Jo Nash is a Lecturer in Mental Health at the University of Sheffield, with an interest in psychodynamic psychology of child development and mindfulness training in the education of children and young people. She has over twenty years experience working in the mental health field as a nurse, social worker, advocate, researcher and trainer.
Her article is about India and in particular about an Indian School but what excites us about it is its emphasis on the mutuality of the relationship between adult and child. At a time when there is great concern in the United Kingdom about the de-personalisation of relationships between adults who have a professional caring or educational role and the young people with whom they engage, Jo, while examining the philosophy which lies behind the 'cultivation of the good heart' considers its potential were it to be introduced to the United Kingdom. Her conclusion offers promise of an escape from professional defensiveness towards the relative freedom of mutually enriching and empowering relationships between children and adults in care and education settings.
Cultivating the Good Heart : integrating an ethic of mutual care into the development of an Indian school community.
By Jo Nash
This article is a short reflection upon a piece of consultancy work I completed in an experimental school between October and December 2007 in Bodhgaya, India. Maitreya School1 is the flagship project of the global Universal Education movement devised by the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Lama Yeshe and now directed by his main disciple, Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The Universal Education curriculum comprises an adjunctive programme of activities that supports and enhances the conventional academic curriculum of each school under its jurisdiction. At the time the work was conducted, Maitreya School also offered subjects common to the Indian English Medium ICSE curriculum, with examinations set by NIOS. The school offered a full academic programme for children from kindergarten up to school leaving age. The Universal Education elements of the curriculum were delivered in a set of classes and activities deemed ‘the special programme’, which emphasised the cultivation of the ‘good heart’ through a series of age appropriate activities that included guided meditation, yoga, social outreach, storytelling, creative play and discussion of contemporary ethical dilemmas. The term ‘universal’ was used to emphasise the mutual respect offered to all religious and ethical traditions, a rejection of the Hindu caste system within the school community, as well as the universality of their core informing principles. These included the nature of interdependence, the reality of impermanence, the law of cause and effect (especially in relation to actions and their consequences) and understanding the mind and its projections.
For universal educationalists, the good heart is cultivated through developing an ethic of mutual care as the basis of school culture and all social relationships. To this end there are daily classes delivering meditation, yoga, and discussion, plus an annual social outreach programme which provides older children with opportunities to offer voluntary service in the locality. For example, I observed a number of 13 to 15 year olds assisting at an annual ‘eye camp’, which performs over 20,000 free cataract operations on some of Bihar’s poorest villagers in the adjacent monastery each year. Students assisted the multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses and social workers for up to twelve hours a day for ten days. The professional Indian staff had devoted 3 weeks voluntary service to this temporary hospital to generate ‘good karma’, and the project was directed and financed by a philanthropic diamond merchant from Gujerat. I was able to meet some of the staff involved, including scrubbing up for some operations, and also chatted to students while they worked. They explained how the social outreach programme was part of their education because it offered them the unique sense of achievement and fulfillment generated by caring for others, through an organised work placement. Through training their minds in daily meditation practice, they also learned how to change their behaviour when difficulties arose, to make life move in a more positive direction. This meant they had become very effective team workers. They had developed the wisdom to understand that helping others was the most reliable path to achieving stable happiness rooted in self respect. In this way they appeared more emotionally mature than their peers from more conventional schools. Importantly, ‘active compassion’ which means working to alleviate the suffering of others, is a key religious principle of the Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism practiced by the school’s founders and funders. Active compassion also drives the ethic of mutual care developed through cultivating ‘the good heart’, so valued by this school community.
The school staff were all Indian teachers recruited from the local area, of Hindu or Muslim faith, with diverse prior education and training. The exception to this was the acting Principal, an Oxford educated Anglo-Indian monk, and close disciple of Lama Zopa, whose job it was to administer the school to ensure it met the objectives of the Universal Education movement. Venerable Sumati was looking to recruit a permanent replacement whilst covering the role. In the meantime, I was invited into the school to assist in a curriculum review, help assess teacher training needs and collaborate on suggestions for improvements to enable more pupils to achieve their school leaving certificate.
