya or monasterial disciplines, monks cannot take things without being presented to them first. It is an ecclesiastical offense. Therefore, knowing what to do in presenting things to monks is necessary for all Buddhists.

First, the size and weight of the object presented should be able to be carried by one person. It should not be too heavy which is inconvenient to both the monks and the presenter. When both the monk and the presenter are ready, he or she should be about an arm-reach or one metre away from the monk, and present the alms in a nice and respectful way. The monk has to receive the alms in the same way too. If the presentation is done with two hands, then it should be received by both hands too.

The monk cannot receive things from a woman’s hand directly. He will use a piece of cloth to receive the presented object by placing the cloth in front of him. Then the woman places the object on that piece of cloth. Again, if it is presented by one hand, the monk will receive it with one hand as well.

Presenting Food on the Alms Round

Monks are forbidden to hoard food and they cannot cook. Therefore, alms gathering is an essential daily routine. The monk goes out on his alms round in the early morning. He then brings the food back to eat at the temple. Some monks only eat once a day. Others will eat twice. However, all monks cannot eat after mid-day.

The Buddhist layperson personally contributes towards the daily food requirements of the monks and novices as an act of religious merit, as well as a means to support Buddhism.

Offering food to the monk on his alms round should be done correctly. One who wants to do this should prepare the food and get ready. When you see a monk approaching, you inform him you want to offer food by saying “nimmon”. When he comes, he will stop in front of you and open the lid of his alms bowl. Then, you carefully place the food, one after the other, into the alms bowl. The monk will receive the food peacefully and respectfully. He will also give a blessing though he will never say “thank you”.

The monk does not wear shoes while doing the alms round. Therefore, you should take off your shoes too. Otherwise you will be in a higher place than the monk, and this is considered to be improper. However, if the monk is standing on a platform or a mat, this is considered to be in a higher place and it is not then necessary to take off your shoes.

I will be talking more about the alms round and the food monks are allowed and not allowed to eat over the coming weeks.

Main Source: “How to Get Good Results from Doing Merit” by Phra Ajaan Plien Panyapatipo

Using Internet in Thai Schools

I want to share you with this newspaper article written by Oratip Nimkannon for the Bangkok Post. She interviewed me a couple of weeks ago for a story in the paper today. You might be interested:

Using the Internet Intelligently
Bangkok Post, 12th April 2005

Two of Sriwittayapaknam Schools e-learning web sites are www.dekgeng.com and www.english-room.com

Young people are, by nature, curious. If you put a child inside a room with a computer that has an Internet connection, the chances are the child will start browsing. Curiosity is a basic behaviour that can prompt the urge to learn new things.

Richard Barrow, head of the computer department at Sriwittayapaknam School in Samut Prakan, told learning post that in order to nurture and guide this curiosity, educators have to take the lead. This means introducing students to the wealth of knowledge available freely on the Internet, rather than simply dismissing it.

The most basic way of integrating Internet usage into classwork or homework is to ask students to find information. Sutharat Phuargpu, 16, explained that at her school, teachers would assign students to use the Internet to search for specific subjects, such as narcotics or the history of state agencies.

But using the Internet for this type of assignment is easy. With powerful search engines like Google and Yahoo!, students can often just type in one word to get the answers they want. A more constructive approach is to have them perform “strategic information searches”.

For example, at Sriwittayapaknam School students are given worksheets with a list of questions rather than the task of looking for one specific topic. They then have to use search engines to search for the answers. By doing this type of assignment, the students learn to strategically apply the use of keywords to narrow down their search and think about whether what they’ve found is really relevant to the questions asked.

Of course, once on the Internet, students are often tempted to click through to irrelevant topics, particularly when that topic is more interesting to a young mind than homework. According to Richard Barrow, the key to keeping kids “on topic” is balance and subtle manipulation.

“As the number of [online] game players at the school was far greater than people wanting to do homework, we had to compromise,” he says. “Now we have one day a week during lunch break when games are not allowed.”

However, once Barrow started suggesting stimulating and educational websites, he found the students started taking an interest and would divert their attention to exploring these sites.

This is all well and good, but giving young people free rein on the Internet has its downsides. The anonymous nature of chatrooms and programs, for example, means that they are addictive and seductive to most teens.

Using this type of software, students can interact with more than one person at the same time, and the ability to get instant feedback from the other end makes online chatting a rewarding experience. But the negative aspect is that students can get hooked up with a total stranger and risk being lured into giving out personal information or engaging in activities that turn out to be harmful.

For this reason, many schools have banned students from using chatrooms and software. But according to Richard Barrow, this attitude is naïve — after all, kids can access the Internet from many sources. Banning these activities at schools may encourage them to take them up somewhere else — somewhere where there is no one to supervise or provide guidance.
“What we did was set up a chatroom that is heavily moderated by a dozen people in different time zones,” he says. “We told the students all about the dangers of chatrooms and how they shouldn’t believe anything that people claim or should never give out phone numbers or addresses.”

Putting IT into practise
With proper guidance, students at Sritwittayapaknam School are now responsible users of the Internet. Besides using the Web to complete homework assignments, they have also learned how to use the technology to reach out to the world.

Through developing sites like www.english-room.com and www.dekgeng.com, the students have learned to communicate with foreigners and exchange cultural information in English — as well as develop skills that they can use when they leave school. Sritwittayapaknam School’s presence on the Web has also become prominent.

For example, if you type “Thai culture” as a keyword in Google, thailandlife.com — developed by Sritwittayapaknam School’s students and teachers — is the top result. Similarly, the keywords “Thai language” also bring up Sritwittayapaknam School’s affiliated website, www.learningthai.com.

The story of Sriwittayapaknam School reveals that with proper guidance from teachers, all students can learn how to use the Internet intelligently. In addition, activities like chatting with friends or playing online games can actually be productive to student’s learning. “Many role playing games involve problem solving and developing skills that could be useful in the future,” says Richard Barrow.

The key is to stay open-minded, experiment with the technology and “be prepared to make mistakes and learn by them”. After all, kids will always be curious, and helping them to make informed choices and understand the consequences of these choices is a key part of an educator’s responsibility.