Interview with Belén Köhler in France, the Vajrayogini Institute at a Universal Education gathering.
Interview with Pam Cayton (Tara Redwood School and Creating Compassionate Cultures founder), whose work inspired Belén Köhler - after 5 years of voluntary collaboration in the development of the Tara Redwood School curriculum - to found Universal Mandala and its educational principles.
Universal Mandala is also member of:
PEDAGOGY and METHODOLOGY
Universal Education - SEE Learning
Basic and Essential Universal Principles and Universal Laws are the philosophical threads that are woven throughout our curriculum and they are present in everything we do. WE DO NOT NAMED THEM, WE LIVE THEM INVESTIGATING AND EXPERIENCING THROUGH THEM.
Can be briefly summarized like this:
1. MINDFUL INTENTION-MOTIVATION. Connecting with our inner Values
What do I really want?
By exploring this important question, we become aware of the innate driving force behind all we think and do.
2. INTER-DEPENDENCE AND INTER-CONNECTION. Cause and effect Law
(a) Everything Comes from Something, and (b) Everything is Connected.
Things (a) do not arise randomly but instead do so in dependence upon causes. Furthermore, (b) all things are interconnected and nothing exists independently of everything else.
3. IMPERMANENCE and CHANGE.
Everything Changes. Everything is in a constant process of transition.
4. PERCEPTION MECHANISM AND NATURE OF OUR MIND
Your Mind Creates Your Reality.
Our ever-changing mind shapes our experience of reality. If we improve the quality of our mind, we automatically improve the quality of our life.
5. UNDERSTANDING AND TRANSFORMATION OF OUR INNER WORLD. Dealing with Emotions.
Our Emotions Can Be Transformed.
Emotions are also transitory, and everyone has the capacity to affect them and improve the quality of our own state of mind.
6. EMPATHY. Knowing and Understanding Oneness
Extend Our Understanding to Others.
Through understanding our own experience and the universality of the wish for happiness, we cultivate greater empathy for the experience of others.
7. UNIVERSAL RESPONSIBILITY and COMPASSION INTO ACTION
Putting our Compassion into Action.
With greater empathy for others, our determination to engage in those activities that benefit them will naturally increase, thereby making our life truly meaningful.
The Universal Principles explained in more detail:
The ordering of these Basic and Essential Universal Principles and Laws follows a logical sequence in which each principle grows organically out of the one before and leads naturally into the one that follows. For example, it has been our experience that, because our first and foremost interest is in our own individual welfare, it is useful to begin by considering, “What do I want?”, the BIG ESSENTIAL. Then we proceed in a step-by-step manner until our concerns expand outwards, eventually encompassing the welfare of all beings, at which point the challenge is to “Put Your Compassion into Action” (UNIVERSAL RESPONSIBILITY ).
However, it is important to bear in mind that these principles are to be integrated throughout the curriculum or throughout whatever matter, program or project we want to develop and not just when the main principles are being presented explicitly. Whenever any topic or subject matter is being taught we need to introduce these principles, such as interdependence, wherever appropriate. In such cases, of course, it is not necessary to integrate all the principles, or to present them in any specific sequence, in order for them to be effective. It will be up to each guide’s creativity and sensitivity to make whatever adjustments may be necessary to present each individual topic in the most beneficial manner.
One of the fascinating aspects of working on this material, with children for instance, has been becoming aware that, even at a young age, they seem to be very close to intuiting the answers to many of the questions we pose. From an adult’s perspective, the issues raised and the questions asked may appear too deep, complex and sophisticated for a child to address. However, in our experience we have found this not to be the case. We have introduced these issues and concepts and have asked these questions to children as young as three years of age, with profound results. It does, of course, require skill and sensitivity to simplify the language we employ and the activities we design so that they remain age appropriate, but the basic questions we pose to the children and the types of responses we elicit from them remain remarkably consistent. We have also found that when these principles are presented in a skilfully integrated fashion over time it awakes a much happier, healthier and more compassionate mental attitude…
OUR VALUES AND OUR INTENTION / MOTIVATION: What Do we Really Want and Motivate us?.
Normally, when we present this principle, we start by asking the participants to consider something of immediate concern to them: “What kind of space do we want to create?” "What kind of world we do want?"...If asking this to children they can easily understand that the overall atmosphere in their classroom can either be something they find enjoyable or oppressive, something that they either like or dislike very much. What is not so immediately obvious, however, is the way in which our individual self-centered desires, arising and changing from one moment to the next, have a profound effect on the environment in which we find ourselves in this case, on the classroom itself. The driving force of our individual desires is instinctual and generally remains relatively unconscious. However, through skilful examination, these desires can be brought into conscious awareness, along with an insight into the important role these desires and our perceptions and attitudes in general play in influencing the way we experience our immediate environment and the world at large.
(A): Everything Comes from Something. Interdependence
After the participants discover how to identify what it is they truly want, the next step is to address the practical question: “How do we go about achieving what we want?” While exploring this question it eventually becomes clear that whatever we want for example, a happy and harmonious environment, does not spring into existence by itself. Instead, it only comes about as the result of a number of causes. In other words, it comes from something, never from nothing. We then expand upon this understanding by asking, “Can we think of anything at all that doesn’t come from something else?” Upon exploration the children discover that everything arises dependent upon its causes. Once this general principle has been clearly understood, the students are in a position to consider the more specific question: “If everything is dependent upon causes, what are the particular causes of the kind of environment we all want? Where exactly does such a happy, harmonious, classroom, home place, work place…environment come from?” Upon examination participants begin to realize how instrumental their own actions are in determining how they experience their surroundings.
