Interviewer: Why do we have to get rid of our passions? You said we had to get rid of our passions. Why can’t we be passionate? I don’t think I know the difference between love and passion.
Mr Leggett: It’s not getting rid of the passions but being able to be free from them, being able to be free. Oh, right, lots of people say, “I didn’t learn French because I didn’t like the teacher.” Now, that’s an example of not being free from passion. The dislike of the teacher prevents my learning from that teacher. That’s an example where passion will destroy, I’ve gone to learn French or whatever language it is.
Now, if a teacher is unpleasant, he’s unpleasant but I’m there to learn French. Is he good teaching French? Well, they say yes. So, I’m learning. That is being free from passion. It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel anything at all, but I’m free from being dominated by it. It doesn’t mean to be cold like a stone but it means not to be controlled by it.
Interviewer: Are you asked?
Mr Leggett: Well, Buddha said, “Think about it, analyse for yourself.” Well, we have… in English, we have love and life, we have two words but a lot of languages only have one word. Very well, I hate the teacher, I can’t learn from him. You don’t expect me to work with that chap, do you? He’s from the north, I’m from the south. He’s always getting at me. There are countries, not very far away from here. Both people speak different languages, slightly different languages and they hate each other.
Interviewer: You always speak about teaching and learning re the process of teaching and learning has been part of human experience for thousands of years. Education is still groping with fundamental questions. What is the best way to achieve right education? What is right education? What is likely to produce the well rounded happy spiritually adjusted personality?
Mr Leggett: You can make people learn a lot of things by heart and sometimes it’s at the expense of creativity. On the other hand, if as today people here can’t remember things, can’t learn by heart, and don’t see why they should, that’s a big loss. People nowadays want to study Vedanta or Buddhism without learning the languages. Too much trouble.
Well, when I come here, after Japan, and they’re awfully nice people but lazy. People here walk through the streets much slower than they do in Japan. It has got some good points. There’s a terrible complacency, a sort of laziness. People don’t believe in their own inner capacities here. The society here has not much faith.
Oh, you’re born a poet. Not at all. There are 5 million poets in Japan, 5million. There are five or six hundred magazines devoted to nothing but poetry. Every month there’s three great thick ones come out about 250 pages. People send up poems. Every year there’s a great New Year poetry party of entries from all over Japan, you get 20,000 or 30,000 entries, mostly nearer 30,000.
The poems are – there’s not exactly a winner, but they get honour, honour, merit awards, you see? Quite often, the highest honours go to… it can be a farmer’s wife, a coal miner, a truck driver. These are the people, not professional poets. Well, the society there and the educational system has faith in that this poetry in the ordinary person. Well, here, we haven’t got that. We think poetry is special.
Interviewer: What is the difference? Is it the expectation of the system, is it the expectation of the teachers and the administrators?
Mr Leggett: Yes. Socially, you see, the mother can understand poetry. Sometimes African people have asked me, what is the lesson of Japan for Africa? I say, “Educate the mothers.” The Japanese mother can follow the children’s education. She gets out her schoolbooks and she follows. She knows what they’re doing in algebra. Here we drop it. The mother can… mother makes the children work.
Now, here the people have got things that they’ve got a sort of balance and reasonableness, in this country. The politician – political speech is here. People actually talk about principles and policies of what ought to be done. In Japan they don’t. They’ll say, “Vote for me, vote for me, Tommy R is the name, vote for Tommy R, vote for Tommy R. That’s all.
They reckon all the ordinary person – nobody understands about politics or anything like that. The Japanese have got no faith in the ordinary person knowing about politics. So, you wouldn’t expect him to know about medicine, would you? So, he can’t know about politics. It’s a highly specialised thing. Here people can intelligently discuss politics, they can learn from each other, isn’t it?
They don’t think poetry is subtle, they think it’s a fundamental thing in humanity, especially in women. Here you get all these things, oh, women’s literature, women’s writing has always been suppressed and pushed aside by men, always, never had a chance. You get an anthology, any literature in the world. How many top-ranking women poets are there in British literature?
Where’s the Milton, where’s the Shakespeare. Where are they, where are they in French literature? Where are they in Indian literature? You can count them on one hand. In Chinese literature, count them on one hand. But in Japan, no, it’s the other way around. The greatest masterpiece of Japanese literature was written by a woman. That was the world’s first psychological novel, still one of the best.
There’s an absolute galaxy of stars in every realm of literature in Japan. People come to me and say, “What triggered them off?” Why wait for a trigger?
Interviewer: What is it telling us? What is it telling us in the 20th Century?
Mr Leggett: To have faith. To have faith that these things are in you. To train for them and do them.
Interviewer: What must our educators do?
Mr Leggett: Well, it’s a big subject but first of all they should train themselves and then they’ll be able, convincingly, to make others enthusiastic. Because this is the secret of education, not to cram things into people, but to have faith in the Buddha nature which is in them which is longing to express itself. To have faith in that and to facilitate the expression.
Interviewer: So, apart from a reliable amount of subject knowledge which the teacher must have, what else must the teacher have? Faith?
Mr Leggett: Meditation.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are Questions and Answers to Gospel of Peace According to Lord Buddha :
Part 3: Teaching and learning Q&A
Part 4: Types of Meditation Q&A