Developing Global Citizens for a Sustainable Society
Why Is the Spiritual Dimension an Essential Component of
Education for the 21st Century?*

Thursday, 27 October 2011; 2:00 p.m. - 4:15 p.m.

International Social Justice Commission, Salvation Army
221 East 52nd Street
New York City


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AGENDA—and Links to the Available Transcripts

 

Moment of Silence

Welcome and Introduction to the Seminar
   
Spirituality and Worldmindedness—A Needed Worldview at the United Nations
Ida Urso, Ph.D., President, Aquarian Age Community

Education with Ecumenical Spirituality: A View Beyond the Intellect
Danilo Parmegiani, Executive Director, Legion of Good Will

Guest Keynote Speakers

How Can Education Develop Global Citizens for a Sustainable Society?

Mr. William Yotive, Project Manager, UN Global Teaching & Learning Project;
Supervisor, the United Nations Cyberschoolbus  (Transcript not available)

Why Is the Spiritual Dimension an Essential Component of Education for the 21st Century?
           
Mr. John Wulsin, Teacher, Green Meadow Waldorf School, New York (Transcript not available)

H.E. Ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk, Permanent Representative of Bhutan to the U.N.

Questions to the Speakers
Audience Participation Questions

  1. What would our world look like if all educational systems could graduate global citizens?
  2. How can education develop global citizens for a sustainable global society?
  3. Why is the spiritual dimension an essential component of education for the 21st century?
  4. How can I personally expand my spiritual consciousness to help create a sustainable global society?

Guided Meditation

Closing and Moment of Silence

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*This seminar was presented by the Aquarian Age Community (www.aquaac.org) and the Legion of Good Will (www.legionofgoodwill.org), co-chairs of the Spiritual Dimensions of Science and Consciousness, a Working Group of the Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns - New York (CSVGC-NY). It was organized and presented in observance of United Nations Day (October 24).

For more information, please e-mail or call the Aquarian Age Community at un@aquaac.org; (201) 705-3082 or the Legion of Good Will at lgw@legionofgoodwill.org; (646) 398-7128

Welcome and Introduction to the Seminar

Spirituality and Worldmindedness—A Needed Worldview at the United Nations

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Ida Urso, Ph.D., President, Aquarian Age Community

Good Afternoon, friends.  On behalf of the Working Group on the Spiritual Dimensions of Science and Consciousness, it’s my great pleasure to welcome you and to open what we think will be a meaningful and inspiring seminar.  The theme, as you can see in your agenda, is:  “Developing Global Citizens for a Sustainable Society; Why is the spiritual dimension an essential component of education for the 21st century?” 

We are most pleased to have with us the honorable guest-speakers who will share their wisdom and experience on this theme.  And, we also appreciate your participation and look forward to your contributions!

Of course, the whole purpose of this Week of Spirituality, sponsored by the Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns, is to observe UN Day—the day, which marks the anniversary of the ratification of the UN Charter in 1945 by the majority of its signatories.

Regarding this Day, a little known fact is that in 1971, the UN General Assembly recommended that the day be observed by Member States as a public holiday.  Although this may seem a remote possibility right now, I think you will share my hope that someday this will come to pass. 

Let me now turn to the focus of my introductory remarks:  “Spirituality and Worldmindeness—a Needed Worldview at the United Nations”—a worldview, I hasten to add that is slowly, but surely emerging and gaining prominence.

I’d like to begin by inviting you to ponder the following quote from the Agni Yoga Wisdom:

In Thee is hidden the knowledge of the universe.
In Thee is born the striving to behold the mysteries.

(The Call, par. 327, Agni Yoga Society, NY.)

Albert Einstein recognized this truth and famously wrote:  "A human being is a part of the whole called by us 'Universe', a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest—A kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison…Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison.”

All of the world’s spiritual Teachers and Prophets, throughout history and across cultures, have taught the above truth with which I think everyone in this hall agrees: Humanity dwells in a confining reality.

