Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche On Harmony
About This Resource
Noa: Hello Rinpoche. Thank you so much for coming.
Rinpoche: Thank you so much for bringing me to the world of this I don’t know web whatever…
Noa: The global community of educators and parents!
Rinpoche: There are many things I have to do as a Rinpoche or as a whatever. And of these things, this is proving to be the most difficult — giving education to children.
Noa: It’s happening Rinpoche in really nice ways at the school.
Rinpoche: I know. You guys are doing amazing job. Okay, rather than go through each and every question, maybe I will just go through generally because they are all very related, I think. But if something is left out, if something is not clear, you can always please raise your hand and ask me. I will try my best.
Within the dharma you may find the concept of harmony, but just because things are harmonious does not necessarily mean that it is a dharma.
Q: Is it possible to teach on the concept of harmony and dharma?
Okay. More and more I realize that language is just so obscure and vague and it only does sort of does the job that it should be doing. Only like maybe fifty percent of what is intended. Like the word like ‘harmony’. It’s so vague isn’t it? In one sense it can mean seeing the truth. There’s no better harmony than seeing the truth, and there’s no better maker of harmony than seeing the truth. So in this sense you can almost say dharma and harmony are very, I don’t know, one, right?
Within the dharma you may find the concept of harmony, but just because things are harmonious does not necessarily mean that it is a dharma. I’m now talking as a pure Buddhist here, so those who don’t know me please I need to tell you that I am a Buddhist fanatic, so to speak. I was born as a Buddhist, I was born in a Buddhist family, I have been trained as a Buddhist. I practically groomed by, brainwashed by Buddhists. So this is the only thing that I know of so to speak.
Dharma is a Sanskrit word, again it is such a deep profound term that is just almost untranslatable. I think we realize that there are many words that a certain cultures that almost cannot be translated. Like in Finland, in Sweden, Norwegian, beautiful, beautiful language, words, terms, that just cannot be translated. You can sort of explain it. And “dharma” is like that. Dharma is really vast. For now dharma is something to do with the truth, leaning toward the ultimate truth, I would say.
Now when we talk about harmony, it may not necessarily be the truth. It may be very conventional, expedient. It may be out of necessity. It may be for a temporary use, it may be a means rather than end. So if you ask the question: which one is higher, Harmony or Dharma? Then I think I would say dharma is higher. Dharma would be sitting on a higher throne than harmony, right?
But in Buddhism, relative truth is equally respected to the ultimate truth. If somebody has dreamt that they have won a billion dollar lottery, until this person has woken up to the truth that this is just a dream, you somehow have to play along with this guy as if he or she actually has some money. You can even say “why not we invest it, why not buy me a lunch, why not go to I don’t know casino?” and so on and so forth. Because you don’t want to go straight and say: “Hey, this doesn’t exist. You are just dreaming.” That may not necessarily create harmony. You want to have some harmony with this person, right? So, many times harmony is a means. But I am not devaluing harmony. Relative truth should not be devaluing. Means should not be devaluing, because after all if you reach to the end, the means is all you have.
Okay you have asked some really big questions here, it’s a little difficult to touch on every subject but let’s see.
Q: Is harmony a Buddhist concept of a Confucist concept?
The term “harmony” was used by Confucius a lot, so you will find a lot of Chinese philosophers or Chinese ancient masters using the word harmony. So harmony is one word that the Chinese tend to use a lot. In fact I have heard that the Chinese are coming out with an operating system called Harmony very soon. We know that this comes from a sort of Confucius background.
Q: How does harmony relate to the Middle Way?
Now, as Buddhists, how would we look into this kind of harmony? Ah, the Buddhist would close one eye and open one eye and examine this kind of harmony. Yes, order, respecting elders, thinking more about the society rather than the individual, this definitely has a certain value. It can keep things orderly. It can keep things harmonious. It can save a lot of trouble I guess if you like.
But it has a loophole, especially if the elders—fathers, mothers, people who are supposedly higher, people in power—are not taking responsibility. Then this kind of order—thinking more about the nation, patriotism—all of this could be also very blinding. It can be very constricted, confined, and it can also lead us into corruption. I think we have a lot of example of that.
Now, in the modern society, like in the West, we know individualism is very much cherished: individualism, human rights, right of speech, freedom of expression, freedom to read, freedom of thinking, freedom of this, that. Now this is all good of course. How could we say it’s not good? But again, as we know, individualism could also disrupt harmony because if every individual is fighting for the individual rights, it will create conflict. Unless every individual is a sublime being, then the world will be perfect. But it is not.
