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Lions Roar : January 2007
“There is substantial evidence that this is doable,” said Mark Greenberg, an SEL pioneer at Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development. “Research has shown that we can success- fully teach children how to overcome and manage emotions such as fear, hatred, anger, and anxiety. SEL programs have proven that children can develop lifelong abilities such as self-awareness, anger management, and impulse control, and positive qualities such as empathy and compassion.” Changing the way we educate our children is one of the Dalai Lama’s main themes these days, so much so that he has given his blessing to a new Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Educa- tion, to be built in Vancouver. Like so many before him who have worried about the future of humanity, he has concluded that the answer lies in the heart, less than in the mind, and with the chil- dren, not the adults. Watching the Dalai Lama in extended conversation, as I did during his Vancouver dialogues, one is struck by how unusual a religious leader he is. Or, one could argue, how unlike a religious leader he is. First, at least in his public pronouncements, he is far more concerned with the overall fate of humanity than he is with people’s spiritual attainment. He is, in that sense, in the best sense, a politician. He is offering practical guidance to society, not mystical revelations or realizations. Second, and even more striking, is his commitment to logic, analysis, objectivity, and evidence. His approach is very scientific (and of course he is well known to have been fascinated by Western science and technology since he was a child). The converse of this is his determined, almost militant skepticism about institutional- ized religion. He frequently warns against the dangers of religious division and expresses doubts about the efficacy of religious prac- tices such as prayer or meditation. It turns out that he and Sam Harris, the author of The End of Faith, aren’t that far apart. The Dalai Lama’s approach is a reflection of the particular school of Buddhism to which he belongs. The Gelugpa lineage is, as it were, the “establishment” school of Tibetan Buddhism, and it places far more emphasis on study, analysis, reasoning, and debate than the other traditions of Buddhism in Tibet. The Dalai Lama’s exchange with a Western educator summed up his approach: Mary Gordon: “Love grows brains.” The Dalai Lama: “Brains grow love.” THERE IT IS: brains grow love, and it’s fascinating, and compel- ling, to follow the Dalai Lama’s logic as it leads from his assess- ment of the state of the world in the twenty-first century to the need for education about compassion.