THE COMPASSION AND WISDOM KNOWLEDGE BASE
Alison Murdoch, Director of the recently-renamed Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom (formerly Universal Compassion and Wisdom for Peace), introduces a key piece in the ‘universal education’ jigsaw puzzle:
Lama Yeshe’s challenge: “In Buddhism we have an incredible arrangement, universal education from beginning at birth up until death, as an old man. I feel these things could be put into a universal language. Give up religion, give up Buddhism. Go beyond Buddhism. Put the essential aspect of the philosophy into scientific language. This is my aim.” (Lama Yeshe, January 1983)
Over twenty-five years later, the late Lama Yeshe’s words, and his challenge to create “a new kind of universal education,” have lost none of their urgency and power. On a sunny afternoon in July 2006, as Ven. Connie Miller and I sat down to start work together, it felt as if his presence filled the room.
Back in 1981, Lama had told Ven. Connie and Jacie Keeley exactly what subject matter he had in mind for a universal education:
“Subjects: mental factors, prajna paramita subject, abhidharma and madhyamaka, also life, death, bardo, rebirth – everything. All lam-rim, all Buddha’s wisdom should be put into (children’s) education.”
Thank goodness Ven. Connie is here, I thought to myself. Even if some of the Sanskrit terms were beyond me, I was pretty sure that they encompassed all the big “meaning of life” questions that human beings have ever asked. And this is what Lama wanted us to make relevant and accessible to a wider audience – in the words of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, “for the people for whom the traditional presentation doesn’t fit.” The task was vast.
The walls of my living room gradually filled up with brightly colored post-it notes as Ven. Connie and I brainstormed and mind-mapped how the Lamas’ vision could be turned into reality.
Universal human experience – the reunion of science and spirituality
It seems characteristic of Lama that his vision for a universal education would include one of the most volatile and pressing issues of our time: the gulf between spirituality and science.
“Education should bring everything together. Not be partial, not be divisive. In my opinion it’s a mistake to separate religion from life or from science, or to separate science from religion. These things should go together.”
Lama’s analysis foreshadowed the pioneering work of the Mind and Life Institute (www.mindandlife.org), as well as recent publications such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s The Universe in a Single Atom and Ven. Matthieu Ricard’s Happiness. The challenge is now how to turn such material into practical educational programs that will bring about positive change in the world.
Lama was adamant that these programs should not draw on Buddhist sources alone.
“Every country, culture, religion, and philosophy already has wisdom. We should bring that wisdom into universal education. We can take out the dogma; we have common understanding.”
This was a theme he was to return to again and again:
“We want to use universal wisdom and universal methods, which have no conflict with each other at a universal level … the universal human experience … That is our aim.”
To achieve his aim, Lama realized that a completely new language and presentation would be necessary:
“The language we use should be scientific and completely westernized. There should not be any Buddhist terminology: no words like samsara, nirvana, or sunyata. There must not be any question: our presentation of reality has to be clean-clear and based on logical evidence and scientific proof.”
To find out about how Lama’s advice is being put into practice, read the latest issue of Mandala …
This article is an excerpt of the full article printed in Mandala