Some people want to eat your finger. Some people want paint your door rainbow-colored. I don’t know, all kinds of things. People have different kinds of individual thinking. And when that happens harmony gets disrupted. Now if you are asking me if we need a harmony, I think so. And if you are asking me as someone who is trying to follow dharma, Buddhism, how would I try to maintain harmony? I would say: be very critical towards both camps that I was just mentioning.
Thinking more about the group? I will think about the group with a pinch of salt. And I will also think about individually, since we have already put salt in our mouth, maybe how about pinch of chili. You know so both chili and salt you put in the mouth and think about individualism and think about the society.
This is of course difficult because we human beings are just not good at being in the middle, and I guess this is what you guys are trying to groom, a next species who will sort of, I don’t know, who will live with the life of the middle way. This is a very, very big task, you know. It’s a really big job but it’s a doable. It’s a very doable. For instance rationalism… who doesn’t want to be rational? Especially after the renaissance and the age of reason? But how about going a step further? How about being skeptical of rationalism too? Why get so blindly devoted towards rationalism?
So things like that. Okay sorry I am being too academic and convoluted right now. I will try to answer some of your questions.
Now when we talk about harmony, it may not necessarily be the truth. It may be very conventional, expedient. It may be out of necessity. It may be for a temporary use, it may be a means rather than end.
Q: What’s the difference between happiness and harmony?
So happiness and harmony—ah, this is a very tricky question, very tricky. How do we define happiness? Again if you are asking somebody like Shantideva, a Buddhist, “Rang wang tamché déwa yin, shen wang tamché dukngal yin. (wyl. rang dbang thams cad bde ba yin/ gzhan dbang thams cad sdug bsngal yin/).” Anything that is under your control, is happiness. Anything that is even slightly is dependent on somebody else—it could just be that you are dependent on someone’s shower, you have to take a shower in somebody’s bathroom—you have a problem there. You know are you relying on somebody’s shower room, right?
So that’s how a Buddhist would define happiness very broadly. But I have to say Buddhists are not necessarily interested in happiness anyway, because Buddhists are supposed to really try to go beyond happiness and unhappiness, or try to question what is happiness and unhappiness. But maybe I should just go through the questions very practically. You have to think about the immediate situation and then you have to also think about the long term situation.
I think it’s a bit like this. We go to a bookshop and there are all these books about leadership training, management books. There are so many, I have noticed. It’s really amazing that none of these books mention that you are going to die. You have not much time to lead. You don’t have much time to manage. You understand? It’s quite amazing. They are basically blindly telling you that you’ll be a manager forever. You’ll be a leader forever, and that’s fundamentally going wrong, isn’t it? That’s how we end up becoming a bad leader, because we basically believe that we are going to be leader forever and we are going to manage things forever. Okay sorry, I am going everywhere.
Q: What are some key aspects of harmony we can teach to children? Or yak herders?
I think we already discussed this. I think the key here, at The Middle Way School, we have this philosophy that education is almost out of necessity. I almost want to say it’s a necessary evil but I would not put it that way, so don’t quote me. But it’s almost like that. It’s almost like we should not educating these young people but we better, we might as well, because if we don’t do it Instagram is going to do it, Facebook, Jeff Bezos is going to do it, Amazon is going to do it, somebody is going to do it. So we will do it, but we are doing it with reluctance and some sort of a humility as a parent, as a teacher. That probably is a key to harmony between teacher and children, I would say.
And by the way if much of this is getting too theoretical and not making sense, please raise your hand and ask me questions. But I will continue.
Q: Do you have any anecdotes or stories about harmony?
Okay, I think the mundane language is “teamwork.” There is a Buddhist anecdote, a story I think you guys are using— about the elephant, monkey, rabbit, and bird. This is kind of an important story actually. It’s important in many ways. The fact that there are four animals that are very different all together — size wise, looks wise. You know monkeys, they speak a different language, they look different, their size is different, their color is different, birds fly, elephants don’t, so on and so forth. This is an important piece of the story because it mean each one has their own selfishness. Each thinks differently. Somebody wants to eat your finger; someone wants to paint something else on your window. So they’re all different but we all want to have the fruit, right?
