The Time is Now for Whole Student Education: A Critical Dialogue with The Dalai Lama and Leading Scientists and Education Experts

From March 12-16, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama will engage in an in-depth dialogue with leading scientists, humanities scholars, education researchers, and practitioners on the topic of education and how to best prepare young people for their roles in a rapidly-changing world. New models for integrating the teaching of compassion and ethics in schools will be explored, along with developing students’ social and emotional skills through focused attention and mindfulness training.

Sponsored by the Mind & Life Institute, the five-day event, entitled “Reimagining Human Flourishing”, will take place at the Tsuglagkhang, the main temple of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. More than 150 invited guests will be in attendance, with the proceedings livestreamed to a broad international audience.

Among the esteemed presenters at the event will be Richard Davidson, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Amishi Jha, Ph.D., Director of Contemplative Neuroscience for the UMindfulness Initiative at the University of Miami; Patricia Jennings, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Education at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia; Matthieu Ricard, Ph.D., a Buddhist monk at Shechen Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal;Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, Ph.D., Director of the Human Early Learning Partnership at the University of British Columbia and Aaron Stern President and Founder of the Academy for the Love of Learning.

Before leaving for India, Aaron took some time to write down his thoughts on the Mind & Life Dialogues and what it means to the ongoing work of the Academy.

At the heart of the Academy lives a question–a question that occupied my Academy co-conceiver Leonard Bernstein–Lenny as I knew him–during the last decade of his life. The question, posed in Lenny’s sardonic way, was: “Don’t we never learn?!

I took this to mean: Can we learn to transform ourselves into becoming better, more peaceful, more loving human beings, or not?! I have always been (and I remain!) a passionate student and teacher of learning that transforms us, therefore my immediate answer was YES! Of course we can. I held a strong belief then, as now, that if we can be transformed, individually, then surely we can be, collectively. I then set out to prove it! And the Academy was born.

I see a direct and profound link between this deep, formative question of Lenny’s– as it lives in the Academy’s ongoing set of activities–and the Mind & Life dialogues in Dharmsala, entitled Re-Imagining Human Flourishing. I also hold many profound questions of my own as I enter into this wonderful opportunity. Can we come home to our true nature, to our hearts, and bring our daily behaviors into better alignment with the deep human longing for well being, for our selves, each other, the planet — all living things? Love, after all is the strongest of forces. And the Love of Learning is, well, unstoppable! Can we learn to become sufficiently ‘better at being human’ so as to reach this lofty goal? Can we Re-Imagine Human Flourishing as something attainable and set our course to a true enactment of this aspiration? Can we learn ourselves to this better world? And, can the practice of the deeper meaning of learning – learning that transforms us and liberates us – be a key?

No wonder, when I formally started the Academy 20 years ago, my friends and colleagues counseled patience and reminded me that it would be a 300 year project! We are on our way…please stay tuned…learn with us…and together, we shall find out!

Aaron Stern

The Dialogue will feature morning presentations by scientists and education practitioners in conversation with the Dalai Lama. Moderating the proceedings will be Daniel Goleman, author of the bestseller “Emotional Intelligence;”Anthony Phillips, Ph.D., Professor and Senior Investigator with the University of British Columbia Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health; and Aaron Stern, who will be moderating on Day Five. Key themes to be explored include:

DAY ONE: Early Childhood Development and Social Emotional Learning

DAY TWO: Social and Emotional Learning and Education in the Classroom

DAY THREE: Meta-Awareness and Attention Training in Education Research

DAY FOUR: Ethics and Compassion in Education Research

DAY FIVE: Evaluation and Implementation: Challenges and Opportunities for Human Flourishing.

“The event reflects His Holiness’ longstanding prioritization of secular ethics and the ‘education of the heart,’ including the teaching of compassion, justice, mindfulness, and peace in schools,” said Thupten Jinpa, Ph.D., interpreter to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Mind & Life Board Chair. “The Dialogue offers a unique platform for synthesizing scientific and practical perspectives.

The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and is an internationally revered proponent of secular ethics, inter-religious harmony, and human happiness. He is co-author with Archbishop Desmond Tutu of the best-selling “Book of Joy.” He is also the recipient of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize for his message of nonviolence, reconciliation, and reverence for all living beings.

Mind & Life Dialogues with the Dalai Lama began in 1987 as intimate conversations with leading scientists and scholars to develop an understanding of the mind in relation to human behavior. These conversations have since grown to include large public and private events addressing critical issues of modern life at the intersection of scientific and contemplative understanding.

To view the 2018 Dialogue via livestream, visit: Note: Proceedings begin on March 11 at 11:30 PM EDT