Today I was privileged to join three of the best students of the Van Hall Larenstein (VHL) masters (from Brazil, The Philippines and Uganda) and a few colleagues and other students from VHL to a symposium entitled Education of the Heart.
The symposium was organised for the occasion of the visit of Mr. Tenzin Gyatso (better known as the Dalai Lama) to the Netherlands. The Dalai Lama was welcomed by Dr. Ruud Lubbers and subsequently interviewed by Dr. Dan Siegel of the Garrison Institute.
It struck me that it took Dr. Siegel quite a long time to summarise the morning session to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and actually went a bit beyond summarising, adding some seemingly scientific content to the Dalai Lama's speech, requesting confirmation of the findings. His Holiness, however, was clever enough not to embark on that route. Having just been to a session in the Dutch parliament, he subsequently gave his views about the relationship between Europe and Russia, suggesting that the NATO should move its headquarters to Moscow as a kind of appeasement policy.
It was obvious that the Dalai Lama did not see himself as God, though he was treated as if he were a god by some people in the audience who were asking for his special blessing or advice. Most of the time he would respond with "I don't know, go find out". I was not too sure whether the concept of the Education of the Heart was an invention of the Dalai Lama or of the crowd surrounding him. Nevertheless, he was willing enough to guide the audience through a meditation, breathing alternately through the left and right nostrils in order to recompose. He was especially admiring the presence of children, who were clear examples of vivid minds and had loads of potential.
After the Dalai Lama left the scene, Sander Tideman invited some of the education initiatives that had not been introduced yet during the day to the stage. Daniël Ocom, Director of the Rural Development Initiative a Ugandan Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) pursuing a professional masters at VHL University in Wageningen, took the initiative in sharing his compelling life story with the audience. His struggle for education was the most convincing illustration that hardship educates the heart for me. He received a warm round of applause and I knew the real reason for me to be there was not to see the Dalai Lama but to listen to Daniël Ocom's life story. We were born in the same year, 1972, but I have been extremely privileged that I was born in the Netherlands, where we can afford it to invite the Dalai Lama to speak to us about our education system, stating that if it's good we should not touch it. I hope that the message of compassion, sacrificial love and forgiveness sinks in from the head, to the heart, to the hands.