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Conference with the Dalai Lama highlights Emory Compassion Center’s work
Dalai Lama

Emory President Gregory L. Fenves and Provost Ravi V. Bellamkonda with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at a conference highlighting Emory Compassion Center’s work and honoring the Dalai Lama for his years as Presidential Distinguished Professor.

— Tenzin Choejor

At the invitation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Emory University’s Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics hosted a conference in Dharamsala, India, last month. Entitled “SEE Learning: A Worldwide Initiative for Educating the Heart and Mind,” the conference highlighted how the Compassion Center is developing, implementing, scaling and researching programs that promote a compassionate, peaceful and sustainable world.

Emory President Gregory L. Fenves, Provost Ravi V. Bellamkonda, Board of Trustees Chair Robert C. Goddard III and CCSCBE Executive Director Lobsang Tenzin Negi traveled to Dharamsala to attend the Dec. 9-10 conference and pay homage to the university’s long-standing relationship with the Dalai Lama.

“The Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics is transforming how we understand education through SEE Learning, Cognitively-Based Compassion Training, the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative and other programs,” Fenves said during his remarks at the conference. 

“His Holiness, through his teachings and leadership, and during his visits to Emory as Presidential Distinguished Professor, has shown us that compassion can and must be part of the learning process if we are to truly improve the world with our knowledge and discoveries,” Fenves continued. 

A conference to build a more compassionate world

Emory Univeristy President Gregory L. Fenves with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The conference focused on the positive impacts of Social, Emotional and Ethical (SEE) Learning, which launched in 2019. It’s an innovative K-12 education program developed by Emory University that provides educators with a developmentally-staged curriculum that includes easy-to-implement lessons, resources and more. Around the world, SEE Learning is used by more than 7,000 educators in more than 25 countries. 

Expert panelists discussed methods for the program’s implementation, both in the classroom and in the education systems at large. Researchers representing 10 countries discussed assessments on how SEE Learning has benefitted student achievement and flourishing.

Addressing the conference, Bellamkonda discussed Emory’s Student Flourishing initiative and focus on purpose, meaning and success that reaches beyond grades in a classroom. 

“Just as Emory believes our researchers will find cures for many of the illnesses that plague our world,” Bellamkonda explained, “we also believe that this work we are doing to educate both the heart and mind will lead to breakthroughs that advance global peace and understanding.  

“This spirit is why Emory University and Your Holiness have found such a natural partnership at this critical time in our society. It is why we are grateful for the work of Professor Lobsang Tenzin Negi and our Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics. And this is why SEE Learning principles are so important,” Bellamkonda said. 

A session about the Compassion Center’s groundbreaking CBCT (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training) program explored how compassion training helps counteract burnout and strengthens social cohesion, healthy coping mechanisms, reduces stress and more. A session on the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative (ETSI) demonstrated how the program has matured by highlighting the substantive and meaningful collaboration between monastics and scientists that enrich both traditions. 

The Dalai Lama as a Presidential Distinguished Professor

Fenves also presented His Holiness the Dalai Lama with a citation from Emory in honor of his 15 years of service to the university as a Presidential Distinguished Professor. Part of the citation included:

You came to Emory decades ago— 

First, we asked you to speak

Then, we asked you to teach

Now, we ask you to accept our gratitude

For changing our lives and minds

Our ways of looking at the world

And ourselves

You have often called yourself a “simple monk”

But you have inspired millions

Across continents and oceans 

From every walk of life

Along the way, earning humanity’s highest honors

The Dalai Lama first visited Emory in 1987, two years before receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. His second visit was in 1995, with Emory the first stop on a four-city, 12-day visit to the United States in celebration of his 60th year. He received the first Emory President's Medal during that visit and spoke to a crowd of more than 4,000 in the Woodruff Physical Education Center.

He made his third visit to Emory when he delivered the 1998 Commencement address and received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. In 2007, he was named Presidential Distinguished Professor at Emory University, the first and only western university appointment he has accepted.

“I firmly believe that education is an indispensable tool for the flourishing of human well-being and the creation of a just and peaceful society, and I am delighted to make a small contribution in this regard through this appointment,” the Dalai Lama said at the time. “I have long believed in and advocated a dialogue and cross-fertilization between science and spirituality, as both are essential for enriching human life and alleviating suffering on both individual and global levels.”

The Dalai Lama also visited Emory in 2010 and 2013. He continues to provide private teaching sessions with students and faculty during Emory's study-abroad program in Dharamsala, as well as provide opportunities for university community members to interact with him through other Emory programs such as CBCT and the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative.

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