These four animals, they are trying to pick some fruit. This is the story. So let’s do it together. You know… Okay, elephant, you have a big body. You be the ground, you be the foundation and then the monkey, and so on and so forth. So I think that is quite a good story because it’s almost like we are accepting that we are all different but we can do something together. That story would not have worked if the four animals were all monkeys. Then that anecdote would have failed. But because four animals are four different kinds of animals it’s kind of important. Please ask me questions later if you need.
Q: On a complex level, does harmony connect to nonduality? Or another Buddhist concept?
Now of course if you are going to talk about non-duality, then that we are talking about the highest level of harmony. But by then I don’t know whether we will even be using the word harmony, because the moment you talk about harmony you are already assuming there are two contradictions, something is in competition. But when you can dismantle the very idea of difference, like the notion of duality, then there is the real peace. And if you are using the word harmony in the sense of peace, yes, then yes, that is the real harmony.
Q: Chagdud Khadro suggested that the 4 Immeasurables might be seen as an antidote to disharmony – what do you think?
Yes, the four immeasurable—definitely. And actually Chagdud Khadro is very right. It’s quite interesting if you pay some attention. The first thing you do is semchen tamché déwa dang déway gyu dang denpar gyur chig (wyl. sems can thams cad bde ba dang bde ba’i rgyu dang ldan par gyur cig). “May all be happy and have cause of happiness.” Okay? Sort of the most easy to approach. Everybody wants to be happy, for sure. But of course the Buddhist would explain a little bit further. May all be happy and have cause of happiness. The Buddhists are trying to put the Buddhist message there, because real cause of happiness seeing the truth. So may all sentient beings be happy, but may they also eventually understand the cause of happiness, which is understanding the truth. That’s the easiest one.
Then the more difficult one: May they all be free from suffering and may they all be free from causes of the suffering. This one is on a much higher level actually. Compassion. By the way, compassion is not the right translation but let’s use it anyway.
Wishing to free all sentient beings from dukkha, suffering, and the causes of suffering is really like departing from minding your own business. When we say “May all be happy and have cause of happiness,” yes, you are becoming a little bit of a busy-body. But when you say “May all be free from suffering and be free from cause of suffering,” it’s much more difficult.
And then the third one, “May they never separate from the joy of not suffering.” That’s an antidote to envy and jealousy. And this one is much, much more, difficult. And finally, equanimity. I think one would say this is probably a very good doorway to put the harmony into practice.
Q: There is order, unison, and balance in harmony, all qualities which can require effort to create, both in the musical sense of harmony and on the human level. Does harmony naturally manifest on its own? In what ways? In the natural world? In human relationships? In all phenomena?
Wow very big question. And, Noa, aren’t we sort of also open to the wisdom from like Taoism in the future, if not now?
Noa: It’s your vision Rinpoche. I think yes, as long as we are clear that’s what we’re doing.
Rinpoche: Yeah, I like the word ‘manifest on its own’. You know there is great wisdom in Taoism, and also in Vajrayana Buddhism (called like mahasandhi or mahamudra). These traditions teach us how we should just… let it be. In fact the word nyam shak (wyl. mnyam bzhag) is what is being translated as meditation now. The English word meditation is really not doing it justice. The Tibetan word shak has the connotation of just letting it be. The whole problem with us is not letting things be—always trying to alter something, update something, convert something, educate somebody. We are just compelled to fix things. We just need to do things. Now, whoever asked this question, the answer is that this is the highest way to achieve the harmony. I don’t know but …children always surprise so they probably will be the people who will understand this best.
But us adults? As simple as this is—actually this is a very, very simple wisdom and simple technique—but due to our stubborn habit of needing to fix things, needing to sort it out, needing to improve, advance, all of that doesn’t let the natural harmony manifest on its own.
I have seen Middle Way people, including the children, sitting for one minute, and during that one minute sitting, it is already a stepping stone for letting harmony naturally manifest on its own. I would say that. Hopefully we will not be stop there, just sitting. Hopefully one day the graduates of The Middle Way School could be building a rocket or flying to Mars and even as they do, they are letting harmony naturally manifest.
But we have to begin somewhere and I think sitting is known and tested by a lot of people as the most harmless, economical, and easiest way to do, so I would say it’s good. Yeah, it is challenging to teach probably harmony to children, because you know the environment that we live in is always ringing the bell of competition, I don’t know, yeah competition. That’s how… consumer, yeah consumer. Basically Middle Way School students or teachers and parents hopefully, hopefully, shall not fall into the trap of learning things so that we will be trapped by the system or some sort of a maze that is designed to feed things like online shopping and I don’t know. I think it is possible. I think we can, yeah. It is possible but… We are doing it, you guys are doing it. Otherwise we get trapped. I didn’t get the question: what is the significance of disharmony?
