- …as I have heard.
- Differences Between Group and Individual Listening
- Tailoring the Message to the Recipient
Each of the various sutras (sacred writings) related to buddhism ends with a common phrase, “…as I have heard.” (technically, “Thus, I have heard..” begins the phrases in Sanskrit, and we translate the grammatical structure in-reverse for English – and that’s more than you wanted to know about why there’s a difference.) Going back to the beginnings when Siddhartha was walking around talking with people about what was on his mind, many people couldn’t read written text (education being something only for the wealthy, and having a few thousand different dialects didn’t make it any easier), and so, he spoke. He also noticed something interesting about speaking with people – people listen and hear differently from each other.
There’s a BBC2 programme called “Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School” that is studying the differences between UK students, and those in China, relating to how and why they learn, and the struggles of attempting to teach students that are from very different social backgrounds. One of the many take-aways in the program relates to classroom management, wherein there are classroom monitors (elected by their peers) who are designated to act not only as supervisory extensions for the instructor, but also become role models for the others by demonstrating desired behavior.
The observed difference for a teacher attempting to mass educate a large group in a standardized way, without that group being very consistent and homogenous in focus and intent, becomes very chaotic. By comparison, speaking with a smaller focused group, or even one on one, becomes much simpler for the speaker to adjust the content and manner of speaking, or even vocabulary, so that the instruction doesn’t get lost.
Similarly, when the students are given a physically engaging task to accomplish, that requires both focus and determination, they are as a population, able to achieve their individual goals at their own pace, some needing assistance from facilitators, and others determining their own path to success.
When students at Shinnyo-en attend dharma school (kind of a 5-year Masters program in Buddhist theology), the attending students are all focused on the same objectives and attending for pretty much the same reasons. In these situations, it is fairly simple to develop a standardized way to communicate a complex topic because the audience is consistent.
By contrast, when you encounter individuals asking a question, or seeking guidance, you will tend to shape your style and manner of communication to most effectively reach your goal of the other person understanding what you are trying to say. There is also a difference in the way you speak with someone close to you, with whom you share a common connection, versus what you say to a stranger, with a corresponding difference in objective (for example, to a stranger about to misstep, you might say, “Be careful!” and go about your business; but if that same person is your child or parent, your intent and purpose become not only insistent, but also highly protective.)
This is also the difference between this podcast, going out to a random population, versus how and what I would say to an individual. The content here is general information presented in a very common form, which some may or may not understand. But for those who reach out and ask individually for clarification, or when a familiar person encounters a situation needing similar advice, the information herein becomes tailored to the unique needs of that individual, restated in whatever ways are needed to make the message clear and understandable.
That’s the power of one on one conversation, at least so far as I have heard (and experienced it.)
/* For more information and discussion feel free to e-mail me at jlui at jlui dot net, or twitter @jhlui1; With Gassho _()_, James*/