New Delhi, India — The Global Launch of the Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning (SEEL) officially inaugurated by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, stepping up his effort to make this world more peaceful through education include ways to reinforce and encourages inner peace, compassion, respect and warm-heartedness.
Towards this effort, a large part of the world believes that the spiritual leader of Tibet minted the idea of universal secular ethics; enshrining the values of compassion, human dignity, empathy, warmheartedness, genuine sense of concern for others in our vision of prosperity and progress.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama was in India's Capital City New Delhi for the Global Launch of the Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning (SEEL) program developed at Emory University, in partnership with The Dalai Lama Trust and the Vana Foundation of India.
The program, which is available in 12 languages including English and 6 UN languages, formally launched by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New Delhi, in the presence of more than 1000 educational and policy leaders from around the world.
Nobel Peace Laureate met with his old friend Richard Moore shortly after entering the room where members of the press were assembled, in New Delhi on April 4, 2019. Referring to him as ‘his hero’, His Holiness explained that Moore is a living example that human nature is compassionate.
The spiritual leader recounted that as a young boy in Northern Ireland Moore had been struck by a rubber bullet and rendered blind. In due course he found the British soldier who had shot him and forgave him. As friends the two have worked to help other children caught in crossfire.
His Holiness unveiled the "Social Emotional Ethical Learning" curriculum with Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi at its global launch in New Delhi, India on April 5, 2019.
Speaking about the program on Friday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, "The main reason (for the introduction of SEE Learning) is because of the existing education system, which is not adequate and does not guarantee happiness. Children from the kindergarten stage should be taught about basic human values, which are grounded in common sense, common experience and scientific evidence to which everyone can relate to."
The Nobel Peace Laureate also said he was looking forward to the discussions about the program over the next few days and was hoping to get "practical ideas". While answering a question as to why India was chosen for the global launch of the program, the Tibetan leader said, "India is a special country and its ancient knowledge deals with inner emotion which helps retain mental comfort and inner peace."
Answering questions to members of the Tibetan language media on Thursday, His Holiness told them that the practices of loving kindness and wisdom that are part of the Nalanda Tradition are something to be proud of. They are kept alive through study and practice as can be seen in the Seats of Learning re-established in South India.
Dr Brenda Ozawa de Silva, moderator of the press meeting, gave an introduction in lieu of Dr Lobsang Tenzin Negi. He mentioned that His Holiness’s relationship with Emory University goes back to 1998 and the launch of Cognitive Based Compassion Training (CBCT). Later, there was collaboration in developing science training for Tibetan monasteries. SEE Learning is the latest program which seeks to provide a comprehensive approach to holistic education. He invited His Holiness to make his remarks.
“The existing education system is inadequate,” His Holiness replied, “with no guarantees that it will bring happiness. Education should include ways to reinforce warm-heartedness. All religious traditions convey such a message, but in today’s world at least 1 billion have no interest in religion. From kindergarten upwards we need education to strengthen inner values not just pursue material goals. We need to introduce steps towards emotional hygiene, much as we teach physical hygiene. This way we can address some of the problems we face, in the hope of making this a century of non-violence.”
A key advisor, Dr Daniel Goleman, addressed the gathering via a videolink. “I’m sad not to be there with you,” he began. “When I wrote ‘Emotional Intelligence’ I discussed self-management, in SEEL this has become cultivating emotional hygiene, reducing negative emotions and boosting positive ones. This involves education of the heart, attention training and the development of compassion.
“I recently was struck to see a group of young children each of whom had a toy animal, who at a given point in their class time lay down with the animal on their abdomens. They watched and counted as the animal rose and fell with their breathing and so developed calm and control. This kind of technique has far-reaching effects on the children’s ability to learn and equalizes their potential.
“A combination of wisdom and compassion is what the world urgently needs right now. For the human species to survive will require a mixture of compassion and teamwork. I congratulate Your Holiness on achieving SEE Learning after 20 years work.”
Linda Lantieri from Columbia University addressed the meeting by videolink. “I have had a long involvement with the SEEL program that goes towards an education of the heart. We need such a non-violent approach in the world today. We are going to see a transformation in children being able to develop their hearts as well as their minds. They will have inner resilience enabling them to prepare for challenges and opportunities.”
To illustrate this she told a story about a group of teenagers she’d been working with in a poor part of New York. All of them had lost a friend or relative to violence. Their teacher asked them to share a goal for when they were 21 and she remembered one, Eugene, who said, “To be alive at 21". Not long afterwards the teacher called her with sad news about Eugene. He’d been shot from a passing car and would never walk again.
When she went to visit him in a care facility she found him in a corner talking to a group of other wheelchair users. “I was telling some of the guys what you taught me,” he informed her. She asked how he was and he replied, “I’m good. When I woke up today, I decided to forgive the shooter and I’m feeling much better for it.” Self-regulation begins with the urge to make a difference. This gathering for the launch of SEEL will help the world, which will be so much the richer for it.”
Prof Dr Kimberly Schonert-Reichl turned to His Holiness, saying, “Your dream of an education of the heart is coming to fruition. These programs can make a difference. I started out as a teacher before I became a researcher and found I had nothing to depend on. I didn’t know what to do. Then I discovered that with SEL students are more likely to graduate and go on to other achievements. Richie Davidson has shown that these skills can be taught and can be seen to be effective in neuroplasticity. Now, SEEL with its education of the heart, compassion, systems training and attention training fills a gap—it’ll be so valuable.”
