How We Think and Act Matters
An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider that battles can be won or lost by the way we think and act (adapted from The Teaching of Buddha, published by the Society for the Promotion of Buddhism, 1966).
Preparation and materials
Arrange for five people to play the parts in the dialogue below – narrator, voice, man, friend, king. This needs to be well practised to gain the full emphasis and effect.
1. Comment that many of the students will have heard of Buddhism. Buddhism is a pathway of spiritual enlightenment that seeks to give insight into the meaning of reality. Buddhists practise meditation as a means of making themselves more aware of the world and developing their good qualities.
2. Ask the actors to come forward and introduce the characters before they begin their dialogue.
Narrator: Once upon a time, there was a man who lived near a cemetery. One night, on the way home from the pub, he seemed to hear a voice calling to him from inside one of the tombs . . .
Voice: Helloooo! Helloooo! Helloooo! Helloooo!
Man: I'm not staying here to be frightened to death . . .
Narrator: So he ran home, locked all his doors and windows, and went and hid under the duvet.
The next morning he plucked up the courage to tell a friend what had happened.
Friend: This is a very grave situation! You've been dead unlucky! But don't worry. I'll go to the cemetery tonight and see if I can hear this voice. What time shall we meet?
Man: We?! I'm not coming with you. I'll be locked in here all evening. What will you do if it starts up again?
Friend: Give it a maths lesson. That should be enough to frighten anything away.
Narrator: So, when night came, the friend went on her/his own to the cemetery to see if she/he could hear anything.
Voice: Helloooo! Helloooo! Helloooo! Helloooo!
Friend: [Calmly] Chill out! Oh - I suppose you've already done that in the mortuary. Who are you and what do you want?
Voice: I am the voice of hidden treasure and I have decided to give myself away. I made an offer last night to some passing coward who didn't stay to ask me anything. He just ran off. So, as he didn't want me, I'll come round to your place in the morning with my seven friends. You will get the treasure.
Friend: Tell me what to do. How to prepare. How to receive you.
Voice: It will happen tomorrow morning. There will be eight of us, counting me. We will come in Buddhist monks' robes. Please have a clean room ready and eight bowls of rice-porridge.
Narrator: Next morning, it happened exactly as the friend had been told. After each monk had eaten his bowl of porridge, the friend took him into the clean room and there he changed into a large pot of gold.
There was a third person who lived next door. He was greedy. He saw all this and thought he would invite the eight monks to his house. He too gave them a meal and showed them into a clean room, but when they entered it they changed into angry protesters and made such a disturbance and noise that the police came and arrested the greedy person for the uproar in his house. By now the timid man who had heard the voice in the first place had learned about that had happened. He went round to his friend's house.
Man: I told you about the voice that made you rich. Now I demand the money. The voice spoke to me first. It's my money. I want it all. You have no right to any of it.
Narrator: This timid man was now so angry that he took no notice of his friend's answer and burst into the friend's room, intending to lift the large pots of gold away one by one. But each time he lifted the lid off one of the pots, he found that the pot was full of writhing, poisonous snakes, raising their heads to attack him.
Time for reflection
Narrator: The king eventually heard all about the voice in the cemetery and the eight pots of gold and he ruled that the friend should keep the whole lot. He spoke these wise words:
King: This is just what the world is like. Foolish people are always greedy to get good results, without any real effort, but they're too scared to really go for them, so they're always failing. The real struggle in this case was not in the cemetery, or in somebody's house, but in the mind. Each person had to face the question in their mind. What was that voice? What were they going to do about it? People need faith and courage to face the struggles of the mind, by which alone true peace and harmony can be found.
You see our minds and you see our thoughts.
Please help us to win battles in our minds and to act with faith and courage.
Even when we are sad and afraid, please help us to find the strength and courage to carry on.