“I can go ahead and tell you that I was a stubborn child.”
Leo-Supphawut Thirawatthanachai telling about himself as a student of Roong Aroon
“You can tell me to make a thousand cups. I can do it, but I won’t. I have to be told why I need to make a thousand cups.”
“Every teacher knew that whenever there was dharma practice, I would take off.”
He happily told about his own antics. Leo is an RA 15 alumnus studying architecture at University College London in England. After the end of a term, Leo came back and visited the school and told about his time studying abroad and looked back at his life as a student which he could say was his second home since he studied here from kindergarten to senior high. It is a home he claimed to be suited for a “stubborn kid” like him. He engaged in active learning, thereby understanding by himself, and what’s important is that Roong Aroon teachers, who understand the nature of each child, “teach by not teaching” allowing the stubborn child like him to find his potential, understand and stay with himself, away from being a child who rejected dharma practice, but once he had to live by himself abroad, he found the dharma within him, slowly and naturally growing from learning the arts in Roong Aroon, is the main factor allowing him to get through his time there.
Learning from the norm of reality
“The school doesn’t teach children to finish every grain of rice, or you’d be a good person if you finish it all, or even teach them if you leave any rice uneaten, you’re a bad person, the school teaches them that farming rice is tiresome. You don’t have to eat all the rice, but that is something we planted which we left over, and it would’ve been such a waste. If it were someone else who planted the rice, would the students have felt the same anyway? This is using reality, and using the norm of reality is our teaching approach..”
“I learned about rice, not to be able to plant them, but to be aware of a problem. I found that using chemicals is easier, but what about natural means? What if we don’t use chemicals? What benefits can we attain? We’d gain benefits in terms of health, we’d gain environmental benefits. The teacher didn’t tell me not to use chemicals, but he didn’t tell me to use 100% organic means either, that is the reality I saw, and I chose, and finally, I chose an ethical method, a method true to society, and true to the environment.”
The skill in growing to be a competent human being.
“The main characteristic of my high school life is that it wasn’t perfect. During my time in 8th grade, there was a project I liked so much. The topic was creating a play with no budget and no mic. I saw that the school is not ready. Why is it that the school has no budget? Why is there no concert? What doesn’t it have a spotlight for me? Why is there no good audio to increase the show’s quality? But when I looked deeper, I learned about imperfection. Imperfection is common, and when we grow up, nothing will be totally ready for us.”
“If you don’t have a mic, just speak loudly, simple as that. Not having mics means we have to speak clearly in the ears of the audience. Our eye contact or our movements have to be direct to the audience. I saw that if we had a mic that day, we would’ve overlooked the quality of this kind of communication”
“Imperfection allows us to put effort into our work and take in various qualities from what money couldn’t buy. When I worked and saw the topic with many limits, it made me dedicated to my work. Suppose I have little money when I go to the market, I would only buy the necessities and no snacks. But if I have money and bought more than I should, and if my thinking is wrong, I would go buy snacks.”
“No one says you have to be skilled in this, but it is a skill that allows you to grow to be a competent human being and find quality in every work that you do.”
Dharma from Art
“I’m not the kind to practice dharma. I don’t pray in the morning or evening, nor do I give alms; I am not that kind of person. Every teacher knew during the time there’s dharma practice, I would run off, or whenever a monk preaches, I would ask questions, but a year abroad and one more year alone while working, I worked with all my heart. I can say that art in Roong Aroon was what taught me dharma.”
“An art teacher would train the heart. There’s this one time I made a kite with Teacher Bua Loi; making one kite requires 1 large bamboo and then rub it with a file until it was round. The symmetry of the bamboo should be perfect. I did it for 3 months and it turned out well, but when I put it in the car, it broke, I cried, I didn’t know what to do, I made it for a long time. My mother was surprised, so she quickly drove me to school early to take me to Teacher Bua Loi. The teacher told me that I can always make it again. So, it’s broken, what can you do? You make it again. She asked me if I can make it again. Why can’t I? I did it once”
“This is how to deal with people calmly while not spoiling, though she taught me to understand myself. At that time, I was rash, I wanted it back the way it was, but it’s not possible, I had to stick to reality and accept it. In the end, I made it again, and made it bigger. I think it was little thing, but for a grade 1 student, it was a huge step, and it is so for my mother too. At that time, Mom didn’t know that we had to do it again. She thought the teacher could help fix it, but she couldn’t fix it. If it’s broken, I had to make it again.”
Art taught me to stay with myself.
“I learned that art comes from the heart and clearly shows who we are, such as when Teacher Chao selects children into the Drawing Committee. The teacher took out A1 papers and told me to draw lines, some straight lines and scribbles. I had to draw them for 2 hours. He asked me what those lines show. I felt it shows so many things from my own experiences. I got to know myself better from learning art.”
“Art made me see myself as someone who is rash, and as someone who is indulged in his work as long as there’s an objective. When I am told to make a thousand cups, I can do it but I won’t, I need to be told the reason for it first. When I ask when I have learnt something, why did I learn it? Art isn’t a way to turn stubborn children into obedient children; it’s to teach them to stay with themselves. How would I stick with this? When I do art, I know I don’t have enough patience, not enough to produce a work of art, and that would’ve meant it wouldn’t be enough to make it work in real life for myself alone”
“I feel that it’s important to stay with myself, not with my work at a certain time; it’s staying with myself as a person. Anything that is poisonous within us, we need to remove it. I wasn’t patient; I did not put things in their right places. I had to put things back where they belong, it was poison for people around me, and it was not good for society. I had to put things away.”
“About putting things away, if you were to ask Teacher Toh (my sculpting teacher) about when I was younger, I never put things away, and it was irritating. I was raised to adjust, asked nicely, and not forced. Some students needed to be told gently, some need to be explained the reasons for putting things away since it is our things and the clay would dry, and when people were told, they would do it, no one is the same.”
“Art balanced me to be myself, but myself who isn’t poisonous. If I am myself who is toxic, I would be imperfect because I did not consider my bad side; it only makes me know what I like to do. Therefore, whenever I am content with doing something, at last success is restraining our negative characteristics. This is the heart.”
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