Published on December 30, 2007
If you're successful at work or in your studies but unhappy with your life, a new master's degree course that is soon to be offered by Savika Sikkhalai and Bangkok's Mahachulalongkorn- rajvidyalaya University (MCU) could provide the mental peace and harmony you are seeking.
The new graduate programme in Buddhism and Arts of Life aims to produce ariya (noble men), not achariya (geniuses), explains nun Sansanee Sathirasutra, director of Sathira Dhammasathan Meditation Retreat Centre and the founder and director of Savika Sikkhalai.
The course is open to both males and females who wish to understand, live life the right way with wisdom and gentleness and want to help others to do the same. In other words, it is for those who wish to search for the truth of life.
"The course is not taken out of desire but with the courage to grow," adds the nun.
For 20 years, the non-profit learning community of Savika Sikkhalai has provided a Buddhist education for women, teaching them to lead peaceful and useful lives in both theory and practice, says one of Thailand's leading nuns.
Regular activities on weekends include helping mums- and dads-to-be become good parents, assisting parents and children to communicate with love, understanding and compassion, and teaching teenagers to understand the difference between love and lust. Equally importantly, these adolescents are helped to confidently say no to alcoholic drinks no matter how strong peer pressure may be to check them out.
People of all ages flock to the centre to listen to the nun's dharma teachings.
"We've seen that results come from real practice and that we grow step-by-step as we follow the path to the end of all suffering," she says.
And education must be constant. "It is not about going to the temple when you are suffering."
Savika Sikkhalai's educational service follows the tenets of the Dalai Lama given to the nun during her visit to Dharamsala in India eight years ago.
"I believe that education is the essence to obtain enlightenment. To me, education leads to comprehension. In order to achieve effective practice, we must first have an excellent understanding of dharma. The right faith is faith obtained through wisdom. This is why the study of Buddhist scriptures is vital."
To be offered from June over weekends with 12 compulsory units and three to 12 electives, the two-year course will focus mainly on practice. Subjects include ariyasatya as the law to natural truth, anapanasti (mindfulness of breathing) as the pathway to wisdom and peace, along with Buddhist counselling and psychotherapy, life and death from a Buddhist perspective, and practices in Buddhist hospice care.
The elective subjects encompass health, mindfulness and society and include ayuraveda and natural healing, traditional Thai massage, the Buddhist way of coping with dying, and dharmic communication through various media.
The first course is open to everyone regardless of age and seats are limited to 30.
The honorary advisers are Buddhist scholars and social thinkers and include respected dharma writer Prof Upasika Khun Ranchuan Intrakhamhaeng, Prof Emeritus senator Kasem Wattanachai, Prof Rapee Sakrik, Prof Emeritus Prawes Wasi, and Prof Emeritus Sumon Amornwiwat, with Assoc Prof Dr Soree Phokaew, assuming the role of course president.
MCU's rector, the Most Venerable Prof Phra Dharmakosajarn, says the prestigious buddhist institute, which was established by King Rama V, only started offering bachelor degree courses to ordained and lay persons of both genders 60 years ago. Postgraduate opportunities were introduced even later. He welcomes the new programme wholeheartedly.
"It's good that Savika Sikkhalai is adding what Thailand lacks in terms of offering women education in Buddhism. Women in Thailand still have too few opportunities to study dharma at an academic level."
Like the MCU, the course will produce socially engaged Buddhists rather than silent Buddhists, he adds.
"Let's produce women spiritual leaders," adds nun Sansanee.
Venerable Phra Suthee Varayana, vice rector of MCU's department of foreign affairs also fully supports the course. "It is the duty of ordained people to follow the Buddha's path of ending suffering in oneself and then helping others, which is the same aim of the MCU."
"The world is warming up not only physically but also morally. This course aims to cool the minds of some of the population," adds Senator Kasem.
Doctorate degree programmes and international courses will be available in the future.
For more information on the MA programme in Buddhism and Arts of Life, contact Sathira Dhammasathan, 24/5 Soi Wacharapol, Ram Indra 55, Bangkok, call (02) 510-6679, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Sds.web.org.