The final field trip in the north was a little bittersweet, as I realized our time in Dharamshala was coming to a close. Having the opportunity to attend His Holiness’ the Dalai Lama’s teaching on the 37 Teachings of the Bodhisattva was truly humbling as well as the short, but precious experience of meeting the students at Tong-Len, a school for underprivileged youth from rural north India. Along with these trips, we continued our morning meditation and two other classes.
I noticed repetition in the core values of the teachings that aligned with our curriculum in the Culture of Buddhism class. Additionally, a few concepts were further clarified. For instance, His Holiness touched upon the issues of selfishness & self-cherishing and how wholesome actions that are based on logic are a way out of selfishness and towards altruism and how developing insight to emptiness also leads to complete altruism.
As far as the environment of the teachings, it was truly humbling to see people from all parts of the world gathered and huddled in respectfully to listen in on the teachings. I also am very grateful for this special opportunity, since as some students during class brought up the fact that not everyone has this chance, despite being more knowledgeable and devout to the teachings. That was something I initially also felt uncomfortable about, because I felt that another individual could have taken my spot and taken more advantage of the teachings, however, I do realize the value and privilege of this opportunity.
After a very satisfying lunch, being able to visit Tong-Len was heartwarming. Initially, I did have concerns with the purpose of simply just visiting the kids without providing something beneficial for them, but I realized everything we did on this program didn’t need to be an exchange because the kids simply just wanted to play and show us their school. Visiting the physical school and seeing the physical manifestation of SEE (Social, Emotional, & Ethical) learning was very inspiring to see.
SEE learning is a method of teaching students based on compassion and ethics. It provides educators with the tools for the development of emotional, social, and ethical intelligence for students and themselves. Programming includes attention training, compassion, and ethical discernment, systems thinking, and resilience and trauma-informed practice. The core values of this method are drawn from Buddhist philosophies and have been well researched and shown to have positive results amongst students who integrate SEE learning early on during critical childhood development. The students and teachers showed us photos of different initiatives they had engaged in and that was also exciting to see.
After these trips, we prepared for the second half of the program that is in Mungod, India which is in the South. There were two days of travel, as we first traveled from Dharamshala to New Delhi, then we spent the night in Delhi and the next morning we hopped on a flight from Delhi to Chennai then from Chennai to Hubli. After landing in Hubli in the late afternoon, we went on a two-hour bus drive to the Drepung Loseling Monastery that we would be staying at.