Part One: The Canon of Secular Life

Chapter Two: Education

3. The Way of Infant Education

Human nature is originally pure and free from either good or bad. However, depending on sensory conditions, we can become either good or bad. When we are in good environments, naturally it is easy for us to be influenced by what is good, but when we are in bad environments, naturally it is easy to be contaminated by what is bad.
Especially during early childhood, when we are innocent and naïve and our consciousness has not yet fully developed, we are readily influenced by what we see and hear. Hence, it is said that in olden days Mencius’s mother moved three times to find the right environment for her son’s education and finally raised her son to become a sage. Thus, how can we neglect education during early childhood?
Regarding the dharma of education for children, the Founding Master has laid out a fourfold path. First is teaching via the mind: by placing a locus for faith in one’s mind, and maintaining a state of mind that is upright, wholesome, and serene, one leads the children to model themselves on that mind. Second is teaching via conduct: by first conducting oneself correctly and maintaining right measure in one’s actions, one leads the children automatically to model themselves on that conduct. Third is teaching via speech: by frequently talking to them about the exemplary words and wholesome actions of the buddhas and bodhisattvas, sages and saints, and distinguished and accomplished persons, one leads children to remember and adopt those examples, and teaches them through gentle and rational words about human affairs and universal principles. Fourth is teaching via severity: this is a method of teaching through strict authority when children are immature; it is not a method to be used often.