Back in high school, I once filled out a form that asked: “If you could have dinner with anybody, who would you invite?” My response: the Dalai Lama.
I guess at a ‘young’ age, such a response could be surprising. It wasn’t Michael Jackson, it wasn’t Einstein, it wasn’t a Hollywood celebrity, but a monk! And as I would explain, how wonderful is it that there exists a world leader who is respected across religions and governments. If you strip away the politics, the regional borders, the religion, and you get down to the very core, here is a man who lives life based on the basic truths about humanity… the basic truths about humanity.
On Tuesday October 21, 2014, Vancouver welcomed the 14th Dalai Lama to the Heart- Mind Summit, where he would speak and converse with a panel made up of some (of Vancouver’s) community leaders: Peter Senge, Janet Austin, Kim Schonert-Reichl and Tamara Vrooman, with a performance from Shane Koyczan and a First Nations’ welcome from a member of the community.
The theme: Educating the heart.
The call: Be the Village.
What do these mean?
The Dalai Lama’s exuberant joyful nature couldn’t be missed. From the start, he came onto the stage before his official introduction, intrigued by the beautiful sounds from the St. Jame’s Children’s Choir. He stood watching and enjoying the music with his mouth open in a small ‘o’, then starting to wave and make faces at the children, all to the audience’s delight- packed ballrooms at the Vancouver Convention Centre. His happiness was infectious! As he greeted various members of the panel and began to speak at the podium, he was brought out a hand towel to wipe his sweat from the spotlight shining brightly down on him- quite literally. And after that, he put the towel on his head declaring it his little hat, and continued to wear it for the rest of his time there!
On compassion: As a human race, since birth we have thrived and continue to thrive from affection: from the nurture from our moms, to how we feel appreciated by our friends– we are a species that enjoys the feeling of affection. As a human race, we can all agree that we don’t want conflict in our world. And yet this truth is contradicted by our global realities: we don’t want conflict and yet we experience violence in this world on varying scales.
This is the call to all individuals to “Be the Village”. In British Columbia, our education system has responded to the need to ‘educate the heart’ by integrating Social and Emotional Learning components. Educating the heart, to educate children about the values of compassion just as important as it is to educate the mind. So often we forget about the basic function of affection and anti-conflict when we become more educated in the mind about individual desires to the point that we become more individualistic at the cost of others. The Dalai Lama’s call to “Be the Village” is to continue to educate the heart about values of compassion beyond the realm of the classroom, child or adult, young or old.
This is interesting, educating children about values is traditionally done in the home and is the responsibility of family. Educating the heart in the classrooms, a venue traditionally meant only for educating the mind, demonstrates a shift in the way responsibilities are expected upon different parts of society. This is a shift combining traditional and contemporary efforts.
Vancity’s CEO posed to Dalai Lama how the banking industry could incorporate compassion into its practices, as the industry is often known for its merciless, individualistic nature. And he laughed in response as he pondered the question. The real question, is at what point are individuals okay with how their individualistic actions benefit them at the cost of others. At what point do individuals realize that their actions are causing decay to society around them. Take a step back, look around.
Senge’s final question considered how we can guide children to develop a larger sense of compassion through awareness. His Holiness expressed that being unaware can equate to not being compassionate, and the role of education to create awareness. After pausing for a moment and consulting his esteemed translator and friend, Thupten Jinta, here came the final response:
In order to create a global and universal compassion, ‘courage of imagination’ is involved, which requires a conviction for it.
Remove yourself from the religious and the political. It’s an interesting perspective: to call upon humanity to stop for a moment and consider the wider system and how their actions fall into it. It’s not a new idea, it’s not a complicated one. It’s a call to return to the simple, the basic truths about humanity.