Education Starts in the Womb
A Talk Given by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, Oct. 25, 1988
A baby will be imprinted by whatever mindset the mother has during her pregnancy.
All good and wise friends, today we are together in this great hall to discuss education. Education is the foundation for everyone, if we neglect this basic issue, we will be “renouncing the essential while pursuing the trivia, ignoring what is near and seeking what is far away.”
Education starts when we are born; what we constantly see and hear after our birth shapes our behavior throughout our lives. It is said that “Those who draw near to vermilion will turn red, those who associate with ink will turn black; something stained with gray will turn gray, something stained with yellow will become yellow.” It can even be said that education not only affects a person after his birth, but also when he is still in the womb. For example, if a mother were knowledgeable, the baby in her womb will be positively influenced to also be very smart and learned. If a mother likes to lose her temper while pregnant, her baby certainly will have a big temper. If a mother were very obstinate and refuses to take advice from anyone, her child will definitely be very stubborn and does things his own way without heeding the advice of others. Therefore, educating the fetus is very important.
Women are mothers of every citizen, and thus they are the foundation of a nation. Given this important role they play in society, all women should learn how to educate their children, and this responsibility starts when they become pregnant. During their pregnancy, women should not fight, be greedy, seek, be selfish, pursue personal advantage, or tell lies. Because if a mother engages in any of these behaviors, her baby will be influenced accordingly and develop similar mindset. Consequently, the child won’t become a good citizen. Therefore, parents should start paying attention to educating their child when their baby is still in the womb.
Parents must set good examples for their children. They should not fight or quarrel so much, be selfish, seek self-advantage, be greedy, or lie! This is important because children will observe and imitate their parents’ behaviors. Indeed, children are highly susceptible to their environment. For example, by observing the way adults talk, children learn how to talk bit by bit. Therefore, parents should not say they are only capable of bearing their children, but incapable of educating them. By bringing a child into this world, you are adding a new citizen to your nation. However, if you don’t educate your children well, you won’t be fulfilling your responsibility to your nation and society. In other words, you will be held fully responsible if you fail to educate your children properly and they become problem youths, who may even harm the nation and society.
Therefore, as parents, you should make your children’s education as your first priority, instead of focusing mainly on earning money and pursuing fame. You should consider educating your children as your most important task. If you are able to educate your children well, it will be more valuable than earning a lot of money for them. This is because through proper education, your children will learn how to behave as upright individuals, and how to cherish their own bodies. Therefore, before children are old enough to attend school, their parents should be responsible for their education during this period of time.
As soon as children start school, teachers should set good examples for their students. Under the teachers’ positive influence, the students should learn how to develop upright characters and virtues, and how to show filial reverence toward their parents and respect toward their elders. From the very beginning, teachers should teach their students filial reverence. In the elementary school at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, students are instilled with the concept of filial reverence. They are taught to be obedient to their parents, and to help their parents when they go home. Therefore, their parents are very pleased with their behavior at home.
For teachers who have taken “obtaining outstanding people in the world to educate” as their true vocation and duty, they should shoulder the responsibility for educating other people's children. They should start with instructing the students not to smoke, not to take intoxicants or drugs, and not to get involved in improper relationships with members of the opposite sex.