Among questions from the floor, the first was about why India had been chosen for the Global Launch of SEEL. Brendan Ozawa de Silva replied that the program was the result of a 20 year collaboration with His Holiness and this is where he lives.
His Holiness added: “Among the ancient civilizations such as those in Egypt and China, the Indus Valley civilization gave rise to a rich knowledge of the workings of the mind and views of reality. The Buddha as a product of Indian tradition. Nowadays, India has the potential to help humanity by combining ancient learning with modern education.”
Regarding devices like mobile phones, His Holiness stated that by itself technology is wonderful, but it depends how people use it. He observed that leaders tend to reflect the communities they come from. Since education today tends to focus on material development, it’s not surprising if that’s what motivates contemporary leaders. He suggested it can take a whole generation to change a community’s way of thinking.
“We are social animals—anger pushes us apart, but compassion brings us together. It’s such a shame that our wonderful human intelligence is squandered on developing and then marketing weapons that can only be used for destruction.”
His Holiness mentioned his admiration for Jacinda Ardern and her skilful handling of the situation after the recent attack in New Zealand. He appreciated her stance of non-violence and mutual respect, something everyone can learn from.
A questioner who wondered if interreligious harmony was as well-founded as His Holiness seems to think was told that he prefers to look at things from a wider perspective. He conceded that there are mischievous people everywhere and untoward incidents do occur, but they are infrequent. His Holiness cited the example of the Parsee community, Zoroastrians from Persia, who now number fewer than 100,000, but who live among millions of Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs in Bombay completely without fear—illustrating India’s tolerant pluralism.
With regard to his own reincarnation His Holiness suggested that if he lives another 10-15 years, the political situation in China will have changed. If, on the other hand, he dies next year the Chinese government may recognise their own candidate to succeed him. He expressed appreciation for the 1st Dalai Lama’s wish to be born wherever he could help relieve the suffering of others.
The Nobel Peace Laureate constantly express his hope and wish is that, one day, formal education will pay attention to what I call education of the heart. I look forward to a day when children and students will be more aware of their feeling and emotions and feel a greater sense of responsibility both towards themselves and towards the wider world.
SEE Learning provides educators with a comprehensive framework for the cultivation of social, emotional and ethical competencies that can be used in K–12 education as well as higher education and professional education. The program is part of Emory’s newly established Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics.
SEE Learning Associate Director Brendan Ozawa-de Silwa said that the program brings the latest innovations in social and emotional learning, systems thinking, compassion and ethics, attention training, and trauma and resilience together in a single comprehensive package for teachers and schools with the intention of realising the 14th Dalai Lama's vision for a holistic education of heart and mind.
"SEE Learning consists of a framework that communicates the philosophical and pedagogical foundations of the program as well as a curriculum that is tailored for different age levels and an online platform for preparing and supporting educators and schools. All these materials are made globally available for free, thanks to the generous support of his holiness," he added.
Over 600 educators in various countries have attended SEE Learning workshops. A high school curriculum is planned for 2020. Many of them provide ongoing feedback in evaluating, enhancing and refining the pedagogical framework for the program and are contributing to the development of curricula designed for early elementary, late elementary and middle schools. The three-day event, which concludes on Saturday, attended by child rights activist and Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Piramal Group chairman Ajay Piramal among others.
Meanwhile, Dr Daniel Goleman, an expert in social and emotional learning and one of the senior advisors for the program, said: "A study of two hundred and seventy thousand students found SEEL lowers anti-social problems like fights and bullying by 10%, it increases pro-social attitudes like liking school by 10%, and boosts academic achievement stories by 11%. And in a more recent study, advantage in the academic achievement by 14% was found. And these benefits last upto 18 years." He further said that the combination of wisdom and compassion was what the world needs now and will need increasingly in the future.
Veer Singh, Founder of Vana Foundation expressed his blessedness to be a part of the launch of a remarkable work. He commended the framework and curriculum of SEE learning for its practicality, academic rigor, and its application and thanked the team of Emory University. He further lauded the vision and wisdom of His Holiness for a compassionate and ethical world for all and expressed his sincere gratitude.
While calling the gathering to embrace SEE learning and asserted it was what the world needed more than ever for the well being of humanity,“ Veer Singh said "As an Indian, I cannot but feel immense gratitude to His Holiness who constantly remind us of our profound heritage of wisdom. There is no better time to begin a thoughtful journey to help cultivate the right values in our young and prepare their minds for a lifetime ahead."
While delivering congratulatory remarks on the new project, Dr Robert Paul, Dean of Emory University again celebrated the glorification of His Holiness’s enlightened approach to a better education. “It is that mission to educate both heart and mind so tirelessly and eloquently as aspired by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”
He declared that the younger generation is the resource that has the potential to liberate the challenges facing today’s world. “What the world will become in the coming years will be determined by the choices these next generation will make and the actions they take,” he said. Emory University as Dr Robert alleged was necessitated to develop an educational system to address both heart and the mind catering the needs for both knowledge and the emotional, social and ethical understanding of self and others. He maintained that SEE learning resonates the motto of Emory University as he quoted, “The wise heart seeks knowledge”.
The SEEL framework is organized into three dimensions which broadly encompass the types of knowledge and competencies it seeks to foster in students: (1) Awareness, (2) Compassion, and (3) Engagement. Furthermore, these three dimensions can be approached in three domains: that of (1) the Personal; (2) the Social; and (3) Systems—all of which should take place within an educational context that is based on compassion and with teachers who strive to embody this underlying value.
An online platform is available for educator preparation, and the curriculum is currently being translated into fourteen languages including Hindi, English, French, Russian, German and Chinese.