The closing panel of the Unlearning Violence conference centered on the connections between ethics and education, particularly in regard to young children. Unfortunately, the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi Rinpoche, the Founder and Director of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was unable to deliver the keynote address.
Instead, Dr. Maryanne Wolf led a discussion of ethical education. The discussion began with comments from Tinsley Galyean, Program Director at the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values. Galyean challenged the audience to reflect on the role of empathy and compassion within the context of international development and conflict prevention programming. What are the differences between empathy and compassion, and how can we, as development practitioners, translate our empathy into compassion and action? The answer to the question, “How do we bring well-being to others?” has a finite answer. However, a simple reframing of the question to “How do we promote human flourishing?” creates an answer that is unbounded and fluid, allowing for continuous progress and advancement. As practitioners, we should dedicate ourselves not to an end goal but to the process of getting to that goal.
Tufts alumna and philanthropist Pam Omidyar continued the discussion, by examining not only the promotion of human flourishing, but also the challenge of how to “even the global playing field.” She encouraged the audience to examine the many different development initiatives that often operate at cross-purposes. What will it take to foster alignment among agencies and organizations? Omidyar continued Galyean’s discussion of the role of empathy and compassion in development with a lesson from Buddhist roshi Joan Halifax who teaches that when individuals can work from a framework of true compassion they will have boundless energy in achieving their goals.
The closing remarks for the conference were a fitting close to a day filled with cross-disciplinary learning and introspection. For practitioners hoping to advance the field of early childhood development by incorporating evidence from neuroscience, psychology, and peace education, a simple discussion of what is needed is insufficient. To truly pursue responsible courses of action, we must understand our role as practitioners in creating interventions in the lives of others. We must translate our empathy into actionable compassion that strives to understand processes of human development.