Meditation For A Better World

“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”

Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhist Leader

So, OK – hands up who believes he’s right? Hands up those who believe that he might be at least partially right. Or, hands up those who don’t believe it would make a blind bit of difference.

Shane – I can’t see hands, but I’m certainly happy if anyone wants to leave a comment.

Of course, if we stop and think about the Dalai Lama’s words, there are many many questions. Can 8 year old children meditate effectively? Do we even have a common understanding of what meditation is, how it’s practiced, frequency required/ desirable etc.? If children are to ‘learn’ meditation, what should be the process of learning? Who should teach it, and how?

Further, what do we mean by violence? Is harming the environment an act of violence? Or, do we only mean acts of physical force or aggression against other humans (individually or collectively)? Also, are there acts by nature that can essentially be seen as a form of violence? Predatory animals, storms, hurricanes, forest fires etc.? What does meditation have to do with these things, if anything?

There are no simple answers to any of those questions. However, I feel rather than allowing that to negate any potential value in what the Dalai Lama was saying would be a shame. Far better to acknowledge it as a hypothetical global spiritual wish. A desire that we – human society – takes on a responsibility to become more mindful through meditative practices, so as to live our lives with a greater sense of human inter-connectedness. Further, an acknowledgement that the earlier such reflective mindfulness starts in a person’s life, the more effective it’s going to be.

When I was based in Delhi, our schools introduced a practice that involved a ringing of a ‘buddhist prayer bowl’ over the tannoy system a couple of times a day. As soon as anyone heard it, they were to stop whatever they were doing and for those few moments focus inwards on their own breathing, centre themselves and then go on with their activities afterwards. We saw a marked improvement in focus, even with quite young children. Children were generally calmer and there were definite, sustained reductions in abrasiveness and aggression levels. This was enough to convince me that mindfulness associated practices enable children to focus, to relax and to learn in school. perhaps the biggest benefit was that some of the children whose behaviour changed most were ones who had most difficulties with maintaining appropriate classroom behaviour. This benefited them and the other children in their classroom.

I believe that there’s a positive chance that children who grow up with mindful, introspective and reflective practices live their lives with more agency, more self-control through better and more positive self-image. They are likely to reflect higher levels of empathy towards those around them and a greater sense of acceptance of differentness and diversity. These are all attributes that, in enough children and young people, can change the way humans interact.

To me, this is what the Dalai Lama was getting at. I don’t believe he was advocating some kind of unsubstantiated global impact of meditation as a sort of spiritual wave of peace that changes human and cultural behaviour throughout the planet.

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2 Responses

  1. Most definitely 8 yr olds can learn meditation.

  2. Thank you Sir for this beautifully expressed thought. My hands are high up to support your analysis of The Dalai Lama’s message. Mindfulness is the most crucial phenomenon which I think will help us to understand the superficial differences, yet pierce through our ONENESS. A lovely read worth sharing a thousand times!

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