We must design education that provides for both knowledge and a healthy mind, creating a sense of compassion that responds to all humanity. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
Education is the term we use to describe how we instill the values of the present generation into the next generation. That is simple enough.
But how do we choose what we will try to instill in them? Tradition is a powerful force. There is also societal norms, which often changes a bit more rapidly. But what about the greater good of all humanity?
This quote urges us to make sure that knowledge is transferred, but it also reminds us to help build healthy minds, with an eye towards compassion.
If we can raise a generation of people who have a strong sense of compassion for the whole of humanity, our future would be wide open, wouldn’t it?
Why is the next generation important?
Face it, those of us who are grown, are mostly set in our ways. Yes, we can change a bit around the edges, a little here, a little there. But to have a fundamental change in our attitudes, beliefs, or values, that would take a significant event to change us much. And that doesn’t happen very often.
However, the next generation, the children of today, they are largely a blank canvas. What will we paint on them? Will they be a masterpiece or a disaster? Will we fill them with the patterns and colors of compassion, or of hate and anger? Of equality or of superiority? What will we make of them?
Yes, they have some ability to change themselves, but it would be easier to help mold them at an early age. That is why totalitarian regimes try to get started with the ‘education’ of the children as early as possible. If they can be convinced that what the dictators want is normal, the tougher it will be to change their minds later.
And that is why the next generation, the youth and children of today, are the future of the planet. We must not fail to teach them proper knowledge, and how to keep their minds healthy, and instill in them a passion for compassion. To do otherwise is to doom humanity to at least another generation of the same crap we have with us today.
Where can I apply this in my life?
There are only a handful of people at an time with young children. What do we do if they are older? I would recommend that you work with those who do, or to work on being the kind of person they would want to imitate. What if we are not yet ready for kids of our own? Preparation is key, at least in my opinion, and that includes becoming someone they would want to imitate.
In other words, whether we’re not yet ready for kids, if we have kids, or if we are past having kids, the primary focus is on the only person we can directly change. And that would be us, ourselves. You can teach, instruct, guide, hector, harass, or otherwise try to change kids, but in the end, they can only change themselves.
Similarly, only you can change yourself. If you are not yet the person you would like others to emulate, your first duty is to improve yourself. We may not be able to become the most compassionate person on the planet, but we can work on curbing the behaviors which are somewhat less than compassionate, right?
Take a moment and consider when you tend to me most compassionate. Try to find three or four times when you can count on being compassionate. Now try to think of a few times when you can be pretty sure your compassion will fail you. Can you think of a time or two when that is the case?
For me, street beggars often are a time when my compassion is least available. Where I live, there are people who are in need, and there are people who take advantage of the generosity of others. And they are very hard to tell apart. Instead of helping directly, I help organizations which provide help for the truly needy.
Now, what were some of the situations when you are less than compassionate? What is the reason? Is it a reason, a prejudice (pre-judgement), or an excuse? What can you do to change your attitude or approach? What other ways can you show your compassion? Are there other ways to be of help?
For those who have young children or are already in a position of influence, from scout leaders, coaches, teachers, Aunts, Uncles, to volunteers, what will you do? How can you reach out to them and show them what compassion means? Anyone can talk about it, but they will learn best from an example.
When they fail to show compassion towards each-other, what can you say or do which will help them understand, without being indifferent towards their needs? Sometimes that can be tricky. It will be easier to do if you have spent a little time thinking about it before, right?
What can we do to help the next generation? We’re not perfect, nor will they be perfect. But if we improve ourselves, and teach them to go farther than we managed, our future, and theirs, will be bright.