I was able to do this due to special leave from my academic job at the University of Sheffield, where I am a lecturer in mental health, with specific interests in psychodynamic theories of child development, mindfulness based interventions and learning. I am also a practicing Buddhist in another lineage tradition to the Lamas who founded the Universal Education movement. This meant I was familiar with the customs and protocols that govern behaviour in a primarily Buddhist context, but was not subject to any conflicts of interest as I had no personal relationship with the Lama directing the project. However, I was committed to doing the work mindfully, with due consideration of the different needs and values of different members of the school community.
The Principal invited me to introduce myself to the teachers and children by joining the special programme sessions as a fellow participant in a different class each morning. Following these sessions I would observe the teachers offering a range of academic subjects throughout the day. This enabled me to familiarise myself with the full spectrum of educational opportunities offered across the school, and the different teaching styles of different staff members. However, two weeks into my stay, the management team requested that I focus my work on the lower school, comprised of kindergarten class to year 3 (ages 5 to 8), as there were a number of shared concerns about younger children with special learning needs causing classroom management problems for teachers. It was felt I was best equipped to assess the situations in these classes with my interest in psychodynamic theories of child development and learning. Some staff also suspected that naughty children might have ADHD or another similar condition as yet undetected. Such speculations meant I had to be clear about my professional limitations. I explained I was not qualified to assess children for such conditions, and also highlighted the dangers of pathologising young children who may be misbehaving for a range of reasons undetectable to busy teachers.
After some discussion, I agreed to offer my services as a ‘child centred’ educational consultant, uninvolved in teaching or managing the class. I agreed to help identify difficult group dynamics that may be leading to classroom management problems. My remit was to generate collaborative solutions to these problems through discussions of my observations with teachers and managers, and also mentoring teachers if appropriate. This was all to be practiced within the ethical framework of the Universal Education movement. As an external consultant I agreed to uphold the school community’s commitment to active compassion in my working practice with staff and children, without glossing over difficult issues that emerged. This was to prove a difficult balancing act in the weeks ahead. However, at all times I remained committed to this goal given the pioneering ambitions of the school to offer an holistic education to children growing up in the most deprived state in India. We believed that if classroom management issues could be identified and resolved in the lower school, then more children would be able acquire the necessary study skills to achieve their school leaving certificate in senior school. I was able to ask for support from two other volunteer consultants during this time, and also the Principal and Head Teacher should any serious concerns arise.
In the six weeks that followed, my approach involved sitting amongst the children from kindergarten class to year three, to get a sense of how they experienced the learning environment, the teaching and the delivery of the curriculum. Classrooms were organised differently according to the subject matter being delivered. Academic subjects were taught with children sat on the floor on rush mats behind long wooden benches, with the teacher either standing if using the white board, or sat on the floor at the front. Special programme classes offering meditation practice, yoga, creative play, storytelling and discussion were generally offered with children sat in a circle, with the teacher part of the circle.
I was interested to see how children were learning, what they were learning, and what happened when classroom management problems arose and children stopped learning. I also spoke with teachers informally about their feelings about the curriculum, on a practical and theoretical level, with the aim of providing them with a safe space to share their concerns and suggestions. However, I deliberately avoided befriending teachers as colleagues. I needed to maintain a critical distance and honour a child-centred perspective. Befriending teachers may have involved me in collusions and jeopardised a child centred approach. Another volunteer consultant had the remit of supporting teachers in their teaching practice through modelling and peer supervision. I remained child focused as it enabled me to assess any training needs the teachers’ had in terms of delivering a curriculum that aimed to promote each child’s emotional and ethical development alongside conventional academic achievement.
