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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 6, April 2006

Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education in Vancouver

Unique in the world

by Nancy Hinds

One image will never leave me from the Dalai Lama’s April 2004 visit to Vancouver. His wide generous smile only matched by his laugh and his sandals tucked up underneath his robes as he sat cross-legged on the stage among thousands gathered to listen. Through these familiar and human gestures, he closed the distance between us and a deeply personal conversation occurred. This is one of the hopes of the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education under development in Vancouver: to close the distance between people in conflict and to bring all voices into a dialogue for peace.

When the dream of the centre comes true, a child entering Kindergarten this September will graduate in 2023 with a "different sort of education," one that values both education of the mind and education of the heart. Intellectual achievements will be balanced with personal capacities to nurture kindness and compassion for fellow human beings. Caring, empathy, and forgiveness will be given equal emphasis to high-test scores, competition, and external reward systems. The human experience in its fullest will be central to our schools.

"This image of global citizens and responsible people is at the heart of His Holiness’ life service," says Victor Chan, friend and colleague of the Dalai Lama, "and it is the vision that will spark the work of the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education. It is indeed an honour for Canada to have been selected as the site for such a centre that is unique in the world." The centre is a non-political, non-sectarian initiative that promotes peace through education, research, and dialogue. The Dalai Lama chose Vancouver as the site for this global institution because he recognized the city’s potential as a place of peace. Located in BC, it will have substantial international profile, be a magnet for collective peace initiatives, and help to build a climate of peace, one educated heart at a time.

Collaborative planning is under way for September 8 when His Holiness will return to Vancouver to inaugurate the centre and engage in a series of dialogues. For the first time in his tireless world travels fostering non-violent approaches to resolving conflict and education of the heart, the Dalai Lama will speak with school children while an audience of over 1,000 fellow students from the Vancouver and West Vancouver school districts listen.

The afternoon session will bring top researchers together with educators to explore features of the cutting edge research and programs that work. Leading researchers, Mary Gordon (Roots of Empathy), Mark Greenberg (University of Pennsylvania), and Kimberly Schonert-Reihl (University of British Columbia) will take the stage in a series of interactive panels. The work of the Garrison Institute of New York, which has produced a summary of exemplary school programs in North America, will also be discussed. "It is important to build a foundation from a strong scientific research base," says Chan, "in order that all can assess the efficacy and acceptability of these programs. There is no end to the good programs and ideas, but the key question must be, Will they fit in our situation? It is vital to bring the best out into the open and hear and discuss together." British Columbia’s focus on social responsibility is acclaimed for its place in school programs, but we can do more together to work for inner peace and social justice. Dialogue among the public, students, teachers, parents, policy-makers, and other educators during these day-long events is envisioned.

In a recent meeting with Chan, Jinny Sims, BCTF president, commented, "Of course we will look for ways for teachers to become involved in the evolution of this centre’s work, and also use our Federation communication vehicles to get the word out. We must all work for peace on this planet. It is an opportunity to build on the June 2006 International Peace Education Conference, co-ordinated by the BCTF as part of the World Peace Forum, June 23–28, (contact: www.worldpeaceforum.ca for more information) and to seek ways that peace education can be sustained for children in our schools."

Plans are under way to bring the September 8 dialogues with the Dalai Lama to regions in BC through webcasting. Public media events are also planned. A web site will be launched in April. Calls for a student essay contest to select students for the dialogue with His Holiness will be out later this spring. Watch for all of these ways to get involved this September.

"Our hope is that the children growing up too fast and out of touch today will become more mindful of their own actions, more internally satisfied. Our dream is that all human beings can embrace life as authentically and meaningfully as possible and be contented and happy human beings," sums up Chan. "This is our shared educational purpose."

Nancy Hinds is an assistant director in the BCTF’s Professional and Social Issues Division, nhinds@bctf.ca

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