It turns out that the Tibetan New Year was celebrated yesterday, and none other than His Holiness the Dalai Lama was present in the Twin Cities to celebrate the occasion. He is the spiritual leader of Tibet, and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for advocating “peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect….” He also spoke in the opening plenary session of this year’s Peace Prize Forum (an event that is supported once again by Winds of Peace Foundation). His message on Saturday morning included a reflection on the complex conditions of our world and the potential impacts we each have through our own personal influences. The message may have seemed too simplistic for many in the audience, who perhaps expected solutions far more detailed and involved than personal commitment. But in his offering of that view, I was struck by its direct endorsement of what WPF has come to refer to as its “synergy center.” (See the January 31, 2014 WPF blog, “The Difficult Work of Bridges.)
Really? The Dalai Lama weighing in on a synergy center in NIcaragua? Indirectly, yes. Read on.
At one point in the question and answer session following his remarks, the Dalai Lama was asked for three things that young people might do to bring about a more just and peaceful mindset to the world’s problems. His Holiness chuckled a bit at the question, perhaps because it sounded a bit like a request for a “top ten” list. But he gave his response with gentle gravity. “Change begins first in your own heart, and in the values you carry,” he offered. “Become aware. Amend what you find there first, and it will impact those around you, in your family. And soon, other families will feel the change, as well. And then the transformation can carry into the communities and the world.” In other words, international movements always begin with the seed of feeling in someone’s heart; nothing more is needed, and nothing less is required.
The formula offered by the Dalai Lama is as plain and painful as any admonition could be, filled with promise, power and enough personal, internal confrontation to make us shiver. Instead of suggesting a “do” list, he invited us to look inside ourselves, where no one else can be blamed or credited, where the obstacles to peace are of our own making. Simple advice, grueling work.
Awareness, reflection, and transforming ourselves first: His Holiness might have been reading from one of the brochures offered by The Center for Global Education (CGE) of Augsburg College or from the mission of WPF. For thirty years, CGE (and WPF) has been facilitating the transformational, personal journeys of thousands of students and adult learners, as participants first gained new awareness of other people’s realities, then came to terms with the reasons for those realities and finally reflected on their own feelings about those realities. The doors to self-examination and transformation have been open wide for decades.
At the same time, WPF established a wide network of development partnerships, creating a wealth of information and contacts which have been complementary to the experiential process described above. The two entities have served each other well in cultivating the very introspection the Dalai Lama encourages.
Thus, the synergy center idea actually takes the Dalai Lama’s notion of self-examination and expands it. The concept brings together rising personal awareness and potential outlets for actions to impact communities and even an entire country through further learning. Access to the synergy center could bring directly into classrooms and our hearts a wide variety of people and input whose voices are not usually heard. The practical experience of people working in every discipline in Nicaragua, including the challenges they are confronting from their location in the global reality, can enrich research and teaching, and also people’s active engagement with these same issues. This type of international grassroots access can make for a more global experience in the personal development of students, travelers and everyday pilgrims who simply seek to know and understand our world a bit better. In a sense, it can enhance both the invitation to awareness as well as access to action.
Well, the Dalai Lama never actually mentioned the synergy center in his comments on Saturday; maybe I did use some poetic license to read into his wisdom. But the resonance between his invitation to personal change and the history of transformational experiences in Nicaragua is unmistakable. And I think the Dalai Lama might agree that this initiative is just the sort of seed planted in the heart to make a world of difference….