Classroom Observations and Report:
Following six weeks of observations, conversations, meetings and reflections, I delivered a report to the school management team. The report enclosed detailed observations of all teachers leading year group classes in the lower school. Overall, I observed a high level of commitment from teachers to the values and principles of the Universal education curriculum. Teachers were enthusiastic about the special programme of activities that began each day, and some tried to integrate the ethical perspectives addressed in these sessions into their teaching practice overall. However, individual teachers had very different levels of prior professional training and skills. Each teacher’s ability to integrate the ethical principles of the special programme into daily school life differed accordingly. Teachers expressed very different levels of self confidence about teaching this kind of curriculum. Children tended to mirror their teacher’s self evaluation as one would expect. Although all teachers had been given in-house training on the purpose and delivery of the special programme, all other teacher training comprised of degrees and diplomas gained prior to joining the school, which is standard practice in the teaching profession in India as in the UK. Some were trained kindergarten teachers and some understood that young children learn through play, activities and doing rather than just listening, reading and writing. Teachers with professional teaching qualifications had fewer classroom management problems.
Observing this enabled me to rule out the possibility that the children causing problems for some teachers in some classes had special learning needs that were not being addressed. Overall, individual children identified as ‘difficult’ behaved differently according to the gender and skills of the teacher leading their class. In general female teachers faced more difficulties managing young children than their male counterparts. This may be a reflection of the conventional expectations of women in Indian society, a patriarchal society that values women primarily in terms of their mothering abilities and related caring skills. Also, many children had little contact with their own mothers, who often worked long hours in the fields, and were too busy doing the cooking and housework for the extended family when at home to be emotionally available for their young children. Many female teachers also shouldered huge domestic responsibilities in their own homes as well as working in the school. They were also less likely to have degrees and specialist training. In the face of such disadvantages, I found the perseverance and dedication of the female teachers very humbling to observe.
In the lower school, female teachers were treated by many children as much loved maternal figures. Children expressed their emotions more openly, made more physical contact with female teachers, and found the professional boundaries set by female teachers difficult to accept. The result of the conflicting demands made of female teachers by their young charges led some staff to mirror these conflicts in their responses to their pupils. I observed female teachers struggling with a natural impulse to meet some pupils’ unmet needs for maternal love. As an adult female sat amongst the children I also became involved in such transference-countertransference relationships which were highly emotionally charged. In general, male teachers had an easier time with their pupils, with the latent fear of male authority amongst Indian children making discipline less problematic overall. However, there were exceptions to this rule of course. I am describing a general trend I observed in classroom group dynamics.
Following six weeks of classroom observations, interviews with teachers, a mentoring session with one teacher, and conversations with school managers and volunteer consultant colleagues, I was able to identify four specific areas of school life in need of attention. To ensure the school community maximized the potential of ‘the good heart’ to provide a mutually caring learning community, I made four recommendations in relations to these areas as follows:
Recommendation 1: Changing the English Medium academic curriculum to a Hindi Medium curriculum, or at least investigating whether a mixed medium curriculum might be possible, with science and English taught using English medium materials and the remaining subjects being taught in Hindi. The standard of English in the text books for Social Studies, for example, was sophisticated even for a native speaker of the year group specified. For most of the children and teachers English is their third language, after the local dialect Maghadi, and Hindi. To continue to use learning resources from an English medium curriculum which neither teachers nor children could use adequately, comprised the main academic barrier to successful learning across the school. Most of the teachers I spoke with agreed this issue needed attention, although it was remarked upon that the English Medium curriculum denotes a more prestigious education in Indian society. I also suggested that should the curriculum medium be changed to Hindi the teachers should be provided with extra training with their own English to ensure their delivery of English language classes with confidence.
