The philosophy is kindness | Portsmouth High School

The philosophy is kindness

Miss Preston BA (Hons), MA, PGCE

Miss Preston graduated in Art History achieving first class honours and went on to achieve an MA in Religion and Culture with a distinction from Winchester University. She is an experienced teacher and taught Religious Studies and PSHE to senior pupils.

Miss Preston is currently the Year 3 class teacher at Portsmouth High Prep School. She has a strong interest in the visual arts and in her spare time likes to paint and visit the theatre.

After the Easter holidays Year 3 were due to perform their assembly on ‘The life and teachings of The Buddha’ and it occurred to me that the philosophy of what they were going to deliver has much to offer in this time of separation and fear.

The Buddha was born as Siddhartha Gautama in Nepal around 2,600 years ago. Although born a prince, he rejected his life of luxury and embarked on a spiritual life seeking to find out the cause of human suffering. After many years of practising asceticism he rejected extreme physical practises and went into deep meditation where he reached the state of enlightenment. He obtained a state of unconditional and lasting happiness which he offered to his disciples in the form of a prescription called ‘The Four Noble Truths’. The first truth teaches that suffering is part and parcel of our daily lives and that there is no escape. The second truth shows how suffering is caused by greed or wanting (even wanting things to remain the same). The third truth shows how suffering ends when we stop being greedy and the fourth offers a template for life in the form of something called ‘The Eightfold Path’.

In essence, The Buddha taught that we perceive the world in a certain way and when we find out it is not how we want it to be, we suffer. He stressed that change is inevitable and by wanting things always to remain the same we will ultimately suffer.  Impermanence, therefore, is an important principle in The Buddha’s teachings, and once understood and accepted can offer a great deal of freedom. Sharon Salzberg, a New York Times best-selling author and teacher of Buddhist meditation practices in the West, said; ‘Impermanence is the very fabric of our lives. It’s not just that our lives are always changing; our lives are made up of change’. This ‘go with the flow’ tenet of Buddhism offers us, in this time of universal uncertainty, the chance to reflect on what we do have and not what we have lost.

Above all else Buddhism is concerned with ‘compassion’. The Buddha left his ideal existence and family to help others. As the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama, explained; ‘This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.’ Thinking of others rather than ourselves during this unprecedented time means we need to be creative in how we stay connected and how we offer support.

Another aspect of Buddhism that can be drawn upon during this time of isolation and lock down is how to find happiness. The Buddha taught that you should not depend on others to make yourself happy but in fact true happiness is self-generated.  Having a calm mind is seen as the source to happiness and good health. Being creative, painting, writing letters, cooking, walking, as well as practising yoga and meditation are all positive engagements to combat this time of negativity. As The Buddha said; ‘No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.’

Although Year 3 are unable to present what they have learnt whilst studying Buddhism they certainly have had the chance to be innovative over the last few weeks. I have gained much pleasure and reassurance from daily contact via MS Team and from receiving lots of amazing work and images. I am sure Year 3 girls have the resilience and the support they need in this challenging time ahead and will continue to be productive and creative.