Cultivating stability in the midst of change – The 4th Forum « A Buddhist perspective on education and youth »
« In three days of forum, I’ve learned more about myself than in the last two years. » This is the feedback from a teen who participated with his mom in the fourth intergenerational forum on education. This year the theme that we explored was « cultivating stability in the midst of change ». On the side of change, it did bear fruit since the same teen added: « It was very dark inside of me when I arrived and it brightened me up. »
To be clear, from the very start Jigmé Rinpoché laid out a framework. He explained to the 120 people present: the Buddha was interested in human knowledge. He showed how, beginning with this knowledge, we can develop our capacities. These capacities enable us to not be subject to circumstances that we encounter and to learn to remain grounded, anchored. Just as a tree that is deeply rooted, the Buddha’s teaching leads us to a deep understanding of what we are, of our inner workings. Such an understanding helps us to remain stable. This is how we are no longer bothered by the superficial aspects of life. We can also face more difficult situations without being uprooted.
Over the last four years, the process of the forums is appreciably the same : Jigmé Rinpoché gives some leads to reflect on in line with the theme. The generations then separate to think about them in their groups: the children reflect through games and exchanges, teenagers through exercises and debate, the adults by discussion in large and small groups. All of that generates questions which are then shared with Rinpoché on the second day during a meeting, first with the children and teens then the adults, in order to gather further elements to deepen the reflection. In addition to this process of comprehension, there are also daily intergenerational workshops where everyone gathers to get a solid experience through exercises what was said during the day. The days are chock-full, intense and fertile!
But in practical terms, what remains after three days of such activity ? One mother, present with her 11 year old son explains it this way, « I leave here with concrete tools, concepts that are applicable every day. The density of the discussions and meetings will nourish my thoughts on education; this, among other things makes for the richness of this forum, a process in movement to assist children and oneself to nurture the best in ourselves. »
Far from imposing a defined pedagogy, the approach consists rather of finding the resources in each one to respond to situations. A few key ideas provided support for the discussions this year: the value of human existence, the understanding of how the mind works, the motivation, communication, mutual support or even the capacity to observe and listen. We have, together and from the situation of each one, tried to find ways to address change, which is the very nature of the educative process.
In fact, the first morning began with a question to the younger participants: do you have the impression that you’ve had the same parents since the beginning?
-a teen: I’ve seen my father evolve over time, it was like a learning process, he really changed for the better. I’m proud of him.
-a teen: they haven’t changed one bit. They are always the same! (laughter)
-a child: since my parents became Buddhists, they’re much nicer!
Then the parents responded in turn: do you think that you’ve had the same children since the beginning ?
-a mom: it was hard to see him change, sometimes I think about what he was before.
-a dad: we grew together. Moreover, the children know where to push so that we grow.
-a mom: we don’t have the same rhythms of change. Both sides need to adapt.
In the discussion, the difficulties became clear : certain parents do not always see the transformations of their children arise, they are caught off guard ; others feel helpless in facing the new distress of their teenager. A teen shared the difficulty in communication: when my parents talk to each other about the bank, I don’t understand anything. But when I explain my video games, they don’t understand anything either. Quickly, the setting is clear, and real problems are put on the table so that everyone can clarify his situation and find the resources to respond. This was the basis for the two first days of the forum.
Jigmé Rinpoché came back to a key aspect of the relations between the generations several times: human value. It is about understanding our human value in being capable of connecting with this potential, to the qualities naturally present in ourselves. Today, children need a lot of information on the manner of becoming a good human being. If they only draw their basis from the outside without connecting to their potential inside, then their nature freezes, just like water exposed to frigid temperatures. Only depending on the environment renders a child fragile and subject to the hazards of their circumstances. It is therefore necessary to cultivate with them the internal resources to which they can relate in all circumstances. This facet of education happens over the long run. On this basis, children are not powerless in front of any number of situations they might encounter because they know who they are. They are not prisoners of tools and competences learned elsewhere; they find in themselves the means to bounce back.
The third morning, each generation presented a skit about what came to pass over the previous days in their respective groups. This year was rather creative: the children presented the story of an elephant and the five blind people, the teenagers gave us a contradictory debate between parents, and the adults mimed the key values of education only to have the children guess them. A final time of question/answer with Rinpoché provided time to clarify an aspect or two: how do we react to tears of a small child who cannot speak? Should children be told everything? How to react when the child needs recognition ? The answers gave both specific information as well as some ideas to investigate further by oneself.
One family came for their fourth forum, they participate each year in order to « recharge their batteries », each one deciding to return the following year ; a small group of teens got information to meet up again at the retreat for teens in October ; everyone left with whatever he gathered as resources to be used in situations to maintain stability in the midst of change.
Puntso, program director for Dhagpo