Maybe we can discuss this later, but let me just go through all the questions first.
Modern parents are definitely going to struggle with harmony, not just the environment, but for some reason even chemically. It’s almost shocking to meet kids that are nine years old who have bipolar disorder. One would think that this kind of problem happens only when you are in 40s, but wow. Just as the iPhone keeps getting upgraded, it looks like our internal problems are also getting upgraded faster even. It’s so scary, but you know there are causes and conditions, isn’t it? There are definitely causes and conditions for why we have this kind of phenomena now. So as we spoke a few months ago about mental resilience. Probably this is something that both parents, us, organizers, teachers, opinion-makers like me, can actually talk more about.
Q: How do we approach harmony with kids who seem to be innately disharmonious? How do we teach/talk about harmony without alienating kids who are struggling? As a parent to kids who seem to especially struggle with harmony, harmony to me sounds like a Pinterest collection of unattainable, morally sound, idealistic versions of life with kids
To these questions I can only say this— there’s our head and there’s your heart and sometimes they contradict. Your heart says this, but your head thinks something, but your heart feels something. But there’s something else, the third factor. Again I’m talking as a Buddhist now. People seem to only think about head and heart but the third things is one called karma, which is really annoying. What to do. And yes, many times you may have beings, kids, adults, who seem to be innately disharmonious. As a Buddhist, all that I can think of is do prayers. This may sound very superstitious and unscientific for some of you but actually to me it’s very scientific. Prayers, longing, wishing – all of these are a game-changer. They create atmosphere. They actually manipulate chemicals.
I’m sure if a bunch of teachers who are facing seemingly innately disharmonious kids constantly wish for peace and the harmonious growth of a kid—that classroom will have a certain energy. This I believe. I know I’m talking almost like a new-age person here. But you know intention is powerful, intention is very powerful.
Q: Is harmony connected to morality?
Yes. Now this is where we will have to be a little dangerous. This is where—as a Buddhist I have to say this: Morality is never in the driver’s seat in the Buddhist world. If there is a van, the driver’s seat should be occupied by the wisdom. Compassion should be next to the driver. Morality sits behind in the luggage room you understand. In the, what do you call it. I forgot now. There are societies, there are parents, there are cultures that think that morality, ethics, and discipline are the key to harmony. Yes, to a certain extent, but I think we need to watch because morality, righteousness… wow very, very dangerous those.
Q: How do we talk about harmony without alienating kids who are struggling?
I guess if we are patient enough to just engage them, I think the kids will know that they are being included. They mean something and they are not left out or… yeah, patience, I guess.
Okay, I will let you ask questions now.
Noa: I am sure everybody has questions but from what you just said, it sounds like if teachers can cultivate patience it will help in the classroom, it will help students be more present. So is there a way to cultivate patience in adults?
Rinpoche: I guess so. I will tell you what I do. And this is kind of sounding pathetic but actually it works. I often tell myself that not everything has to work according to my standards or my interpretation of now, this is correct, you understand? And I think this may be good. What do you think? I don’t know. Because sometimes I have some ridiculous, not even high standards. It’s just my standard. So it’s ridiculous…and then when that is not being met, yeah I just lose my patience. So if I tell myself that this my standard, and you know it doesn’t have to be like this. I think it helps.
Maya: I have this word in the mind all the time with the going with the flow, specially when educating kids of different ages because the more concepts I have as a mother, the more quarrels I encounter and the more openness I develop in the moment, knowing it will pass and it will change also.
Q: The more harmonious it can be even if the situation is awkward. Even if it’s… I don’t know. It can be very, very ugly but doesn’t matter, it will pass and it happens. Going with the flow is very helpful.
Rinpoche: Very good. Yeah well I think. I have I have a very stupid question since you guys are live, most of you anyway, some of you in New York. Is there a governing body of a United Nations people who are like a think tank. Who have a… who really is actually powerful, who will actually do something, who are now actually planning the next generation’s education. Is there such thing?
Noa: No Rinpoche.
Rinpoche: Do you think they would consider?
