The Daylesford Dharma School places a strong emphasis on teaching the noble qualities of loving kindness and universal responsibility. This is seen as a very important aspect of human development and human potential that is often overlooked in education - education that places most emphasis on the minimum standard subjects.
Without doubt, educators and education providers have a great responsibility. This becomes apparent when we take into account that there is strong potential for the continuum of the student's experiences to extend beyond their school years informed by the type of education they received. Schools are well placed to instill awareness and guide attitudes towards the environment
We consider that our school plays a very important role regarding matters of the environment. If we use the Buddhist perspective to look closely at the causes for the current polluted and degraded state of our planet it could be concluded that this situation is the direct result of a lack of loving kindness. A materialistic motivation has replaced genuine care and concern for others and our environment.
It is clear that loving kindness is not the primary motivation for the current development of our society. This is reflected in the prevalence of education systems that support only the skills for a vocation and getting ahead in the world; that only promote a materialistic attitude to living and where the inner development of students takes second priority. This reflects not only a missed opportunity for schools to take responsibility to make a positive contribution to the well being of the planet but may very well be contributing to the continuing degradation of our planet. A materialistic approach to education is lacking in the values and attitudes that enable a healthy environment and a sustainable future as a possibility on this planet.
Geshe Konchok, the Dharma School's founder speaks on this issue:
"If in the formative years of a child's education, the focus is strongly on how to get ahead in this life and achieve, without a balance of focus on inner development, then there is not much chance of the inner qualities of compassion and kindness coming to the fore. Take for example politicians - they are considered to be at the peak of personal success. Yet what policies do they have for improving compassion and kindness?
It is not economically pragmatic for politicians to focus on this. And the quality of honesty? How can a politician see the value of this when it has not been reinforced in their formative years? And it is not as if we as a society don't have great hope for compassionate, honest politicians leading our country. So if during a child's education there is no great emphasis on these inner developments, why would there be an emphasis on it after their schooling years are completed?"
Children who fully develop their inner qualities through a balanced education with attention to both inner and outer development, will influence their life choices through the expression of these qualities. Compassion is more likely to be in their motivation even when engaging in business. There is a greater chance that they will engage in ethical business development that will take into account the potential affects on the environment and the impact on others. But the degree that they are without loving kindness in their heart determines what kind of farmer, doctor, factory worker, what kind of teacher... they will be. Without this quality of loving kindness, the attitude will be inclined to be merciless in its attitude toward society and the environment. It will tend to reflect their selfish, self-cherishing attitude and desires.
An essential part of the Daylesford Dharma School's upper years Awareness programme curriculum will be based on valid reasoning. The application of valid reasoning is a sound basis to build ethical development on and support a long term commitment to developing loving kindness and compassion.
We have environmental issues that are leading to dreadful despair. The environment in India and China is in a critical state and yet we are the ones buying their goods. The valid reasoning of cause and effect can lead us to the conclusion that it if we want to make a significant contribution to protecting the environment, then to buy only what one truly needs is a very important contribution that we can make. The degree to which we can apply valid reasoning and bring this to bear upon life choices could be of benefit in reducing our need for rampant consumerism and have a benefit for our environment.
This ability to apply valid reasoning into all of our actions allows us to lead a life with unmistaken choices. We have the ability to apply wisdom and compassion to our lives. Then laying down the causes that provide for true lasting happiness becomes easier for us to do. Through reasoning it becomes possible to establish the nature of the true happiness that we want. This happiness has valid causes and is directly related to our ability to articulate our wisdom and compassion.
If we do not teach loving kindness and universal responsibility in our education systems, it becomes very difficult to expect that our planet can sustain us in a peaceful and sustainable world and that our children will achieve contentment and happiness."