“Never leave anyone out of your love.” -Khen Rinpoche, Peaceful Mind, Compassionate Heart
I had started a nice note to all of you to share my happiness. You see, this week I was feeling as close as a monk can feel to being a ‘dad.’ Although I renounced family life to dedicate myself to Buddhist practice, in spite of that, I feel blessed to dedicate much of my work to helping children in Ladakh.
This month two of my dear students, Siddhartha School 2013 alumni, Tsewang Chuskit and Stanzin Angmo are graduating with honors from noteworthy US private schools, Rockland Country Day in NY and North Yarmouth Academy in Maine.
As many of you know, these young women have been taking care of me like devoted daughters after I had my knee surgery last month. I am grateful to them and appreciate that they sacrificed senior activities to stay with me.
So, while I have no children of my own, I still feel such love for our precious children: yours, mine, and ours. Everywhere I go, I enjoy staying with the families who host me in my travels. Spending time making friends with your little ones brings me great happiness. And when the Siddhartha students we support with our service and donations do well, I rejoice and feel like a proud dad.
Now, in light of what has happened in Orlando, it is hard not to feel that my congratulations to all graduating seniors and dads for Father’s Day have become overshadowed by this sad news. Why just last week I was happy to witness the love and remembrances at the burial of the hero Muhammed Ali. He was a brave, peace promoting hero and a powerful example to Muslim brothers and sisters everywhere.
Mr. Ali met His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Louisville at the retired fighter’s center for world peace. So, as the media turns its focus on a disturbed young man who murdered out of hatred for LBGTQ people and pledged allegiance to ISIS, I am deeply saddened.
For me as a Buddhist, the ups and downs are typical of samsara (worldly life), but they still hurt. We should try to remember this young man was once a child, looking for happiness and love. It hurts me that he could not find it and that he took so many lives of people who could have been his friends.
So today I am choosing to hold on to that ‘dad’ love I feel for my students, your children, and young people everywhere who just want to love and be loved.
Thank you, dear fathers and mothers out there who give to education projects and support welfare projects to help vulnerable children. I pray for our young people, their success, and their happiness. Fathers, I pray that in our desire to protect our children we do not neglect the importance of teaching them that ‘love’ does not put up walls. We must be brave and remember the goodness of people, people I know in a spectrum of faiths, colors, and cultures who want a more peaceful world.
Social Emotional Learning & Secular Ethics Training for Teachers, Students & Staff
To that end, I am announcing a special pilot program at Siddhartha School with the help of Dr. Thupten Jinpa and Ms. Sophie Langri, to bring compassion based, empathy building activities, secular ethics training, and social-emotional learning methods to our school.
Ms. Langri is an educator in Montreal who teaches students self-regulation, mindfulness, and nonviolent communication tools. She will collaborate with teachers and students to explore ways to incorporate compassion based, conflict resolution support, restorative circles, and secular ethics awareness into classroom life.
This exciting collaboration will not be a single training session at Siddhartha, but the start of a long-term engagement over the next few years to help our children resolve conflicts and express their emotions peacefully.
To learn more about this collaboration, and why I think it is important for Himalayan school children as well as children in Europe or North America, I hope you will read more about our Social Emotional Learning and Secular Ethics Training.
You may wonder why a school founded by a Buddhist monk would need such training. I agree with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who wrote yesterday in his editorial for the Washington Post, that we must all educate ourselves based on scientific findings, common experience, and common sense. We must work together, with our children for “a more universal approach to the promotion of our shared human values.”
Let me also say that in my experience over years of teaching in monasteries and lay community schools, our those Ladakhi children not on track to become monks or nuns do not get enough help with social and emotional learning that is so complementary to deep dharma practice. What is more, as the world becomes smaller and new generations encounter so much in social media, they need to build strong inner lives, personal understanding, and tolerance for a wide range of customs, cultures, and religious views.
The Hero Project
Finally, the Hero Project is on it’s way to Ladakh, thanks to the good people at Wen-Parker Logistics, who are handling the logistics and covering the cost of shipping all 150 pieces from New York to Leh.
Much of the art, as well as new work being made this week by Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim children in Leh town at workshops, will be part of our exhibition at the Ladakh Arts and Media Organization (LAMO) community gallery.
Siddhartha School’s Ladakh Board is honored to sponsor the workshops, which help children of all faiths explore what it means to be a hero and contemplate the qualities that they admire and can emulate in their lives. Already they are discovering commonalities across cultural, economic, and religious lines.
Our children want loving friendships. They want hope and possibility. Siddhartha School will continue to work on helping children realize these wishes both in Ladakh and with our partnering schools and organizations worldwide.
Thank you for your continued support for our school, and Happy Father’s Day.
With love and prayers,
Khen Rinpoche Lobzang Tsetan
Founder and Director Emeritus
Siddhartha School, Ladakh
Siddhartha School Project USA