Noa: Education—I’ve said this before—is the most dogmatic area. People are more fractured and more dug in about how they think education should look than in any religion, I find. Even within our sangha, Montessori, Waldorf. You know people get very stuck and it’s hard to find consensus. There are lots of interesting groups doing independent things in different colleges, universities, Mind Life Institute, doing work but there is no… But the secretary of education…forget it. There are also so many different needs inner city, upper class, this, that.
Noa: It’s up to Middle Way!
Maya: They have some movements in Europe. There is one who passed recently. He was a Danish, his name is Jesper Juul. He wrote very very important books on education and he was one of the first voices who said after eleven you cannot educate anymore. The only thing is you can cooperate and you can communicate but after that age you cannot… You have to drop the idea of education and I think he is quite important in the European movements of new education. Quite heard also.
Rinpoche: Yes, I would think that Europeans have done a good job in the past, no? Like really revolutionizing some of the way that education. Is it like… Are there more revolutionary thing happening in the West, I mean in Europe? I am hearing lot of good things about Finland? No, isn’t?
Q: Yeah Finland is quite advanced.
Noa: Each country is quite different. France just really pushes those kids hard. And Finland has this great system and then Germany has this other system and England has another system.
Rinpoche: I see. So it’s really, really, difficult—yeah, dogmatic, you put it right I guess. What to do?
Noa: Rinpoche when you said that we have an aspiration at the school, I think maybe now that you said that, I am going to print and put it in all the classrooms… that the children not be swayed by circumstance and learn how to be their own people. But I am wondering if you have any other message that you think just printing and sticking on the wall of the classrooms, anything come to mind that we can just energetically put into the classrooms?
Rinpoche: I will think about it. I don’t know. From the top of my head I can’t think of anything at the moment.
Noa: They all have a Tara Statue and a Buddha.
Noa: I can ask again later.
Rinpoche: You know Tibetans have these analogies that is slightly scientifically backward, you know? They have this analogy called silk worm. Silk worm, supposedly silk worm is… the thread is their own saliva or something. and then sometimes it can tighten their body and then kill themselves by their own… this thread whatever, the silk. I don’t know. Okay anyway you got the picture. Anyway what we don’t want is our own education system is like this silk thread that we make with our saliva which tightens us, tighten us and kill ourself. Isn’t it? That’s what we don’t want. The education system or whatever we are offering should really do the other way around actually if possible.
Right now what is being offered in the normal education seems to be doing this the silk worm example because as you grow up then you actually learn to really want this, do this, complete this, get entangled with that, so you become more and more of a slave of a, what is it, a slave of a system that somebody is producing.
Noa: So Rinpoche just to let you know that also Ashoka is on the call, I think he turned off his camera. I invited him. So there might be a question from a teenager and then Isiah had a question about how to work in that heat of the moment when you have conflict with child that is very hot and comes up suddenly and then it causes long lasting residue?
Rinpoche: Yeah, is that Isaiah’s question? I can see Isiah there. You more and more looking like the character I have told you many, many, years ago which I will not mention here. Otherwise either me or you can get into trouble.
Isaiah: Yeah. I was just asking about conflict and in a way maybe a more tangible approach to understanding harmony and disharmony because conflict can often lead to disharmony.
Rinpoche: With the children?
Isaiah: Or amongst each other, amongst the children, amongst each other, children amongst parents, you know I think this sort of flip side of harmony is not necessarily disharmony but conflict.
Rinpoche: So difficult isn’t it? So difficult, wow. And then when many times you have to live in an environment, and if they’re with you twenty-four hours seven days a week twelve months a year, then maybe you can do something but then aren’t they going to school? Aren’t they going to school?
Rinpoche: And then they are meeting people, and then who knows those kids what are they telling them? So I am sure they have all kinds of stories writing about you—I mean your children’s friends. Don’t you think?
Isaiah: Oh sure.
Rinpoche: Maybe somebody should ask them to secretly write these things. What do you think?
Isaiah: To write how they feel about…..
Rinpoche: Yes…. someone their friend’s family, their brothers, their sisters. It’s… you know many times the modern kids are basically like my generation’s adults. If you are talking to my generation, when I was ten years old, I was ten years old. These days your ten year olds think and talk like twenty years, no? What do you think?
Isaiah: Yeah. But they probably still have the emotional capacity of a ten year old if not younger.
Rinpoche: So emotional intelligence is necessary. You think so?
Isaiah: Yeah of course.