Recommendation 2: Provide training in practical classroom management and basic behaviour modification techniques for all teaching staff. A teacher’s ability to manage a classroom of pupils with a wide range of learning abilities is crucial to maximize children’s learning opportunities. The ability of teachers across the school to set boundaries, hold the attention of children, maintain discipline and manage behaviour differed widely. Most teachers in the lower school had received good training in delivering the special programme, but unless they had prior teaching qualifications, had not received training in classroom management, or behaviour modification techniques. To achieve classroom discipline, I suggested that good behaviour needed to be recognized and rewarded in ways that class members and the wider school could appreciate. Poor behaviour needed to have consequences, such as loss of privileges and so on. To put this in place would be simple and cost effective, using visually interesting reward charts in classrooms which could be created in art classes by the children themselves. Attaining agreed levels of good behaviour should lead to small rewards and privileges which would be lost by children behaving poorly. Examples would include a new pencil/pen, rubber/eraser and so on for sustained periods of good behaviour.
Recommendation 3: Consider shortening the school week and school day and organising extra curricular activities for children. The school day and school week were very long for middle and senior school children. Also the lesson periods were too long for junior children in the lower school. Teachers also spoke to me about being exhausted by the long working week. The day started at 8am and finished at 1.30 pm in the lower school, starting earlier as children got older and finishing from 4pm to 6pm in the middle and senior schools. The school operated over a six day week from Monday to Saturday. Teachers said they were unable to ‘wind down’ sufficiently with just one day a week off. I suggested that the long term effects of a six day working week were likely to lead to teacher’s feeling unmotivated due to exhaustion. I also suggested that the school shorten the lesson periods for younger children to thirty minutes a session, they were unable to learn anything after thirty minutes had passed, due to their stage of psychological development. Frequently it was after 25/30 minutes that discipline problems occurred in the lower school classes. I suggested the school week for all children and staff be shortened to five days and span 8.30 to 3.30pm, or as per local government schools. Teachers and children needed more time to rest and recuperate. Concerns about the welfare of children outside school hours could be addressed by extra curricular projects run by non-teaching staff. These could include clubs or groups organised around artistic pursuits, games/sports and age appropriate play. These were the kinds of activities which could be organized by volunteers, older children (as part of the social outreach/special programme) and interested parents, I suggested.
Recommendation 4: Consider streaming children, including multi-age classes to challenge more able pupils and support less able pupils with extra learning needs. Many classroom management problems were caused by very able children becoming bored when they finished the assignments ahead of their peers, especially the brighter boys. Some teachers encouraged more able pupils to assist their peers in achieving the tasks set, which was very good classroom management. However, the more able children also needed to be stretched and challenged academically to ensure achievements commensurate with their ability. Making multi-age classes the norm was one way of streaming children without stigmatizing them, by mixing less able older children with more able younger ones and so on. Gifted children could be accelerated to stretch them. The small sizes of the classrooms prevented streaming of peer aged children into separate learning sets, so multi-age classes were a suggested alternative.
By considering implementation of these recommendations the school managers were given an opportunity to demonstrate greater care for both staff and students through an appreciation of their strengths and limitations. The school was founded by people with admirable ideals, however pursuing these without sufficient regard for the difficult context in which this school was operating risked creating a lot of anxiety in teachers and students. The anxiety that was expressed by teachers was always based upon feelings of not being good enough. I was inviting the school’s managers to reconsider the learning objectives of the current curriculum and teacher training programme, and adjust them in line the abilities and limitations of the school community. In this way, the school community would be given a strong signal of positive support from managers. The school was definitely ‘good enough’ but in need of some changes that could enhance the teaching and learning experience for all involved.
Discussion: Reflections on Gender, Caste and the Good Heart.
