Youth leadership Life skill in the light of Ten Perfections cultivated by Buddha

Nandita Bhattacharya
R-19, Dakbungalow Road, Midnapore-721101 (West Berngal) - India
Ph. 94344-16371 <>

The terms youth, leadership and life skill should be defined at the outset. Youth as per our youth policy is one who belongs to the age group of 13 to 35. In fact it is a mindset. Those who want to know the unknown those who dare the unknown are but youth. This is the period of one’s life when one is bubbling with energy, one has the strength —one is physically fit. Moreover this is a time when one can dream. To add flesh to one’s dream a young man or woman might brave any opposition.

In fact Youth is a time in one’s life when a person has the abundance of everything. Youth has a close relation with age even if it is called a mindset. 13-35 is a span of one’s life when one is capable to work hard as well as think creative. Still all the persons belonging to this age group do not posses the same mindset.

It is said that one third of our country’s population is youth. And if we rally mean to empower them in the right sense of the term we need to make a space for them where they can grow with all their abundance.

Needless to say the future prosperity of our country depends on how the youth of our country fare in times to come. If the foundation of a brave new India of tomorrow has to be laid down today, we have to equip the youth with necessary resources of head and heart. Everything is in flux. You can not dip into the same water twice. No one can predict the shape of things to come. So you can not equip the young man or young woman with the skill to handle the emergent shape of things to come. Twenty years earlier who could imagine that computers would rule the world. May be they could think of it in America 40 years back. But in India the larger mass of the people would not even think of it in their remotest dream. True, if the leadership could be imaginative and youthful to take the chances in exploring fresh landscapes of activities, of course things could be different. Hence leadership is important.

Leadership is a process which one has to inculcate within consciously. Gandhiji has initiated this kind of process very consciously. His life was an experiment with Truth throughout. Truth was his end. To reach the Truth or the end he kept on trying through out his life to evolve the means. Gandhi said when one is in two minds to take any decision, one must look within and think that which decision of him would benefit those people who are in need and there is nobody to support them to wipe out their tears.

One cannot be committed to any Cause until and unless one knows what he is about? Introspection helps one to know what he is about. And once one is aware of the ends of his life s/he can go for the means. And means is also very important.

The leaders we see around become leaders by chance. For example a Govt official is a leader by virtue of his/her post or chair. Most of the political leaders is there because his/her party projects him/her to act as a leader and so on. Most of them are neither aware of the ends nor the means. Thus we often seriously suffer from lack of leadership.

It was Lacan who said when a child grows S/he is but imitating the people around. One can not grow on his or her own. Hence Role model is very important for one to grow. If the young person sees mean people around they will grow as mean person. If the people around use violent measure to control others the young will learn violence. Mind you blood always cries out for blood. And we have to walk like a demon through the stream of blood if we embrace violence. But when the youth see loving people around they will take into account love as a value. They learn to love and they get love in return.

But it is a matter of great worry that the youth, not only of our country, but all over the world are deviated from the right path. It was not their fault. If any one is responsible for their fall it is but their elders. Now a days they talk of participation. Participatory development is the most popular concept of today. But how could a young person participate in the process of development? Will the people in power who have vested interest allow them to participate? Recently a group of young people went to survey the women participation in NREGS in a village of one of the backward districts of WB. One of the young boys with tears in his eyes told me that he felt like committing suicide while he found how nakedly they deceived the poor people. What does a young person learn from the people around? A boy or girl does not learn from the sky or in the vacuum. It has already been pointed out that according to Lacan they imitate the people around them.

It is said often that one of the characteristics of a leader is fearlessness. Satyaranjan Dubey an young engineer wrote a letter to the highest office of the country in order to draw their attention to the corruption occurring in his department. He was killed by the Goons. He paid for his fearlessness. Examples can be multiplied. If a fearless youth raise his /her voice against the people in power or people having money, s/he will be killed or terrorized. A person can not be empowered in the right sense of the term if a congenial atmosphere is not available. Thus our generation should change their temperament first. But how can we change ourselves? How can we be the role models of our future generation? Here lies the importance of Life skill. Life skill in fact helps man to grow from within. Personality development is a myth if it helps one to grow without.

Life Skill is but the skill with which our lives could be made creative. In an epoch when knowledge grows but wisdom lingers, cultivation of the Life Skill is the exigency of the hour and one wonders whence to learn it.

Studies in Psychology, Sociology, Management and the like seek to explore the life skill from different angles and literatures in the sphere published in modern times are countless. But they do not look upon the skills so urgently needed in life from a holistic standpoint steadily and as a whole.

One of the objects of our study therefore is to search for the Life Skills. Perhaps the larger than life figures of Jesus, Lord Buddha Lao Tse, Gandhi and the like could serve us as role models whom we could imitate. Buddhism in its study of ten perfections or Paromitas may give us the right notion of the different Life Skills to be emulated. Life Skills that are deemed must for the Buddhists to make our lives meaningful should be studied. Thus the object of our present study is to read them once again to check whether they could lead us through the encircling gloom constituted by the neuclear threats and erosions of affable environment and decadence of human values.

