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(Vaddha Sutta, SN 37.4)
Buddha encourages education for women:

"A female disciple of the noble ones who grows in terms of these five types of growth, grows nobly. She grasps hold of what is essential and what is excellent in the body. Which five?

"She grows in terms of:

  • conviction;
  • virtue;
  • learning;
  • generosity;
  • discernment.

"Growing in these ways, the female disciple of the noble ones grows nobly. She grasps hold of what is essential and what is excellent in the body."

She grows in conviction and virtue, discernment, generosity, and learning: A virtuous female lay disciple such as this takes hold of the essence right here within herself.


To grasp hold of what is essential and excellent and grow in learning and discernment is a large part of what proficient education is about, both for girls and boys and students of both sexes.

  1. Grasp hold of what is essential: Study by finding key points to recall, by such as Tony Buzan's study methods. There are other methods too.

  2. To go for excellence a long way signifies proficient use of time and conditions, and relies on discernment - you should get better (and better) able to discern what is of long-range value or not, for example. Some books about excellence are of management aplomb and the business fare, and re infused with businessman's values, which are limited and may become limiting. Example: In Search of Excellence: Lessons from Americas Best Run Companies by Robert H. Waterman Jr, and Thomas J. Peters.

    But there are other forms of excellence. Abraham Maslow sought a standard of truly worthwhile people, and thought he had found some . Carl Rogers found it fit to talk of the fully developed person in a similar but not quite identical vein, and Carl G. Jung found it good to talk for individuation, which can be aligned with self-actualisation - such individual expressivity. It is suggested that to the degree you attune yourself to higher values (cf. Maslow's pyramid of needs), the greater your mirth should be -

  3. Sound learning is favoured by adequate study methods, but may be more so by genuine, heart-felt interest, and maybe sound study conditions too. At any rate, some measure of interest may be awakened if careful and rewarding study methods is applied to a subject with enough aplomb and consideration. The great idea is: you learn for yourself, to reach your own ends, which should encompass a good life. If possible, your own, fit home. Schools and universities are ideally set up to foster learning and many sorts of discernment. Study skills fascilitate learning. Learning has its own basic dynamics and characteristics, and school education should adhere to them, not fixed methods of teaching and control. A single student may learn to preserve her interest in subjects by study methods and aplomb. Also worth knowing that homelearning and homeschooling yield better grades, and hence better learning, than public schools do.

    More than 5,000 homeschoolers from over 1,600 families were studied. Homeschoolers typically out-performed children who got a public education, by 30-35 percent in all subject areas. (1997 study) [Source - and more on homeschooling]

  4. Discernment grows by the independent attitude, observational training (it seems to foster independence of mind), and study skills that should bring out a basis for fit evaluation (actually: discernment). There are other forms of training too. One of the best is to ask for evidence in the face of claims. Much in the cloudy realm called religion regrettably consists in wild or unsatisfactorily proved claims, and demands to put belief into them. Buddha, on the other hand, allows for rational inquiry in the famous Kalama Sutta.

You may see that the four parts of learning mentioned above, are intervowen. You can also see there is a possibility for noble growth of each and every of them. Such mental and in part physical development is accomplished by skilfulness, which is strongly advocated in Buddhism. Let it be the right sorts of skills. Also, Buddhism says skills in sound meditation are good. Meditation caters to spiritual development toward great Joy or Enlightenment.

You see from the sutra that virtue and (non-dwarfing) generosity can be developed too.

  1. Virtue. Buddhism lists up these as worth going for: generousity (dana); morality (sila); patience (ksanti); energy, vigour (virya); meditation, focusing (dhyana); and wisdom (prajna). The Ten Perfections of Buddhism also include truthfulness (sacca), determination, gentleness (metta), and equanimity. To manifest all of them, stick-to-it (gentle perseverance) could be needed, and hence added to the list. [More]

    Moral development is from conformity to individually felt things to do, and corresponding attitudes: Lawrence Kohlberg finds that intellectual evolution and the ability to judge morally and sanely, are interlinked, and may be developed a whole lot.

    Kohlberg extended the work of Jean Piaget to include adolescence and adulthood, and speaks of moral stages one may consider with some grains of salt (reservations):

    1. Obeys to avoid punishment. (Preconventional, punishment orientation - outer-directed)
    2. Conforms to get rewards or have favours returned. (Preconventional, reward orientation, outer-directed too)
    3. Conforms to avoid disapproval of others (Conventional - feeling into things as well as just obeying)
    4. Takes to laws and rules to avoid censure and feelings of guilt (Conventional, authority orientation)
    5. Guided by commonly agreed-on principles thought to be valid for welfare, for retaining respect of peers and thus self-respect (Post-conventional, social-contract orientation).
    6. Actions guided by principles that are self-chosen, usually valuing justice, dignity, etc., against self-condemnation (Postconventional, higher-order ethical principle orientation - Quite inner-directed).

    Before he died, Kohlberg eliminated stage six from his theory, and the fifth stage is then referred to as "high-stage principled reasoning". The drift is from being directed by others to being self-directed - perhaps diffusely so at first, at any rate. Further, there is evidence that the stages are not sequencial, and that people use different rules for different situations. His theory has been criticised as "male-oriented", with a tendency to favour caring and concern for the integrity of relations less than so-called masculine justice and rights. (Smith et al. 2003, 84-85)

    Abraham Maslow tried to find out what marked outstanding persons, and came up with a list of qualities. The values of developed individuals deviate from the average, and for good. [More]

  2. Sound generosity may be developed. There may be next to no research on it in the very greed-ridden West. Buddhism delineates a sort of glide away from foolish selfishness toward wise, discerning, and profitable giving. But don't forget to be adequately generous to yourself and your near ones too; Buddha allows the lay follower to get successful and wealthy too. There are good reasons for it above "Who gives more than he can afford, may look like a scoundrel." [More]

"Therefore, train yourselves in living the teachings and live decently in everything." - Buddha (Lie 2005, 116).

How to? To go for good quality of various kinds tends to be good. The avenues of learning that "branch out" from the six factors Buddha mentions, may seem hard to tackle. Easy mind-training, lojong helps in that matter. Good luck.

A liberating insight of a former student: "Students have practised parts of Wise Buddhism all along."


Vaddha Sutta for Women's Development, Buddhist lore, golden Buddhism, Literature  

Slightly simplified: The term "grows in the noble growth" has become "grows nobly" above. Also, some repeat-phrases that are fit for oral transmissions, have been peeled off and replaced by bullets.

Vaddha Sutta text reproduced with permission.

Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Copyright © 2008 Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Access to Insight edition © 2008

Lie, Kåre A, oms. Buddhas samtaler: De lange tekstene. Digha Nikaya. Bind 2. Det store bindet: Mahavagga. Oslo: Solum Forlag, 2005.

Smith, Carolyn D., ed, et al. Hilgard's Introduction to Psychology. 14th ed. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth, 2003.

Pali Canon collections:

AN - Anguttara Nikaya (Collection of Discourses arranged according to numbers)

DN - Digha Nikaya (Collection of Long Discourses)

MN - Majjhima Nikaya (Collection of Middle-Length Discourses)

SN - Samyutta Nikaya (Collection of Kindred Sayings)


Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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