A profound Buddhist insight – which has implications and promise for all of society – is that every problem, every conflict, comes from a lack of understanding. Thaye Dorje, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, therefore focuses much of his activity on education. With education comes understanding. With education, problems and conflicts can be overcome.
Karmapa defines education as “knowledge that offers compassion and wisdom”. Cultivating our innate values of compassion and wisdom – our Inner Wealth – enables us to experience peace.
As Karmapa explains:
“Healthy education balances different types of wealth – Inner Wealth and outer wealth. Yes, we need to educate ourselves and use material (outer) wealth as a tool to meet our own and each other’s basic human needs. But there is a risk that if we emphasise too much on this aspect of education that the world becomes more materialistic, without nurturing the value of values.”
Education is key to Karmapa’s vision to create an environment in which we value values. By first cultivating non-material values, our outer wealth – money and material objects – can become a valuable tool to help benefit all beings.
Learning the value of values
Information and practical knowledge is useful. But what kind of knowledge has the most benefit? Karmapa teaches values that expand our view beyond ourselves and our material concerns. These non-material values are key to the development of human beings. According to Karmapa, developing our consciousness, our understanding, is the best investment in life that we can make:
“Education shapes our minds. If we don’t teach values and nurture Inner Wealth, then when there is a crisis, we often find that first and foremost there is a crisis in values.
The purpose of our life is much more than to survive, much more than sustaining the physical body – it is to help develop consciousness. The emphasis and direction of education should therefore be not just about accumulating information to serve outer wealth, but to help develop consciousness, to help young people nurture their innate values of wisdom and compassion for the benefit of society.”
Basic literacy and numeracy skills empower us to communicate and participate in society. When we become literate in a topic, we are able to exchange intelligent ideas, teach and benefit others.
In Buddhist terms, the more we understand, the more we can be of use and benefit others. This is why Karmapa is working to support projects to promote literacy in India and around the world. As he says:
“Literacy is crucial to building understanding in our world. Becoming literate – from basic reading and writing skills, to developing a broad understanding of the issues we seek to address – is important for all of us.
Without literacy we can fall into misunderstandings and judgements. Small problems like family problems. Or problems on a larger scale like countries and nations.”
Karmapa Center of Education
In Kalimpong, northern India, is a concrete example of Karmapa’s innovative thinking on education. The Karmapa Center of Education is a model school, which integrates a Buddhist education with the official school curriculum of India. The Center gives materially poor children a well-rounded education. At the same time, the Karmapa Center of Education empowers students to make their own choices for their future – whether it is within Buddhism or not.
Karmapa Healthcare is a humanitarian non-profit organisation which serves to improve healthcare education. 100% of the donations are used for medicine, equipment, surgeries, and services for local doctors. Karmapa Healthcare offers workshops and medical training in the Himalayas.