The early Buddhists set ten goals for us to attend. They are perfections 1. in giving, 2. in manners and morals, 3. in renunciation, 4. in wisdom, 5. in prowess, 6. in tolerance, 7. in truth, 8. in determination, 9. in friendly attitude and 10. in serenity. These could be illustrated from the Jataka tales. The Jataka tales narrate the lives of a Bodhisattva who finally became the Siddharta Buddha. And the Bodhisattva achieves one or another of the ten goals as held out by early Buddhism in a tale told by the Jataka.

This is a queer world where we sit beside each other and hear each other’s groans. We fall upon the thorns of life and we bleed. The ten Parami or Paramita or perfection as laid in Buddhist philosophy may help us to grow from within -- our self can be developed.

Let us have an idea of the Paramatias.

Yathapi Kumbha sampanna yasas kassaci adhokate

Bamata udakang nisesang na tatha parirakkhate

Tatheba yachake disba hinmukkattamajha jhime

Dadahi danag nisesang kumbhobio adhokate.

1. Daana Paaramita or perfection in giving

Give away when you find someone asking something from you. The way a pitcher full of water gives away to its last drop when it is turned. Do not mind who you are .When you do that you achieve perfection in giving

2. Sila Paaramitaa

The chamari cow (Yak) dies but does not let it’s tail cut off in case the tail is entangled in any thorny bush .So they say: One must not compromise with the least deviation from Sila or morals in the selfsame way. When you do that you reach perfection in morals or Sila.

3. Naiskramya Paramita

Despite the fact that a person has been living in a jail for a long time, and despite the fact that he is quite used to life in jail. He will not miss an opportunity to give a slip and be a free man. Similarly you must remember that the worldly life is a prison house And you are a prisoner. You must not miss an opportunity to free yourself from the bonds of worldly Life. When you attain this mindset you achieve perfection in naiskramya or renunciation.

4. Prajnaa Paaramita or perfection in wisdom

Just as a bhikkhu does not discriminate among the givers, and takes alms from whoever ever gives it. Similarly one must ask any wise man one meets and fill ones reservoir of knowledge and wisdom.

5. Virya Paaramitaa or perfection in prowess

Just as the mind of the lion is never mean and narrow and just as his prowess never flags. No matter whether he is sitting or standing or walking. Similarly the seeker must always remain charged with prowess in every state of his/her life.

6. Khaanti Paaramitaa or perfection in tolerance

Just as the Earth does not get angry if you throw dirty things at her. And just as she does not show any appreciation if you offer her good and sacred things similarly you must also tolerate every insult and you must not joy over honours if any, you get to achieve perfection in tolerance.

7. Satya Paaramitaa or perfection in practicing truth

Just as the particular star named Osadhi is always the same, always in every season for the sake of the gods and men. And never deviates from its path. Similarly you must not deviate from the path of truth

8. Adhistaan Paaramita or perfection in tenacity and determination

Just as a rock does not tremble when there is a storm. And just as it holds on to its ground so should one hold on to ones truth and attain enlightenment.

9. Maitri Paaramita in or friendliness

Just as water soothes everybody with its cool and cleanses everyone, no matter whether s/he is fair or foul. So do you cultivate good will for every one good or evil.

10. Paaramita in upekkha or equanimity

No matter whether you fling good things or evil at earth .The earth neither commends nor despises you in response. So do you maintain equilibrium like a balance? In weal and woe. It is said that if one attains perfection in these ten life skills one becomes Buddha or an enlightened one. But each one of the afore said skill could imply A point on which we could deliberate.

A good leader needs to overcome his/her self interest at least to some degree, because he or she must act "for the good of the many" not just for personal advantage. Such people need to be adaptable. The leader is the upholder of the vision, but that does not necessarily mean that he is the creator of the vision. Vision is something discerned rather than made. It emerges. It is somebody’s job to discern what is emerging and point it out. It is then a collective task to give it form in a way that is fertile for further emergence. Another function of the leader is to spot and cultivate leadership talent. Leadership does not just go on at the "top" of an organisation. There are many centres in any organization. There is, however, also a need for co-ordination.

A true leader will have the mind set to empathize with everybody good or evil. S/he should not posses anything as his or hers. Gandhi left behind 5/6 things in a thali, glass, specs, the Gita , stick and the like. There is a Buddha in Abolokiteswar who has declared that he does not like to attain the liberation until and unless the last dust particle of this earth gets the liberation.

We the seniors too should actively work towards perfecting ourselves in terms of compassion and wisdom, so as to better inspire future leaders.


(Published in Kafla Intercontinental - Jan-April 2014)