Ashin Sþriya (Gemini)
All of us are acting as both leaders and followers in life. Relatively, a leader or a senior person should outdo followers or subordinates in a certain domain in one way or another. Some people might argue over this statement saying, ‘Leaders are just those who are in authority, that is, government, especially president of a country’. It is because we see the latter govern the former. It is visibly correct.
However, there is a forgotten point. The father is a leader in a family, for instance, and offspring are juniors. Without his leadership, that family cannot stand. In a school, too, the headmaster is a leader without whose management the school could not be run properly and his students are subordinates. Even in a short trip in a city, a person familiar with the streets leads another person or many to the right destination where they want to go. He is called a leader on that trip. The latter is followers. According to this logic, everyone can be thought as a leader in his area concerned.
Simply speaking, we tend to forget our identity, i.e. who we are. I mean we have by and large no idea that we are leaders despite our leaderships in our domains of skillfulness, interest. Villagers think village-head is a leader while junior teachers and students see the headmaster is. City-dwellers consider the mayor a leader and citizens so regard the president of their nation. But we do not remember that we ourselves are leaders.
The absence of forgetting ourselves as leaders has an unnoticeable impact on our society. With this loss of self-identification, we do not make an appropriate exertion that a leader has to in his work while being a senior or head of followers. We do not then learn thoroughly, nor keep our morality well, nor train ourselves hard and nor behave well in front of our subordinates. That is, as a result, nothing but a pernicious cause for the quick decline of our society. By seeing the leaders in respective places so unqualified, the followers’ esteem and respect for the leaders would decrease inch by inch, which will impinge on the leaders themselves and our society so hugely that we would not be able to imagine its ill effects.
So now is the time for the leaders or seniors (such as presidents, mayors, headmasters, village heads or fathers), in order to make a good competition with juniors or followers (like citizens, city dwellers, junior teachers and students, villagers or sons and daughters). The competition is nothing to do with physical appearance or physical strength but mental strength. Bearing in mind this sense of competition, the leaders should learn harder to be more skillful in a subject or art, work, etc., than the followers. The leaders should try to avoid committing improper acts, with the thought that the followers would lose their respect for them. And the leaders should let them see their acts or examples of good mentality: tolerance, nobility, generosity, kindness, honesty and the like which are powerful weapons of attractions for the followers to be of high regard for the former. They need to show the more hardworking effort to the latter. By the time when juniors follow the same good way the leaders go, the better way the leaders should seek. It is here between seniors and juniors or between leaders and followers a competition, a badly required competition that is believed to enhance our human society in its entirety.
Here is an inspiring story as to such a good competition that is found out in the Buddhist literature. It was at the time of the Kassapa Buddha, a former Enlightened One, prior to the Gotama Buddha. There was a devotee of Him, by name Gavesø. He was the leader and benefactor of about five hundreds devotees. Nevertheless, the leader devotee was not in strict pursue of the Buddha’s teachings and did not observe morality well. So were and did his followers.
One day he thought. He was a benefactor, leader and spiritual guide of about five hundreds of devotees. Though, he did not observe precepts perfectly, nor did they keep precepts either. He was all the same with them in the absence of practicing morality. There was nothing that he surpassed them. It was time for him to be better.
With his firm decision, he immediately related his followers of five hundreds to bear in their mind that he would be a strict observer of precepts from that day onwards. Out of profound esteem for the devotee Gavesø, they decided to follow the way exactly their leader would do. Thus they did the same.
Knowing that, the leader had a desire to further practice the Buddha’s teachings with the intention of surpassing his subordinates. Therefore, he told them that he would as of that day refrain from sexual intercourse. Also did his people imitate him. Again he informed them of his abstinence of having dinner and instead, of eating once a day. His devotees, too, did not fail to abstain so. Finally, the leader Gavesø had a deeper consideration. It was that his followers had caught up with him in whatever steps he made to be a better leader. For that purpose, he made a brave decision. He approached the Kassapa Buddha for allowing him to become a monk under Him. As a monk, he tried to practice the doctrine with all his might. Shortly afterwards, he was liberated as an arahant.
The news drove the devotees of about five hundreds to step into the leader now arahant Gavesø’s shoes. They were ordained as monks under the guidance of the Buddha, ultimately attaining arahantship respectively due to their concerted efforts.
Gavesø, the leader in this story, has a reasonable opinion that ‘a leader must be truthfully superior to his juniors’. It is an efficient and far-sighted view that can turn the entire human society into a place of peace and prosperity. It is true with these reasons. Naturally, juniors are imperceptibly influenced by the actions of seniors. Juniors imitate seniors. For instance, children come to behave in the ways or manners their parents or relatives do at the very often sight of the former’s acts. So, much possibly, the son of a father drunkard is likely to become a successor drunkard. It indicates the fact that it is hard for the ordinary to struggle against the environment they are in.
But those who have close contacts with the Gavesø-like seniors will be different. They will be active and curious enough to be who they should be in life. They will want to be second Gavesøs. That will is an impetus, a spirit of competition with their seniors or leaders in a right way. This will give rise to the catching up with the attributes of their leaders. U Pe Maung Tin, a late author of ‘The Exposition’ and rector of the Yangon University of British colonial period, said, ‘A student must be smarter than his teacher.’ It is very wise of him to say this noticeable remark of education. If successive students of a teacher decreased in the quality of their field, the people of the world would go down to the hell.
To conclude the article, both seniors and juniors should have the sense of the right competition with each other. The competition made by a senior to be a better person is a norm of persuasion of his juniors. In fact, it means that he respects himself and loves his junior(s) in a true sense. The competition by a junior is an imitation or an heir of his senior as well as an example of persuasion of his future successors. This good competition between seniors and juniors will help the society develop in every sector of a country.
Ref: Gavesø Sutta, Anguttaranikæya, Panca-anguttara Pali