Rinpoche: This is going to be even more difficult because people are now using emoji to communicate. Now we need to wear mask because of COVID, so we don’t even know who is smiling or not. Emoji, thumbs up, thumbs down. Wow.
Noa: You said that happiness is anything that’s in your control and then unhappiness is anything that… from you depending on something, but isn’t everything dependent?
Rinpoche: Yeah of course. This is why the Buddhists are really not that interested in happiness because bottom line, it—what American would say, it sucks—both happiness and unhappiness you know, bottom line. So they are not really interested.
Noa: I do think that we are trying to approach it how you were describing with the non-duality. Like we are trying to approach it at this school that things are going to come and go up and down up and down and you don’t grasp at high and lows. You are going to hit them and go down and not aspire for the highs, and just kind of learn how to surf, surf through things.
Appearance is deceiving. What you see is not what it is… But somewhere along the line you should also make sure that the students don’t disrespect what you see. Because when we say what you see is not what it is, immediately it seems to create some sort of a hierarchy that what it is is higher than what you see. That’s not what Buddhists are saying.
Noa: I don’t know how to teach that and I also really don’t how to even teach the four immeasurables to a seven year old.
Rinpoche: Maybe the… for the non-duality, I think using the English expression that appearance is deceiving. Can you, do you think, that play along that line?
Noa: Our school song is about that. It’s the diamond sutra put to music.
Rinpoche: Right, so that may be the best way. Appearance is deceiving. What you see is not what it is. You understand what I mean. But somewhere along the line you should also make sure that the students don’t disrespect what you see. Because when we say what you see is not what it is, immediately it seems to create some sort of a hierarchy that what it is is higher than what you see. That’s not what Buddhists are saying. What you see is very important, but it is not what it… that what you see is not what it is. That you need to know. That one we need to somehow explain.
Noa: Luckily children love rainbows, so that’s…
Rinpoche: Yes, yes. Do you think… I am still thinking about the disharmony, sort of almost like an innate disharmonious, I don’t know, student or kids. What can we do about this? Let me think about this a little bit more. I think that’s quite an important… and I am sure there’s a, there’s something that we can do.
Jessie: Rinpoche that was my question. And I guess I just feel like with kids you have these diagnoses you know like ADHD and dyslexia where the only tools that we have are tools used to kind of force them to belong in this society, to fit in, to function, to… So sometimes it’s just really frustrating as a parent when you kind of can see who they are and there just doesn’t seem to be like a great place for them.
Rinpoche: I know, I know, yeah, to fit in. Wow. This is the thing; this is what I was talking about the United Nations. If… fit in, yeah, fit in. This is one word that we need to underline. Fit in and also left out, right? Another one, not letting…. Do you think we are talking too much about dyslexia, and what, Asperger’s, is it Asperger’s? There is a problem called Asperger’s, right? Do you think we are talking too much about… too much about these things so therefore they are more evident, or they are more out there in front of us? Because, do you think? Do you think there is too much experts talking about it like in the televisions, and in the books? Maybe too‚ or do I sound like Donald Trump who says don’t test, don’t test, the more you test you will find more COVID.
Noa: Rinpoche I feel that it’s been very beneficial for the kids. We are getting a lot of kids evaluated and if you can… I hear what Jessie is saying and I don’t know if the protocols that happen afterwards are necessarily correct, but knowing certain differences that they might have early, the earlier you know, the more support you can give them and not expect them to get along in the normal ways.
I don’t know what to do when someone has something that really differentiates, when it becomes disruptive and disharmonious in the classroom. If you’re a teacher with twelve students and there is one who’s just running in circles and screaming because they have a sensory issue, the teacher can’t teach the other eleven children. So that’s where harmony comes in a lot at school, is then we have people come in and take them out. And then that is more staff. I’m not really sure what…I think it’s a very good question. Are we trying to cookie-cutter them, and drug them, and put them back in the class? Or could there be more options for a student like that. I don’t know, but I think testing is good. I do think the testing part is good.
Rinpoche: Okay. I am learning from this which is quite amazing that actually we are talking like that.
Isaiah: Anecdotally, my father was dyslexic, and he dropped out of seventh or eighth grade because no one figured it out, so he didn’t fit in. Whereas our children discovered it early enough to where they could learn how to read in time to…
Rinpoche: But that didn’t really sort of made him totally ruined, right?
