Buddhism, my last stop before heading home

Arrived in Sarnath, in Uttar Pradesh in the Northern part of India near to Nepal. Sarnath, outside the city of Varanasi is the place where the Buddha gave his first teachings to disciples of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The path of the Buddha is also called the “Middle Way”. Beginning to preach to disciples is also referred to as “setting in motion the wheel”.We received a traditional Tibetan Buddhist welcome with the placing of a white scarf around our necks. “Khata” is a gesture of welcome, goodbye and good luck in the form of best purity and sincerity.We are staying on the campus of the Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies. The University was founded in 1967 by Jawarhalal Nehru, the first prime minister of India in conjunction with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The school was founded to educate Tibetan monks that fled Tibet for India in the aftermath of the Chinese takeover of Tibet. It also educates many others in surrounding countries. It is now independent from the Government of India.There were signs about taking care of the environment everywhere!

This morning we had two lectures and discussions with professors, Jampe Samten and Geshe Ngawang Samten. The latter said that he taught at Amherst College in Massachusetts for 7 semesters. I was interested in that because I went to UMASS nearby. One talk was on the life of the Buddha and the other on the philosophy of Buddhism and emotional intelligence. The professor talked about topics like how our cravings and desire for more “things” is the cause of our suffering and how anger comes from not understanding reality. We also talked about concepts like impermanence and attachment. We talked about how many of the World’s problems stem from anger and misunderstanding and how compassion for other human beings will help end that suffering. The professor also spoke at length about the need for Social Emotional Learning in the educational setting. Plasticity and elasticity of the mind is something he stressed saying that the mind can learn to be mindful (present) and contemplative. Most of all he said that compassion for other human beings actually enriches oneself and creates compassion for oneself. He had some practical ideas for how to create mindfulness in the classroom and I am excited to try to bring some ideas back to my classes in the fall.

We also had a tour of the library where they archive very old manuscripts and where students and professors alike study and research. Some pictures of the library…These quotations talk about the importance of seeking knowledge in Buddhist philosophy. A beautiful picture of the ceiling…

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