I have already mentioned the problematic gender issues I encountered during my time in the school. These matters could not be tackled successfully through school life alone, as such inequalities are endemic to Indian society as a whole. Inside the school however, there was no segregation of pupils into traditionally ‘gendered’ academic subjects. The girls I met at Maitreya School were unusually confident for Indian girls their age. The school promoted gender equality within its walls yet the reality of life outside frequently intruded upon this social oasis, as one would expect. I observed similar issues emerging around caste, with illiterate parents of low caste often feeling unable to even enter the school grounds, despite the best efforts of school to overcome this. There is only so much one school can do to combat these deeply entrenched attitudes with such ancient roots in the Indian psyche. At first I found this situation almost unfathomable. However, after some months I came to understand how such rigid social structures create a much needed sense of predictability in such an enormous, densely populated and chaotic country, comprised of so many different ethnic groups, speaking so many different languages. The caste of an Indian is denoted by her surname, which indicates the father’s occupation and hence maps out what she can expect from her own life. From a Hindu perspective, one is born into one’s caste due to karma accumulated from previous lives. How one lives within the limits set by one’s caste which will go on to determine one’s future rebirth. Live well, that is in harmony with the social limits of one’s caste, and one may attain a higher rebirth next time.
I frequently heard even the most educated Indians talk of others in terms of their caste, with myself accepted as an honorary brahmin by most, due to my education, professional status and western ethnic origin. After many conversations with Indian friends on this topic, I came to understand why in a developing country where everything else is so utterly unpredictable, ancient social structures retain such a strong hold over Indian values. They provide a set of guidelines for living which even those of the lower castes seem reluctant to relinquish. India is a profoundly conservative society, steeped in a living tradition of ancient mysticism which unites its diverse peoples, so creating a strong national identity capable of overcoming most problems caused its vast geography and related cultural complexity. The indigenous Dharmic religions of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism all share a common reverence for the past, due to their ancient roots in the same prophecy that the future only brings us into ever darker times. As I came to understand more about the ancient foundations of the Indian worldview, encountering the tenacity of the caste system’s grip of social relations, despite India’s immersion into global postmodernity, did not seem quite so shocking. I began to see how caste functioned as a kind of social container (Bion, 1970), providing stable reference points about what to expect from life, in one of the most densely populated, unpredictable and chaotic countries on the planet. In this way caste preserves some form of social cohesion albeit to the western mind, a very unjust one. In no way do I support it, but I can say I have come closer to understanding why it continues to have such a hold over the Indian psyche, despite it being outlawed in all institutions governing Indian public life.
Given the problems inherent in providing the poor with any education in the cultural context in which the school was operating, I came to admire the efforts of both the management team and teaching staff to deliver such a progressive curriculum in one of the most conservative and impoverished areas of India. I also came to admire the children and their passion to learn and offer service to others in their community. The children in the lower school had no problem with the curriculum at all. Cultivating the good heart, and expressing a compassionate, caring attitude to others seemed natural to most of them. I noted a very different atmosphere in this school to those I have visited in the west. Here, there was less bullying, less aggression, more joy in the children despite their deprived home circumstances. I think the school can take a large amount of credit for this. One pupil also showed me how the daily meditation and mindfulness practices which teach children to value compassion and caring, alongside conventional academic achievement, can impact on a child’s behaviour outside school.
I mentioned above that I too became embroiled in transference-countertransference relationships with some children, and found it difficult to keep my professional boundaries with those who were clearly in need of extra nurturing. The boy mentioned above spontaneously decided to follow me each day as I did my meditation practices at the Temple marking the place of the Buddha’s enlightenment. Day in day out I would meet him there, sometimes with his friends from other schools, and each day they followed me to my patch of grass and meditated with me in silence. This often attracted amused attention from onlookers, but despite this, the children would meditate with complete concentration. After a couple of weeks I took them to a local drinks stand and bought them all soft drinks and cake. The boy from Maitreya School looked very uncomfortable when receiving these refreshments, so I followed his eyes to see if I could fathom why. A few feet away, I noticed a lot of very unkempt, hungry children had decided to follow us with hopeful expressions on their faces. As soon as this boy received cakes, instead of eating them himself, he went straight into the square and shared them out to the poor and hungry, leaving himself with nothing but a smile. This boy was only 8 years old. Every week I gave him food, he always shared it in this way.
