Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

'Young People Are the Really, Really Pure Humans'

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

'Young People Are the Really, Really Pure Humans'

Article excerpt

The Dalai Lama meets British pupils to get their world views

Heavy-set Tibetans with ear pieces are milling around the entrance of Newton Prep School in South London. Every so often, they stand aside to allow a small child to pass. A succession of 4x4 vehicles pull up, one by one, and maroon-robed monks emerge.

The monks and security men are at the school because His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, has decided it is time he heard what schoolchildren have to say about the world.

"Young children have pureness, honesty," the 80-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader says to the assembled children. "The problem is keeping these good qualities in human nature. Education should allow that. There's not much talk about inner values at school. It's external, material values.

"So this whole generation that came through that education doesn't have much talk about these things: being honest, truthful, compassionate."

The school visit was a key part of the Dalai Lama's nine-day trip to Britain this month.

"Obviously, the new generation are the stewards of the planet," says Cameron Taylor, Inspire Dialogue Foundation organiser, who arranged the day. "Young people have opinions and deserve to be listened to, as well."

Meeting of minds

The Dalai Lama, as twinkly as his reputation suggests, sits in Newton Prep's hall while groups of pupils from around London present what headteacher Alison Fleming calls "offerings". Children from a church group in Essex recite a poem. "Children are the joy of the world. Children are the mirror of God," they say.

A boy called Darius, wearing a straw hat, plays a jaunty tune on the saxophone. Then the children join the Dalai Lama for a brief chat. "If you had authority over the whole world, what would you do?" one asks.

"Before I answer," His Holiness replies, "lend me your hat." He takes Darius' hat and puts it on his own head. The audience cheers. "I think this is not a question for one person," he continues. "Each of us is master or owner of this planet."

Another group of children take the stage. Their performance is about whether it is justifiable to sacrifice one person for the good of many. "Which one would you sacrifice?" they ask. "The Muslim one? The migrant one? The deaf one? The blind one?"

Afterwards, they gather at the Dalai Lama's feet and he matches them, homily for homily.

"My garden has different flowers," he says. "Different colours, different size, different blossoms. Different individuals, different profession, different fields - it's good to have. …

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