The Dalai Lama, the Nature of Learners, and Sustainability at Auburn

640px-The_14th_Dalai_Lama_FEP_optI just listened to the first of a week-long series of conversations between the Dalai Lama and “twenty of the world’s foremost scientists and philosophers.” One comment impressed me as especially relevant to Auburn University as a learning community, and to our work together on behalf of a sustainable world.

The conversations happened earlier this month in India and explored the extraordinary transformations in our understanding of the physical universe and the nature of mind. You can watch the conversations here. I was particularly struck by what the Dalai Lama said about the nature of learners, the qualities of thought expressed by people who bring new understanding and innovation to light. It made me think about how those qualities of learning are showing up on our campus in specific ways that enable us to improve our performance.

In his opening remarks, the Dalai Lama noted three qualities of thought that all learners share, and that are essential to progress: Openness, Intelligence, and Enthusiasm.

He defined openness, or impartiality, as not having positions set in stone, not coming to any situation already set on certain positions based on what we know, or what we have come to believe as a result of past experience. Rather, learners bring their experience to the table, and are open to new learning, to whatever unfolds in the process of investigation.

He noted that intelligence equips a learner with insight in the search for truth or improved ways of doing things.

Enthusiasm means that learners are not content with what has been learned to this point.  Learners recognize current understanding to be incomplete and therefore that current practices must change as understanding and insights are gained. Enthusiasm impels learners forward in the never ending search for more complete understanding, for better ways of thinking and acting.

With openness, intelligence, and enthusiasm at work, we can expect an ongoing stream of discovery and innovation on campus that will show us the way toward a vibrant and flourishing future.

Photo Credit: Yancho Sabev/Wikipedia CC-By-SA 3.0

By Mike Kensler

MK_in_canoe_on_5milecreek_Cropped_optMike is Director of the Office of Sustainability at Auburn University.

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