Some months later I returned to Bodhgaya and was invited to his village. He lives in a windowless mud house with his two sisters, several cousins, widowed mother and her two sisters. Once I realised the poverty he lived in I was deeply moved. This small boy with nothing of his own had regularly expressed his strongest impulse each week we visited the drinks stand, which was to share what he had with his fellow villagers from what was obviously his good heart. In this way he stood out from the other boys his age, all from more conventional schools. I came to see that he was regarded as quite a hero by his child peers for his selfless actions. Clearly the ethical training he’d received had taken root at a deep level. I was left wondering what kind of man he would become? Perhaps he will be a social worker or a community leader, or perhaps a teacher himself? Whatever he does, I am sure it will be led by the impulses of his generous and compassionate heart.
I also heard that the recommendations made in my report had been supported by two other reports submitted by volunteer consultants, and that together, these had been taken seriously by the School’s management team. The English Medium Curriculum had been discontinued and a mixed medium curriculum introduced, with science and English taught in English, the remaining subjects taught in Hindi. The working week had been shortened so that both Friday and Saturday were half days. In the hot month of May up until the summer break the school was only opening for four hours a day due to the intense heat. Multi-age streamed classes were being considered, and new teacher training programmes were being designed. On top of that, a permanent Principal had been appointed. In this way, the school community was adapting to the specific conditions of life in rural Bihar, so integrating an ethic of mutual care in its responsibility for staff and students.
Witnessing the way the school had worked with both the children and staff since I delivered my report, led me to reflect upon what we in the west might be able to learn from such a pioneering approach to school education.
Mindfulness training for school age children: developing good enough schools in the west.
The main difference between the pupils of Maitreya school and their peers from other more conventional schools in their community was their level of awareness and emotional maturity. I observed how the special programme of mindfulness based meditation and awareness exercises led to some very thought provoking and creative discussions, and helped the children develop emotional responsibility through a non judgemental exploration of their own thoughts and feelings. This led to shared insights into how thoughts and feelings lead to actions, and have thereby have consequences. The childrens’ increased awareness of how their minds work provided them with a greater degree of choice over how to behave. The feedback the children received for participating in these activities, such as the positive attention paid to their individual feelings by adult teachers, in turn led to enhanced self esteem.
In her article ‘Mindful Kids, Peaceful Schools’, psychologist Jill Suttie describes how an elementary school in Los Angeles has trained their pupils in mindfulness based stress reduction 7 (MBSR) techniques, to help children reduce anxiety, conflict and attention disorders. Once a week for 10 to 12 weeks students take time out of their normal curriculum to learn to use the breath and other meditation techniques to promote greater awareness of self and environment. One of the teachers introduced the practice to his class over six years ago following increasing problems with classroom management, which was the first time he had experienced this after many years of teaching. Playground conflicts were escalating and causing disruption in his classes. Following his introduction of MBSR training to his students he noticed a difference right away.
‘There was less conflict on the playground, less test anxiety – just the way the kids walked into the class was different. Our test scores also went up that year, which I’d like to attribute to my teaching but I think had more to do with the breathing they did right before they took the test.’
‘A 2004 survey of mindfulness programmes by the Garrison Institute New York showed that many schools are adopting mindfulness trainings because the techniques are easy to learn and can help children become more responsive and less reactive, more focused and less distracted [and] more calm and less stressed. While mindfulness can produce internal benefits to kids, the Garrison report also found that it can create a more positive learning environment, where kids are primed to pay attention.’8
I can find no evidence of such techniques being taught in mainstream UK schools as yet, but the need is just as great, given the media’s coverage of increasing violence in schools and students’ problems with anger, anxiety and attention problems. A visit to the Education Guardian’s website provides an instant archive of reports on the increasing problem of violence and lack of discipline in UK schools 9. A quick scan down this list makes shocking reading. In 2005 The Education Secretary Ruth Kelly introduced new legislation to enable teachers to use reasonable force in class to restrain violent and aggressive pupils. In an interview with the Guardian she says,
‘There is still too much low-level disruption to lessons - backchat, rudeness, calling out in class - that makes teaching and learning more difficult. These proposals can help bring change not just to the rules, but to the culture, reaffirming respect in classrooms and putting teachers firmly in charge.’10
I did not witness any such behaviour in Maitreya school and never heard it reported by others. The classroom management problems I observed were children playing about when they should have been working. There was never any display of overt aggression between children or towards staff.
