A Call for Compassion and Interconnection

Last week I had the incredible honour of being in the presence of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama at the #BeTheVillage dialogues held in Vancouver. As anticipated, it was a life changing couple of days.

The events started with the Heart-Mind Youth Dialogues at John Oliver Secondary School where over 30,000 students across the province participated. Over the course of two hours, several student leaders shared the stage with His Holiness and spoke about how moments of heart learning had positively impacted them. What impressed me the most was the diversity of stories expressed; from a young First Nations student who talked about the importance of learning her native language in school, to a boy who, having grown up in a chaotic home environment, learned about perseverance and inner strength through his school’s hiking program. The sharing of each story demonstrated how heart education comes in all shapes and sizes.

The morning dialogues continued as the Dalai Lama claimed that education of the heart has been the missing piece of the puzzle in creating a harmonious and peaceful planet. “Existing systems of education, focused on the intellect only, have failed us,” said His Holiness. “Religion too has failed in instilling the moral principles that lead to inner and outer peace. All that is left is education.” Education is a universal tool that has the power to bond all humans, agnostic to any socially constructed divide.

In the 20th Century alone, 20 million people died due to armed conflict, war and violence. The Dalai Lama discussed how our emphasis on divisions, such as national borders or religious faiths, fosters separation. What impacted me when he spoke was his embodiment of the reverse, oneness. He made a candid request for the audience not to view him as “The Dalai Lama”, but to view him as a fellow human being, same as anyone else. He was vulnerable, real and humble.

Creating compassionate children means having them understand the interconnectedness of us all. This requires a new way of learning, thinking and being in the 21st Century. It requires having patience and love for each other, even those who we don’t agree with or get along with. The diversity of students honoured during the presentations was evidence of this respect for the whole.

The events continued in the afternoon at the Vancouver Convention Centre where the children of the St James Musical Academy greeted His Holiness. Their joy and exuberance as they sang shined through the hall, reminding us of the light-heartedness of being a child. The Dalai Lama then shared the stage with leaders in the business, non-profit and academic communities in discussion around what ‘Being a Village’ really means and how we all have a responsibility to contribute.

What I enjoyed was again the diversity of speakers and their stories. From the contributions happening the YWCA of Vancouver, to Vancity’s community involvement, to the research that is taking place at UBC, it is evident that there are infinite ways to support heart education. Peter Senge, senior lecturer at MIT and systems strategist, was also one of the panelists and his comments stemming from a systems and organizational science background were fascinating. He outlined the importance of widening our perspective through education. “People need to see the larger context in which they are operating. For the first time, this context is our planet.” To me this speaks to the absolute need for greater awareness of our interdependence and for teaching global empathy.

Educating children that violence, aggression and anger are not the answer, and instead fostering inner peace and a sense of oneness through heart-mind learning will re-direct the future well being of our planet.

The Dalai Lama’s closing remarks included a clear call to action to the youth. He said, “If you make an attempt now to create a more joyful world, then I think humanity will be much happier; not in my lifetime, but perhaps in yours.” This optimism invigorated my own sense of power to make change. It is our responsibility as a Village to not only embody inner peace and happiness but to teach it to our children. All humans want happiness and heart-mind education will get us there. 


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