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Engaging Young Monks: Hopes and Concerns

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The Sen Vàng kindergarten, founded by Nun Thích nữ Như Nguyệt, the Head of Preschool Education at the Buddhist Academy of Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), raises questions about how young clergy can more actively engage and contribute to the community and how Buddhism can develop its potential to meet the needs of propagating Dharma and providing therapy for the youth.

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There are 144 preschool education institutions managed by religious organizations in HCMC, of which only three are Buddhist. These include Họa Mi, established by Nun Leader Huệ Từ; Kiều Đàm, founded by Nun Leader Nguyên Thuận, serving 220 children from 18 months to 6 years; and Sen Vàng, which we established. However, the number of Buddhist kindergartens is too few considering the large and dynamic population of HCMC, with nearly 9 million people, including about 1.164 million Buddhists. The nun community needs to pay more attention to preschool education, an essential part of society, as children are a crucial element of the future.

In 2014, the Buddhist Academy of Vietnam in HCMC and the Central Buddhist Nuns Committee collaborated with HCMC University of Education to launch the first Preschool Education course (2015-2019). The graduates are trained to become principals, requiring only experience to meet the standards. However, the primary challenge is infrastructure. To practice what they have learned, Buddhist kindergartens in HCMC need standard facilities and model development. Currently, existing temples are not up to the Ministry of Education’s standards, and purchasing land or buildings is prohibitively expensive. These are the main obstacles in preschool education. Additionally, the General Buddhist Association of Vietnam has no regulations encouraging the establishment of kindergartens or a system from the central to local levels, leading to a limited number of Buddhist kindergartens.

To make Buddhist preschool education more present in life, specific strategies, cooperation, and guidance from the Buddhist Association of Vietnam, the HCMC Buddhist Management Committee, the Central Buddhist Charity Committee, and the Central and HCMC Buddhist Nuns Committees are needed.

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Dr. Lương Thị Thu Hường, a lecturer in Political Theory at the University of Transport and guest lecturer at the Foreign Trade University and the Buddhist Academy of Vietnam in HCMC, notes the potential of young nuns in HCMC. She emphasizes the need for solutions to enable young nuns to maximize their abilities and contribute more to the community, as society greatly requires their knowledge and practices.

Regularly interacting with various social groups, Dr. Hường observes that people, especially the youth, are facing extreme physical and mental illnesses, with stress being a significant issue. Current situations require stronger and deeper therapeutic methods, including meditation as an effective approach. She suggests that young nuns already possess the talent and capability to teach life skills and stress management lessons based on Buddhist teachings but are often restricted due to the requirement of permissions from their mentors.

Dr. Hường hopes that the Buddhist leaders will provide opportunities for young nuns to express their voices and talents, enhancing the effectiveness of Dharma propagation. She also proposes establishing a Buddhist Psychotherapy department at the Buddhist Academy of Vietnam in HCMC, as Buddhism has a solid foundation for psychotherapy. This department could enable clergy to heal themselves and others, with many young nuns capable of contributing to this field.

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Dr. Dương Hoàng Lộc, Head of the Department of Religious Anthropology at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University HCMC, wishes for more attention to spiritual practice in Buddhism. He notes the high demand for spiritual and mental healing, especially post-Covid-19, and the lack of Buddhist centers offering comprehensive meditation and psychotherapy guidance in HCMC. He calls for the establishment of counseling and therapy models based on Buddhist teachings and meditation centers led by Buddhist leaders.

Dr. Lộc also urges the Buddhist community to address the need for Buddhist preschool education. With over 6 million Buddhists and around 1,500 temples in HCMC, there is a significant demand for Buddhist preschools. Many parents wish to enroll their children in such schools to learn Buddhist ethics and culture. He hopes that Buddhist leaders will pay more attention to the legitimate wishes and needs of the Buddhist community in HCMC.

(Source: Giác Ngộ Newspaper)

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