Research conducted in the US cited above suggests that exerting more control over children through tighter rules of conduct may not be the answer. Perhaps giving children a space to get to know themselves properly might lead to better behaviour in the long run. Children need to be educated about how to make choices about how to behave, yet they can only do that if they have some awareness of the antecedents of behaviour in thoughts and feelings. Inability to deal with feelings, coupled with a lack of understanding about how behaviour affects the feelings of others, (and so their behaviour towards oneself), may well be the problem underlying aggression violence and rudeness in the UK classroom. I suggest that the underlying problem is one of emotional illiteracy, rooted in the emotional deprivation children face at home and at school. Providing emotional literacy training for children may be the answer in the long term. Offering children training in mindfulness based stress reduction techniques is one way of doing this. Surely our children deserve to learn how to build successful relationships with others, whether with their peers or in authority, alongside the acquisition of academic qualifications. Perhaps then will we see a sustained decline in bullying, aggression, violence and rudeness that disrupts the experience of learning and teaching in too many UK schools today.
1. For more information on the work of Maitreya School, Bodhgaya, Bihar, visit their website at http://www.maitreyaeducation.org/
2. For further information on the background and history of the Universal Education movement, now renamed the Essential Education movement see their website at http://www.essential-education.org/
3. For further information on the work of Lama Zopa Rinpoche please visit the website of the organization he co-founded with his teacher Lama Yeshe at http://www.fpmt.org/teachers/zopa/ .
4. The Indian English Medium ICSE curriculum comprises the standard curriculum of academic subjects taught in Indian government schools. ‘English Medium’ means the medium of instruction is the English language. Maitreya School offers these same subjects but examinations are set by the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).
5. The notion of good karma is different for Hindus and Buddhists. For Hindus good karma can lead to a higher rebirth in the next life, and eventually to ‘moksha’ or liberation from the wheel of life and union with the divine. For the Hindu, karma is predestined and fated in this life due to actions in previous lives. For Buddhists karma is subject to processes of change and impermanence so can be transformed. Karma in the Buddhist sense can be understood as denoting the volitional component of intentional action, including our most subtle forms of motivation for thinking, feeling and acting which shapes our experience in ways which may be wholly or partly unconscious. Our ‘karma’ in this sense can be transformed through the practice of meditation and other activities which generate wisdom and compassion. Karma is a Sanskrit word meaning action.
6. Active compassion literally means any activity which results in the alleviation of the suffering of others with no conditions attached to it (such as the hope of personal reward or gain from helping others). The two aspects of the fully awakened mind to which practising Buddhists aspire are active compassion and wisdom.
7. MBSR is the name given to a set of techniques developed by psychotherapist Jon Kabat-Zinn, now Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
He has written two best selling books on the subject and which have spawned thousands of published research studies on these interventions in a range of health conditions. For more information see http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/index.aspx
8. Suttie, J ‘Mindful Kids, Peaceful Schools’ WWW document (accessed May 2008)
9. For more information go to http://education.guardian.co.uk/classroomviolence/
10. The Education Secretary Ruth Kelly talking to the Education Guardian October 21st, 2005. See full article at http://education.guardian.co.uk/classroomviolence/story/0,,1597781,00.html
Bion, W. R (1970). Attention and Interpretation. London: Tavistock Publications. [Reprinted London: Karnac Books 1984]. Reprinted in Seven Servants (1977e).