Isaiah: No, it just didn’t allow him to participate in the education system.
Noa: Which might have been a blessing.
Rinpoche: Right. So that’s why sometimes having this bird’s eye’s view is important. Because sometimes I think we just look into this one narrow angle: Oh, you need to finish all the grades. Maybe this where I think the parents need to be also taught if your kids are not going to be finishing, I don’t know the third grade, then you will just need to sort of you know… it doesn’t, it doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the child.
Q: Can I say something to this because I feel like the, the more crucial thing of education, of school, is that the children have the experience of finishing something. It’s not so much about going the same way as the others but I have my oldest son, he dropped out of school because of many issues when he was in the seventh grade, and I was always trying to put him back to something that he can have the experience of finishing something, because this gives him like a strength. It can be anything. He could also do like climbing a mountain and coming back and having this experience.
Rinpoche: Of course, of course
Q: It has to be much so much broader than only this one way, one pathway. This is so important.
Rinpoche: Of course, of course, of course, yeah so that’s just a you know bird’s eye’s view. You know like different, different graduation, right, you are talking about.
Michael: Rinpoche you asked earlier about the like United Nations and the movements in the world that you know are, is there anything. And I am aware that like Unesco, which is part of the United Nations, has like a working group on social emotional learning. but the problem is they are not very powerful or influential, and so many of these other counties aren’t necessarily listening to what’s coming out of there.
But also I am aware that you know among teachers, I feel like there’s more and more readiness for focusing on things like mental resiliency and the wellbeing of the child and the whole approach, you know, questioning the fundamental narrow mindedness of the modern educational predicament that we are in. And a lot of this you know is really coming out of the frustrations that have arisen during the pandemic and the much higher levels of stress that our students are experiencing. And the frustration that teachers have trying to you know balance academic standards with just taking care of the kids and making sure that they’re okay. So I feel like there’s a lot of readiness right now—really a kind of a dissatisfaction with the way things are, and feeling like we need to… we have no choice but to focus on the essence of, of, of caring for children.
And with that in mind like I think about what Middle Way School is doing is being so special and really looking for what’s essential about what it is that we can export or package and therefore offer to the rest of the world, as people are really so hungry for this, this view and this approach. And so I’m not sure how bring it to a simple question, but these are things that I am reflecting on as I know that the world…there is a lot of excitement about social emotional learning. And people are really ready because our students are not thriving. You know a lot of them are traumatized by this disconnection from each other, and so I just think as we are aware of that we can be able to share what we are doing, knowing that people want to hear and want to learn these types of things that we are talking about. It’s a very relevant conversation I guess.
Rinpoche: Well and then artificial intelligence is very much coming up. That’s going to change the way we think, the way we function, our identity, wow.
Noa: I feel that on social emotional, I am so glad to see it happening everywhere. It’s hard to say. It’s not something I am rushing to export because I think it needs to be individualized or at least country wise or at least each country. But the thing that I want to export which you brought up right at the beginning and which is coming up more and more as the centerpiece to dharma, to what the Buddha taught, to what we can teach is inquiry. And constantly questioning where our sources of information are, why I am feeling the way I am feeling, why I think the way I think. And you said that about harmony, that group think is good to a point, individualization is good to a point. So teaching kids to question without becoming disrespectful is a middle way that we also have to find because otherwise they may not listen. And also you were talking about how Jeff Bezos, if we don’t educate Jeff Bezos will, and then to just let everything be. Again, we have to find our… and it’s very difficult to know where those lines, and it’s a constantly moving… So teaching the teachers how to navigate that.
Noa: Please Rinpoche tell all your students to become teachers. Please, please, please we need more teachers, people who are practitioners, who study and practice. We are so lucky to have Gillian with us. And Michael is a teacher, but there are very few practitioner teachers.
Rinpoche: Okay. That’s it.
P: Everybody can unmute yourself. Thank you so much, Rinpoche. It was so helpful.
Other events with Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche & Middle Way
- An opening message for Middle Way School September 6, 2018
- Buddhist Parenting and Education Part 1, May 25, 2020
- Buddhist Parenting and Education Part 2, October, 2020
- Q & A at the Middle Way School, July, 2021
Here are some other talks by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche we have highlighted.
- Rinpoche on Buddhist Education, in Taiwan, 2014
- Rinpoche on Buddhist Education & Modern Society, in Malaysia, 2014
- The Seven Points of Mind Training, Mexico, 2016