Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India - This morning more than 200 people gathered in the audience hall of the new Dalai Lama Library & Archive building for the inauguration of a conference on the theme "SEE Learning®: A Worldwide Initiative for Educating the Heart and Mind." Many were associated with the Emory Compassion Center and the Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning project developed under the auspices of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Others are involved in the implementation of SEE Learning here in India at institutions such as Tong-Len.
When His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrived, he greeted the guests on the podium warmly. Among them were the President and Provost of Emory University and the Director of the Emory Compassion Center.
Jamphel Lhundup, Secretary of the Dalai Lama Trust, offered some opening remarks. He welcomed everyone participating in the conference and all the guests. He thanked His Holiness for taking part in the gathering and acknowledged that the various programs the conference would explore originated in his efforts to promote compassion. He pointed out that this was the first conference to be convened in the Dalai Lama Library & Archive, an institution that is intended to preserve His Holiness’s teachings and legacy and serve as a resource for future generations.
Dr Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Director of the Emory Compassion Center and moderator of the meeting, recited a formal verse in Tibetan and English by way of tribute to His Holiness. He thanked him for his presence today. He recalled that His Holiness has supported relations with Emory University since the establishment of the Emory-Tibet Partnership in 1998. The partnership’s work to develop an education of heart and mind reflects His Holiness’s commitment to the promotion of human values. This has culminated in the launch of the SEE Learning program in 2019. Meanwhile the Emory-Science Initiative has worked over the last 15 years to introduce the study of science in Tibetan monasteries and nunneries.
Emory University President Gregory L. Fenves expressed his gratitude that His Holiness was hosting this event and declared it was an honour to be able to attend. He mentioned that when he decided to come to Emory two years ago, one of the factors that attracted him was the idea, promoted by the university, of being of service to others. Another was measuring the importance of an action in terms of the good it will do.
He spoke of ambition, the motivation to achieve, and heart, the wish to serve others. He suggested that His Holiness embodies both qualities in action. He added that Cognitively-Based Compassion Training and the Emory-Tibet Science programs are bringing about change and transforming the way we understand education. He noted that some people regard innovation as if anything new is good, but it must be examined through the lens of compassion.
President Fenves presented His Holiness with a citation in recognition of his fifteen years as Presidential Distinguished Professor at Emory University. He lauded the wisdom and clarity His Holiness has offered the people of the world. He asked if it was possible for a simple Buddhist monk, as His Holiness describes himself, to have achieved so much and inspired so many, and declared the answer was “Yes.”
Emory Provost Ravi V. Bellamkonda quoted the motto of Emory University, “The wise heart seeks knowledge”. He spoke of the work the university has done that has contributed to saving HIV and Covid patients and revealed that he is a brain cancer researcher.
Bellamkonda, who was born and raised in India, spoke of growing up in an atmosphere of ancient Indian knowledge and the need to create space for reflection. He asserted that the principles of SEE Learning and the work it is conducting to educate the heart and mind will surely advance global peace and human understanding,
His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressed the gathering in Tibetan and his words were translated into English. “Today, many old friends have gathered here. It’s with sadness that I’ve heard this morning that Kyabjé Rizong Rinpoché, the former Ganden Throneholder, passed away last night. Although his passing away is a natural part of life, I’m sad because he was one of my teachers.
“I once visited him in Ladakh at a time when he was completing a long meditation retreat. He received me sitting on the very seat where he had been meditating so long and gave me the transmission of Nagarjuna’s Six Collections of Reasoning. His death reminds me of the Four Seals:
“All conditioned phenomena are transient.
All polluted phenomena are unsatisfactory or in the nature of suffering.
All phenomena are empty and selfless.
Nirvana is true peace.
“Unless we cut the chains of ignorance, we will be unable to stop the cycle of suffering. We have to understand that no matter how they appear, things have no independent or absolute existence.”
His Holiness recited a verse from Jé Tsongkhapa's 'In Praise of Dependent Arising':
Becoming ordained in the way of the Buddha,
by not being lax in study of his words,
and by yoga practice of great resolve,
this monk devotes himself to that great purveyor of truth.
He related what it says to his own experience, noting that he had taken novice and fully-ordained monk's vows in Lhasa and studied the classic texts, even memorizing Chandrakirti’s ‘Entering into the Middle Way’ (Madhyamakavatara), with his Tutors, especially Ling Rinpoché.
