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We provide transcribed talks by 35 different speakers
Sravaniya, Boston, USA
Vicki, Seattle, USA
Coleen, FBA Team
Viriyalila, FBA Team
Mary, FBA Team
Vajradarshini, Valderrobres, Spain
Sangharakshita, Birmingham, UK
... being as God. But if you say something
like 'well in this school they teach about God but in lots of other schools they don't. In Buddhist schools
they talk about Buddha and so on and so forth. So the child doesn't feel that it's something that always
happens everywhere in every school. And then you can say 'well mummy and daddy don't believe in
God. And the child might ask what you do believe in but more likely he or she won't.
So I think handle it in a low-key sort of way unless you find that the child is being really strongly
indoctrinated then you will have to go to the headmaster or to the particular teacher concerned and you
will have to say 'well look, I'm sending my child to this Church of England school because I think it's a
good school, and I don't object to my child attending religious instruction but I don't want my child
strongly indoctrinated. If you can come to some sort of satisfactory understanding with the teacher that's
best. You can always threaten to withdraw the child from religious instruction altogether if your wishes
are not respected. Anyway no doubt there's a lot that could be said on that issue but perhaps I had better
Just one passing comment. I just happened to be listening to something on the radio during the lunch
break and there was a reference in this programme to religious instruction in schools and to the fact that
according to government directives religious instruction in schools had to be 'broadly Christian', which
did rather make me laugh because what do you mean by broadly Christian? Do you teach that God does
exist broadly speaking? [Laughter] Some schools will be prepared no doubt and some teachers will be
prepared to stretch that broadly a bit more than others and perhaps you need to take advantage of that.
Would you like to see people in the Movement taking a particular interest in, and even a
measure of responsibility for, the children of their friends in the Movement? if so could
you see this ever becoming a recognised institution like godparents in the Christian
religion or would it be better as an informal arrangement between the individuals
Hmm. 'A measure of responsibility'. It's a bit like this 'broadly Christian' isn't it? A measure of
responsibility - it's nicely vague in a way but perhaps it can't be otherwise. No-one can take over from
parents their legal responsibilities for the child so the residual responsibility is with parents. The only
responsibility that friends in the Movement can feel is a sort of moral responsibility. Or a responsibility
they feel out of friendship.
And I think if you yourself have no children, assuming you're an Order member or a mitra, and a friend
of yours who is an Order member or a mitra has children I think you quite naturally just out of
friendship will take at least some interest in that order member or mitra's children and along with that
interest would go a degree, a measure, of, so to speak, self-imposed responsibility. Supposing you just
happen to notice that well your friend doesn't seem to be handling his children quite right, well you'll
take him or take her aside and say 'well look, I've just noticed such-and-such, don't you think you should
think about that?' Or on another level, the Order member or mitra without children might feel that he or
she might like to take out his friend's children for a holiday or do a bit of babysitting or take them to the
zoo or something like that. I know this does happen to some extent.
So I think yes. It's a natural thing that you should feel that sort of , well interest perhaps more than
responsibility, in the children of your friends. It may not always be possible. If you're very, very busy
you may just not have time. You may not even have time to see people for whom you're responsible as
a Kalyana Mitra in which case you will just have to give your friend's children a miss. But I think it's
good if people can take, or if they feel that they would like to take, an interest in the children of their
friends within the Movement. I think it's a quite natural and even a desirable thing.
And as for godparents, well you realise when you acquire godparents you acquire them when you are
not in a position to agree or disagree - when you are an infant maybe just a few days old. So I think it
can't be quite like that with, or among, Buddhists. But I think you may well find that if your child is
exposed to quite a range of contacts among your FWBO friends you'll probably find that your child will
latch onto this person, or that person. This is something I've noticed myself - that your child will take a
definite liking to this Order member or that mitra and want to see them and want to spend time with
them and then you should just encourage that - assuming that the Order member or mitra concerned
does have the time. Whether it should ever be formalised I think I would like to leave as an open
question for the time being. [Pause]
But perhaps I should just add, although it isn't in the question, that this whole matter becomes more
important when the child or the children, is or are, living only with one parent because then it becomes
important to have some contact, important for the child, with an adult of the other sex. With a man in
the movement if there's no father living at home, or vice-versa. Although it's usually of course a case of
a child with no father living at home. Oh yes this brings us on to the next question though I haven't
actually arranged them in any sort of order - they're much too miscellaneous for that to be possible.
To what extent does a child need both parents to be there consistently, especially a boy
and his father? And what are the potential consequences if, largely speaking, the father
is absent? Also does regular contact in the early years, before seven say, greatly
condition the likely contact and quality of that contact in later years, say seven upwards?
Well I'm afraid the experts do differ. When I say experts I mean sociologists and specialists in child
psychology and so on. Some do seem to say, in fact quite a few of them do seem to say, that it's best for
the child to have both parents there consistently. But others say that - especially feminists say - that
children, including boys, can get on quite well without the father and can be brought up just by the
mother just as positively as by a mother and a father. So we do see a difference of opinion here.
But I did notice, there's one thing I read about recently which though it's only a single individual case
may throw some light on this. Apparently there was a case where parents - mother and father - were
living together and they had two children both boys. Father lost his job and for some years he was out
of work. Mother went out to work, she was able to keep her job, and everything went quite smoothly.
Father looked after the boys at home and mother went out to work. Anyway after a while the situation
changed - mother stayed at home with the boys, I think she lost her job, anyway father managed to get a
job, a full-time job. Whereas before everything had been happy, things changed and the boys became
deeply disturbed. And the author of the article who was a psychologist gave all sorts of reasons but to
me it was perfectly clear what the reason was. I felt the boys became disturbed because they weren't
having nearly as much contact with their father that they'd had before. One was I think twelve and one
was thirteen or fourteen. But that seemed to me the obvious solution.
So I would incline to think that a growing boy needed quite regular contact with his father, though I'm
aware that some child psychologists and sociologists would disagree with that, so I can't be too
dogmatic about it. How that takes place, of course, is up to the parties concerned, whether the father is
living with the mother or whether he is living separately in a community or otherwise, or whether he's
divorced and sees his son from time-to-time, I think obviously there are all sorts of personal factors to
take into consideration. But I would say that a boy does need quite regular contact with his father
especially as he grows up. I'm rather doubtful, without reflecting in any way on the women, I'm rather
doubtful whether a mother can provide a growing boy with everything that he needs.
To what extent contact with the father before seven has an effect on contact after the age of seven I just
don't know. I've not seen any material on this or any discussion of this. I think there are one or two
psychologists present. I don't know whether they would like to say something about this whole issue of
the importance of contact with the father to the growing boy especially. You don't have to speak but if
you do have any expertise, as distinct from just a personal impression or opinion, any professional
expertise, would anyone like to say anything?
No, OK you don't have to. I just didn't want to be sticking out my neck on my own. [Laughter]
Oh dear here's a rather sad question and also a fairly difficult one.
If you don't know whether you are the father or not and can't get to know what should