Untrain a Child

I am obsessed with change; I am also very attached to the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness is central to Buddhism. In Buddhism, mindfulness is the antidote to the hell of conditioned existence. Conditioned existence is just another term for “training.”

As a Christian, I frequently heard the proverb, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” On the one hand, I wonder about the feasibility of not training a child (because that would entail complete parenting chaos with no underlying habits of any kind). On the other hand, to me, learning to think for oneself is essential to function as an eventual adult.

As a Buddhist, my feeling is now, “Untrain a child in the way she never wanted to go in the first place, and when she is old she will be authentic.” Buddhism is about untraining oneself from habitual responses. You learn to have a thought or feeling and not respond. You feel anger (or any other emotion) and don’t act on it.

I believe that Buddhism is so threatening to Christianity because it demands independent thought and undoes all the training parents are so careful to inculcate in their children. When you think for yourself, you may come to the conclusion that (gasp!) Mom and Dad were wrong about something.

The problem is that the world is changing very quickly and people are now routinely expected to “think on their feet.” That kind of flexibility comes from emotional and intellectual independence. If you cannot change course, your way of doing things will be rendered obsolete astonishingly quickly.

Buddhism has helped the Japanese kick American ass. (I speak as someone married to a Big Three retiree.) Buddhism enables workers to be mindful of the ever-changing environment and to contemplate a variety of possible responses. Christianity encourages arrogance: this is the right way to do things and others can take it or leave it. It doesn’t take a genius to know who will win market share and who will gradually fade away as a footnote in history texts.

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About cdhoagpurple

I live in Michigan. I was Greek Orthodox (and previously Protestant), but now am more Buddhist than anything. I am single now (through the till-death-do-you-part clause of the marriage contract). My husband Barry was a good man and celebrated 30 years in AA. I am overly educated, with an MBA. My life felt terminally in-limbo while caring for a sick husband, but I am free now. I see all things as being in transition. Impermanence is the ultimate fact of life. Nothing remains the same, good or bad.

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