Having become a renunciant, he studied the teaching of the Buddha, but was unable to integrate what he learned within while he was in Tibet. He stated that he has tried to do so since coming into exile. The essence of this is to cultivate the awakening mind of bodhichitta and an understanding of emptiness. He declared that, like Tsongkhapa, 'by yoga practice of great resolve, this monk devotes himself to that great purveyor of truth—the Buddha.'
“I yearn to combine concentration and special insight and so reach the Path of Seeing. As Chandrakirti says in his ‘Entering into the Middle Way’:
Thus, illuminated by the rays of wisdom's light, the bodhisattva sees as clearly as a gooseberry on his open palm that the three realms in their entirety are unborn from their very start, and through the force of conventional truth, he journeys to cessation. 6.224
And like a king of swans soaring ahead of other accomplished swans, with white wings of conventional and ultimate truths spread wide, propelled by the powerful winds of virtue, the bodhisattva would cruise to the excellent far shore, the oceanic qualities of the conquerors. 6.226
“Bodhisattvas are always dedicated to the welfare of others. Thus, the purpose of study is to help other sentient beings. In our case that mostly implies the human beings of this world.
“None of us are likely to live beyond 100 years of age. I believe that while we are alive, we should study and practise, trying to transform ourselves; this I have done. The purpose is to integrate what we learn in our daily lives. Since I have found the altruistic awakening mind and an understanding of dependent arising useful to me, I try to share what I have learned with others.
“Nearly all of us have been nurtured by our mothers. Basking in her love and affection we received our first lessons in compassion. What we need to do is nurture and develop these feelings, and then share them with others. This is something we can do. If we live compassionate lives, when we come to die, we’ll be able to do so at ease with ourselves.
“In my lifetime there has been so much bloodshed. I’ve witnessed the effects of the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and so on. Now, we have to create a peaceful world. Instead of putting our trust in external weapons, we need the defence of compassion within. The very basis of world peace is compassion and warm-heartedness.
“World peace won’t simply fall from the sky; it involves developing compassion for others. Warm-heartedness isn’t necessarily confined to religious practice; it can undoubtedly be developed in the context of secular ethics. I really hope that over the next couple of decades I’ll be able to continue sharing compassion with others.
“I practise compassion day and night. My friends, I request and encourage you to do the same.”
Dr Lobsang Tenzin Negi reiterated that compassion is essential to our own well-being and expressed the hope that the conference will be able over the next two days to explore how it can be implemented.
A number of books were presented to His Holiness, including the fourth volume of the SEE Learning High School curriculum and a translation of the previous three volumes into Hindi. He responded:
“I very much appreciate what you’re doing.
“And something else I want to mention is global warming. As it becomes more and more serious its effects seem to be beyond our control. As it gets hotter and hotter, it seems that ultimately our world may be consumed by fire.”
In answering questions put to him by students who have taken part in the SEE Learning Curriculum His Holiness recommended coming to understand how our minds work. It helps us, he said, to appreciate that selfishness, fear and anger do us no good, whereas considering others in a warm-hearted, open-minded way brings us inner strength. He pointed out that we become aware of things around us through our sense consciousnesses, but we can only analyse and judge what to do by employing our mental consciousness. And if we ask ourselves how or where consciousness originates, it seems that it is a beginningless continuity.
A teenage girl studying under the care of the local Tong-len foundation told His Holiness that she tries to keep her emotions in balance, but finds it difficult to live apart from her parents.
“Think of your studies as not being only in your interest,” His Holiness told her. “You will be able to share what you learn with the rest of your family and your community. Don’t feel lonely or dismayed, when you feel troubled it’s time to show courage. Think of what you can do to help others.”
With regard to forgiving those who have hurt you or harmed your community he recommended taking a broad view and developing a realistic sense of patience. His Holiness told another girl who wanted to know how to share what she has learned that as human beings we have sharp brains that can analyse the situations in which we find ourselves and can make up our minds what we need to do.
Dr Lobsang Tenzin Negi brought the session to a close. He thanked His Holiness for being so generous with his time. Then, he prayed that whatever merit has been created through the SEE Learning program will contribute to His Holiness’s good health and long life and to the prospect that SEE Learning will become part of education everywhere.
His Holiness replied:
“Only compassion and doing no harm bring real peace. Problems will always occur, but if we have peace of mind, we’ll be able to withstand and overcome them.”