August 22 and 23, an inter-generational seminar called “Buddhism and Education” took place for the first time at Dhagpo. Making up part of the series of events planned to mark Dhagpo’s fortieth anniversary throughout the course of the year 2015-16, it gave the opportunity to look back on a project begun nearly twenty-five years ago by Lama Jigme Rinpoche, the “Adolescent Course.”
Teens, former participants of the Adolescent Course, professionals who work with children and young adults, and parents came together for the occasion, in the benevolent presence of Jigme Rinpoche, who attended all of the sessions and himself participated in the seminar. He has taken a deep interest in the subjects of youth and education for many years now, and is at the root of Dhagpo’s original Adolescent Course (1991-1992). Furthermore, he dedicated one of his written works to the topic of adolescence and this phase of life in 1999 (Living Free. Advice for Youth. In French : Vivre libre. Conseils aux adolescents), he led the project “At Bodhisattva School” in the 2000s, and invested his time and energy in the creation of associations that promote education in Himalayan countries (Schools in the Sky, Tibet Save & Care, ETHIC). His presence at the seminar showed once again his dedication to this field.
Throughout the weekend, several interlocutors took the stage to share their experience. Olivier (a professional with EPS training, a diploma in mediation, and current work in the field of academics) lays out to begin with “today’s youth.” He cites the characteristics of adolescence — a cultural construction whose roots are as recent as the 19th century — he describes the universe of young people, from the school environment up through new technology. He concludes his introduction with a list of seven fundamental needs of adolescents : trust, dialogue, autonomy, responsibility, security, affection, and hope — useful points to know, whether one is a parent or not.
Once the basics of the theme were laid out, Jigme Rinpoche took the stage to discuss Buddhism’s contributions to youth and their educators. This is how we learn, not without surprise, the origine of the Adolescent Course. All of this comes from… training programs that Jigme Rinpoche led for corporate enterprises in the late 1980s. He remembers that the executives, delighted with what they took away from these seminars, realized that they wouldn’t have needed this intervention if they had had certain knowledge earlier in life ! Ask and you shall receive : thus Jigme Rinpoche put in place the Adolescent Course in order to teach youth how to dissipate confusion, manage their emotions, be of use to others — knowing that, in their own right, they would be able to help their own children do the same. The capacities we posses, the disturbances that trouble our minds, and the law of cause-and-effect pepper his elocution, along with other key ideas.
Later on, a round table brings together several professionals who work with young peope : Olivier, Zoé (a psychologist who works with children), and Emanuelle (with a diploma in educational science and who works as an MBSR guide, notably in elementary and middle schools). Each speaker described the values and resources they have developed thanks to the Dharma and that they rely on in their work. Certain notions come up numerous times : openness, compassion, good listening, availability… patience ! From among the public, one school nurse offers insight into her experience as well. It is evident that the Dharma has helped each individual carry out his work with children and adolescents.
The following morning, the leaders of the Adolescent Course, Emanuelle and Nybou (volunteers at Dhagpo), present the pedagogical project and its objectives : to allow the adolescent to become both a citizen and a bodhisattva. To learn to know himself, to help others, to work with his emotions ; these are the principal aims of the course. All this takes place through teachings, guided meditations, creative workshops, and evening hang-outs. In fact, the Adolescent Course has had so much success throughout the years that Young Adult Courses were also put in place to allow for the continuation of this group process.
Next up come the testimonials from former participants, now adults, of the Adolescent Course : Margaux, François, and Sylvestre. From different generations of the course, each appreciated the tools they gained from the famous program. A good few years later, these tools remain at their disposition, ready to be put to use in times of need. Other former participants seated in the audience add their own stories and experiences and express just how much these courses helped them build solid foundations for their adult lives. And their parents ? They are veritably delighted that their children learned to better manage their emotions, among other essential skills for “living free.”
As the weekend came to a close, Jigme Rinpoche took to the stage one more time to close the seminar. He expressed his great joy at all that was said over the course of these two days and particularly all that has been accomplished throughout the years thanks to the Adolescent Course. Through the various testimonials, he saw that the former youths, now adults, have put into practice the transmission they received and that they laid solid foundations. He noted that, though the terms employed may be simple, coming from their experience, their words truly embody the teachings. In addition, he took the time to remind us that all of these skills and notions are equally important for adults. For in the end, the question is always that of developing enlightened mind and learning to see and understand emotion. These are the key concepts for succeeding in one’s own life and for being of use to others ! Finally, he emphasized the importance of education, of study, not to find work or earn money, but particularly to develop greater intelligence and understanding. Voila, a few thoughts to mull over for parents, for children, for educators… and everyone else too !
Many thanks to Lama Jean-Guy for his notes.