YOUTH IN FOCUS: I graduated from class 12 last year but my result was not up to mark, and I let down many people. As there is little chance that I might get enrolled in colleges, my parents want me to repeat class 12. I have a second chance, but I am scared to take this step because I will have to do my best, and I wonder whether I have ever done that. I am scared that my marks won’t improve and I will again let down my parents after all the trouble they have taken. 

I don’t want to take this opportunity with a tentative heart but want to feel confident about the step. I would be very grateful if lama could give me some advice.

TW, Thimphu

Well, TW, first of all you need to think why you want to complete class 12. In reality, the purpose of education should be to open your mind, gain life skills and help you develop your human qualities. It should not merely be considered as a gateway to a job.

Even if your main reason for studying is motivated by your future career, you still need to first consider what you really want to do before proceeding with your education plans. If, for example, you have a passion for cooking, then it might be better to enter a chef training programme rather than spend two more years in school. On the other hand, if you want to be a teacher then class 12 will be your route to achieve your goal.

Anyway, whatever you do, you should do it to the best of your ability. At the same time, you should have no expectations about the result.

You also need to remember that people have different abilities – some will naturally be good at studies and so will excel with little effort, while others may not be academically inclined but will have different talents. Basically, you should not compare yourself with others or try to meet other’s expectations, but just do the very best you can. No-one should expect more from you.

Maybe this example will be helpful: Think of the seeds of a sunflower and a violet. A sunflower seed will produce a large, bright yellow flower, while the seed of a violet will produce a small, dark purple bloom. A violet seed can never produce a sunflower blossom no matter how hard it tries. Likewise, a sunflower seed cannot produce the flower of a violet. Neither flower is better or worse than the other. They are just different. However, it is important that the flowers open fully and are not ashamed whether they are small or large, bright or dark.

In the same way, you might discover that you are great at studies or you might find that you are not so great. Like the seeds, you cannot change your natural inclinations, but like the flowers you have to open fully. This means that you try your very best in every situation.

Practically, to do your best means that whatever assignment you are given, you aim to do it beautifully – not to get high grades, but for your own satisfaction. If you have to compose an essay, for example, write each letter and word clearly and in a way that is easy for others to read. Do the same with a math or science or any other assignment. Make each page of your notebook a work of art.

Now, if you want to be a little crazy, begin each activity by mentally wishing that your efforts will benefit every being in the universe. As you do the assignment, consider that it will soon be gone and the paper will be dust. After you complete the assignment, send out any good feelings to all beings with the wish that, like you, they have the courage to do their best without comparing themselves to others and without fear of failure.

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.

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