(B): And Everything Is Connected. Interconnection
By seeing things in terms of causes and their results, participants come to appreciate how the world in which they live is a network of inter-connected elements. All of our actions what we do, say, and think are constantly affecting our environment, other living beings and ourselves. The more we examine this topic, the broader and more inclusive our thinking becomes. We begin to see the interconnected nature of all things, from the tiniest atom to the largest structures in the universe. We begin to form an appreciation of the web-like complexity of all things and an ever-deepening understanding that nothing exists outside of this universal web, including ourselves.
Our appreciation of the inter-connected nature of things leads naturally to an understanding that all things are in a continuous process of change. This understanding can be fostered by encouraging the participants to explore the question: “Can you think of something that never changes, but always stays the same?” This investigation focuses at first on external phenomena. We look at such things as the passage of the seasons, the rotation of the earth, and the movement of the planets in our solar system and the stars beyond it, and we also explore more immediate realities, such as the way our neighbourhood, our friendships, and even our own bodies change over time, and also our emotions…We then move into a deeper investigation of the changes taking place within ourselves. As a result of such investigation, we can become more accepting of the inevitability of change, and thus better able to work with the constantly shifting outer and inner conditions they encounter throughout their life.
PERCEPTION MECHANISM and THE NATURE OF OUR MIND
At this point we encourage participants to look outside their own personal experiences and begin considering how things appear to others. We ask, “Does everyone have the same likes and dislikes and the same reactions to things?” Everybody come to recognize that different people see and experience things differently and that they like or dislike different things depending upon their past experiences. We have already explored the ever-changing nature of our moods and emotions; now we come to appreciate how these shifting emotional experiences are dependent upon the way we look at and think about things. It starts to become clear that when we look at things with a narrow, self-centered attitude, destructive emotions such as jealousy and greed naturally arise, and these in turn lead to experiences of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Therefore, if we truly want to be happy, we must begin to look at things differently.
UNDERSTANDING AND TRANSFORMATION OF OUR INNER WORLD OF THOUGHTS AND EMOTIONS. INNER LAWS.
Emotions can be transformed
The principles up to this point have allowed to participants to discover not only their innate drive intent on satisfying their desires, but also that certain destructive emotions such as greed, anger, jealousy, arrogance, closed-mindedness and the like lead only to unhappiness. In addition, having awakened to the fact that we are all part of an interconnected web uniting the natural world and all the beings who live in it into an organic whole, we come to realize that if we bring harm to others, we automatically bring harm to ourselves as well. Therefore, since the only way of ensuring that we experience the happiness we yearn for is to devote ourselves to others’ happiness, we must take charge of our actions and experience an emotional transformation. As our understanding grows that our thoughts and emotions are not as concrete and unchanging as they initially appear to be, we are better able to refrain from impulsive, selfish reactions, experience emotional balance, and begin to make those conscious choices that lead to greater happiness for both ourselves and others.
EMPATHY: KNOWING AND UNDERSTANDING ONENESS.
Extending our Understanding to Others
Every being, great or small, wishes to be happy and recoils from suffering; in this way we share a common instinctual desire. This fundamental commonality provides the basis for developing true empathy. We have seen that harmful actions of body, speech and mind lead to disharmony and seriously impair our ability to be happy. We can also come to see that our own happiness and the fulfilment of our needs are dependent upon the kindness of others, leading to a more appreciative attitude towards our fellow humans. Upon further observation we come to see that even the members of the animal kingdom and the environment itself play crucial roles in our ability to thrive and even survive. This broader, more appreciative attitude along with the awareness that everyone has the same basic desire to be happy culminates in our development of a more altruistic world-view. Furthermore, through discussion and analysis we become aware of how fortunate we are, and this realization helps us develop a sincere dedication to the welfare of those less fortunate than ourselves and a deepening of our natural empathy for others.
UNIVERSAL RESPONSIBILITY and COMPASSION INTO ACTION
With all these components in place we gain a firmer appreciation of the interdependent nature of everything that exists, animate and inanimate alike. We start to see that we have the freedom and power to contribute to the creation of harmonious relationships with others and with our environment. We have also gained an understanding that, because of the interconnected nature of things, our actions affect both our immediate surroundings and the greater world beyond them to varying degrees. If we act in a way that is motivated by selfishness, we actually create an environment of disharmony. After experimentation we see that if we care about others and act in a compassionate manner towards them, harmony results for both ourselves and others. As we gain familiarity with such views and come to appreciate how fortunate we are, the heartfelt wish to help others is naturally awakened and confidence in our ability to make a real difference in the world is strengthened. We are then prepared to transform our mind and our world, one thought and one action at a time.
Knowledge of one’s self, the world and their interdependence is strengthened through discussion, contemplation and an integrated program and curriculum. Participants become aware that they are not isolated independent entities, but rather are a part of the intricate network of life. Although each one of us is unique and special, we all share a common wish to be happy. With the development of empathy and their training in logical examination and self-awareness, participants develop confidence in their limitless potential to achieve whatever goals they set for both themselves and others.
The altruistic attitude that arises as a result of all these factors becomes the wellspring for all-embracing compassionate activity, bestowing upon our life its greatest possible meaning.
This told, now we can think and imaging the countless ways and the many possible adaptations to introduce these principles in everything we do in our lives.
... AND PEDAGOGICALLY, HOW DO WE TAKE IT INTO THE CLASSROOMS, TO THE WORKPLACE, TO THE FAMILY LIFE ...?
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