For Teachers and Parents
INTERVIEW WITH THE DALAI LAMA FOR PARENTS AND TEACHERS
These are excerpts of an interview author Whitney Stewart conducted with the Dalai Lama on February 11, 1988 in Dharamsala, India.
Whitney Stewart: How do children become compassionate human beings?
Dalai Lama: The sound development of the person is crucial. The future very much depends on a person's childhood. Success depends on one's own knowledge as much as one's own behavior. Mere knowledge is something like an instrument. Whether that instrument is used in the right way or wrong way depends entirely upon the person. Right from the beginning, it is important to develop positive thoughts; it is important to realize the harmfulness of negative thoughts such as anger, jealousy, greed, and attachment. The parent's affection is very relevant in the early stage [of a child's life]. The child needs the experience of parental affection in order to understand affection and to show affection to others.
The other day, we had a meeting with a scientist. This scientist said that in the first few weeks after birth, up to 3 or 4 years of age, the brain develops very rapidly. During that period, affection and touching are important—the child being held. These are crucial aspects for proper development. A warm feeling is something very crucial. We humans need loving kindness in order to develop fully. Without it, we cannot develop fully. Children who do not know compassion from their parents will show no love back to their parents.
WS: What about children who do not receive love and affection from their parents?
DL: Words are not sufficient to help them. I don't think. One person must show love and kindness to these abused children. Day by day. Eventually the children could begin to feel something new—love and kindness that was missing in their childhood. Some person must show children compassion. That is the only way children can develop it within themselves. You cannot introduce love and kindness through words alone.
WS: Do you have any specific instructions on meditation exercises, simple ones, which Western children can use?
DL: I think one method may be by using a child's favorite object, a butterfly or a certain flower or a certain animal, for example. Instead of drawing this on paper, the child could draw it in the mind and meditate on it. Sometimes it becomes a help in order to develop one-pointedness of mind.
WS: Do you have any memories from your own childhood that could be an example for Western children?
DL: Even when I was young, I was always interested in helping those people who were less privileged. Human beings, animals or even insects. I always jump toward the losing side. One problem in life is that people always go toward the winning side. That is wrong. The loser then is without protection. Ultimately, the loser becomes really the loser. Helping the weaker person is an idea that we should introduce to the child's mind. Both the winner and the loser have equal rights.
Also, we must introduce in the child's mind a sense of social responsibility. Then the whole community will be a success. Without social responsibility, we cannot survive. We would disappear. Adults can explain this concept through stories teach children that in order to survive we need others.
WS: Western upbringing often teaches us to take care of ourselves before we care for the community. How can we teach children to care for others?
DL: Teach them to show kindness to insects.
In the child's mind, there is no prejudice. As the child grows he or she learns the concepts of "our" nation, "our" religion, "our" kind of people. Once that demarcation happens, young people no longer worry about what happens to others, only what happens to "me," or "us." So, you see, it is much easier to introduce social responsibility to a child, before that demarcation takes place.
Take an example from history books. Cruel people, self-centered people may gain certain fame, but that fame is only temporary. Hitler, Stalin, at one time, they were powerful people, but that power came from their aggressive nature. That fame is not right fame. Nobody has respect for it. On the other hand, take Abraham Lincoln or Mahatma Gandhi. Their fame comes from a different side, and a different aspect. People still respect their work.
So you see, introduce the importance and the value of goodness. Explain to children how much benefit there is in positive thought, in kindness, and in forgiveness.
WS: Thank you