GANGTOK, Dec. 14, 2010
The Government of Sikkim is planning initiative to infuse formal education in the State with refined ethics. Ethics for the new millennium which will groom a generation of responsible citizens. Citizens who are compassionate at heart and resolutely ethics-driven towards their universal responsibility.
(Photo Courtesy: hinduvoice.co.uk)
The first step in this regard is coming closer to fruition with the State preparing to host a galaxy of scholars and spiritual masters from around the world for an international conference on “Science, Spirituality and Education”. The conference is being organised in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, from 20 to 23 December, by the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. This will be a first ever effort in India to blend traditional wisdom with modern science to introduce lessons in morals and ethics with a pronounced scientific approach in schools in the State.
The effort is to harmonise science with spirituality for adoption as a curriculum for school education in Sikkim. It follows from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s efforts to encourage dialogue between science and religious philosophy to fashion a life science in which the two do not conflict rather collaborate to deliver intelligence with compassion. This alliance has already made substantial strides and will, with the international conference coming up in Sikkim. It will mark the first substantial crossover from deliberations in conferences to actual on-ground implementation with its inclusion as part of school curriculum.
This commitment was made by the Chief Minister of Sikkim Dr. Pawan Chamling. He promised to take the findings of the international conference a step further and incorporate it into the school curriculum. This convinced His Holiness the Dalai Lama to not only to inaugurate the Conference but also participate in it. His Holiness will be delivering the inaugural address of the conference on 20 December and participating in an interactive session on 22 December. He will be briefed on the deliberations of the conference with special focus on imparting moral ethics in education. He will offer advice and guidance on how moral ethics would be introduced into the modern education system. During this two hour session, he will also be in discussion with the panellists on this topic.
The conference has been divided into seven sessions to be held over three days which will witness 22 leading exponents of mind and life sciences from around the world presenting papers.
The keynote addresses will be delivered by Professor Richard J. Davidson, a leading scientist and Director of Centre for Investigating Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin – Madison, USA and Professor B. Alan Wallace, a dynamic lecturer, progressive scholar and one of the most prolific writers and translators of Tibetan Buddhism in the West.
Both have worked extensively with HH the Dalai Lama in cross-cultural interactions between His Holiness and Western scientists on threads reflected on the theme of the Sikkim conference. They are active members of the Mind & Life Institute which has been facilitating such exchanges since 1987.
The sessions of the conference will begin with the theme “Understanding our Brain” and will conclude on 23 December with a session themed, “Social Emotional Learning [SEL] and Education”. A session has been dedicated exclusively to “Discussions on implementation of the vision: Introducing moral ethic in modern education system”. This will be Session 5 and is scheduled for the afternoon of 22 December, after interactions with the Dalai Lama.
The academic deliberations will make a case for the need for education to also warm the hearts and establish that religious philosophy and science are not necessarily in conflict and in fact share much in common with their universal appeal and significance. Introducing spirituality into school curriculum – through the ethics and morals which religious philosophies carry – and framing the curriculum informed by the scientific world’s understanding of the brain and mind could deliver an education which is more complete and prepares the new generation with less disturbed minds and more positive outlooks. This linkage is also reflected in the list of Convenors of the conference which includes two religious academics – Geshe N Samten, Vice Chancellor, Central Tibetan University, Sarnath, and Geshe Dorji Damdul of Tibet House; a medical specialist, Dr. MR Kotwal, Medical Advisor to the Govt of Sikkim and an administrator, Tashi Densapa, Director, Namgyal Institute of Tibetology.
This was the inspiration behind the idea to host a conference and bring best thinkers to deliberate over Science, Spirituality and Education and then leverage the findings to build a systematic strategy to introduce moral ethics into education system of Sikkim. This is the first of its kind initiative in the country and is expected to spread to other parts of India as well as to the world at large. The task is challenging and the Convenors of the conference have put on record the significance of the initiative. In an invitation to the Sikkim Conference, they remarked: “We personally think it is a path breaking vision of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and applaud the courage of the Chief Minister of Sikkim in being the first to implement it in India.”
Coming back to the list of sessions laid out for the conference, these are:
- Understanding Our Brain, on 20 December, from 2p.m. to 5:30p.m.
- Understanding Our Mind, 21 December, 2p.m. to 5:30p.m.
- Brain Plasticity and Mental Transformation, 22 December, 9:30a.m. to 12p.m.
- Interaction and Participation with H.H. the Dalai Lama, 22 December, 1p.m. to 3p.m.
- Discussion on Implementation of the Vision: Introducing Moral Ethics in Modern Education System, 22 December, 3:15p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- The Art and Science of Meditation, 23 December, 9:30a.m. to 1p.m.
- Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Education, 23 December, 2p.m. to 6p.m.
All sessions of the conference will be held at Chintan Bhawan, Gangtok, Sikkim. While the inaugural session is by invitation, the rest of the sessions are open for all. The Sikkim Conference was mooted during deliberations over the paradox of addiction, depression and suicides which hold Sikkim in a vice grip despite an environment which would otherwise be conducive for higher happiness and satisfaction quotients. The Chief Minister of Sikkim directed that an attempt be made to blend modern understanding of mind & life sciences with traditional spiritualism to fashion a curriculum for schools which would groom the younger generation with more relaxed minds and positive outlooks.
Dr. Chamling also evinced a keen desire that the conference be inaugurated by HH the Dalai Lama. His Holiness’s keen interest in science, and his open mind and advanced understanding of theosophical matters would best syncretise Sikkim’s efforts towards making science and spiritualism collaborate to prepare its young better for the vicissitudes and challenges of modern lifestyles. When the idea was broached to HH the Dalai Lama, he was moved by the gesture and commitment of Sikkim Government to follow up the Conference proceedings by introducing moral ethics in Sikkim’s schools and colleges. HH agreed not only to inaugurate the Conference, but also participate in it.
(Courtesy: Sikkim Mail)