However, the good news is that increasingly, individuals are awakening to the fact that more is possible to a liberated humanity who can realize and express its spiritual potential. 
There are many definitions of spirituality; the one that I’d like to share with you is that spirituality is the evolutionary process that drives humanity forward towards eventual wholeness. 
It encompasses all development—physical, emotional, mental, intuitional and beyond. 
Spirituality calls attention to the spark of knowingness, the spark of consciousness at the heart of every individual.  It is this spark (some would say, God-Immanent), which creates the family of humanity. 
It is this pulsating, causative spark that endures forever, progressing from point to point and from stage to stage upon the Path of Evolution, unfolding steadily and sequentially all attributes and aspects possible to the human being. 
Worldmindedness is the ability to identify with the whole world and recognize that one’s thoughts, feelings and actions create a ripple effect, impacting for ill or good, that world.
This form of inclusive consciousness is an outgrowth, an outer effect of an evolving spiritual understanding.
Lifting the focus of our attention from personal, self-consciousness to worldmindedness is the order of the day because the inevitable spiritual destiny of humanity is to realize practically that “the souls of men are one.”
The mantram of unification intones, “Let pain bring due reward of light and love.  Let the soul control the outer form…And bring to light the love that underlies the happenings of the time.”
The pain and suffering of the many disasters and crises that continue to come at us fast and furious, is releasing the energy of purification and regenerating humanity, bringing us closer to our celestial home, closer to the plane of Soul.
This is requiring transformative changes in all departments of human living, including of course, the field of education.

From a relatively external process of pouring in facts, education must increasingly become a process of evoking the deeper, generative possibilities that lie within the individual. 

Education must meet the needs of the human spirit.  It must teach the value and holistic nature of the individual and his/her relationship to the whole of humanity and the whole of life.

Ponder, if you will, what would the world look like if the four freedoms were a reality for everyone in the world; if all of the 8 millennium development goals were to be realized?

How would our lives be different if our decisions were based on the “happiness” and well-being of all?

How do we arrive at such a world?  How do we create it?  What can we do to nurture such visions?

The answer lies within the spiritual dimension which is awaiting discovery and which must become an essential component of education for the 21st Century.

Thank you and Namasté.

Agenda

Education with Ecumenical Spirituality—A View Beyond the Intellect

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Danilo Parmegiani

Thank you Ida, and also our deepest gratitude to our distinguished guests speakers and all of you who honor us with your presence today.

My name is Danilo Parmegiani and I represent the Legion of Good Will (LGW), a Brazilian NGO in general consultative status with ECOSOC.  Alongside Ida, I am the co-facilitator of the Spiritual Dimensions of
Science and Consciousness Working Group.

We are gathered here today because we understand the complexity of the challenges that humanity is currently facing and we also recognize that, in order to overcome these challenges, a higher level of collective and individual consciousness is required. Therefore, a new and more subtle dimension on the international public policies and systems is becoming more important because it helps governments, agencies and civil society to cooperatively accomplish the international development agenda. Our Seminar proposes a reflection upon the essential role of a quality and visionary education to form a sustainable and peaceful society.

This reminds me of a remarkable excerpt from the Preamble of UNESCO from 1945, which states that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defenses of peace must be constructed.” In
other words, if we do not work towards peace, then humanity will perish.

Among all the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN and the governments to be achieved by 2015, the second goal on education holds a strategic key for the entire millennium.  We are not speaking only about the regular educational curriculum that is currently taught in schools throughout the world – that is, education that only focuses on intellectual development. There are good practices around the globe that demonstrate the fact that educational systems must go beyond the basics. Allow me to share the experience of the Legion of Good Will as one of these innovative approaches.

At the LGW’s schools and community center (and here we are talking of a scope of more than 8.5 million services every year), we understand that delivering only social and instructional support is not enough to
transform people’s lives. We also have to meet the social, psychological, emotional and spiritual needs of the individuals. For that purpose, the LGW developed what is called the “Pedagogy of Affection and Ecumenical Citizen Pedagogy”, both created by the Educator Paiva Netto, who is also the President of the organization.
 
These pedagogies are concerned with promoting an Education that is capable of supplying the needs of the brain and the heart, and shows us that all students can manifest their knowledge from the inside out.  In other words, each person has an inner potential in addition to his/her cultural background, which further enhances his/her skills and abilities.  This educational practice sees the individual in its entirety, as a biopsychosocial Spirit-Being and intends to shed more light on cultural, social and intellectual aspects of knowledge, by giving room to universal values and ecumenical spirituality.

I know the term ecumenical requires a further clarification because its meaning in Portuguese, especially in Brazil, has a broader definition. To us, ecumenism means the harmonious and universal relation among all human beings, regardless of religious beliefs or difference of opinion. To better clarify this term, let me quote Paiva Netto in one of his books, where he defined the four pillars of ecumenism-- The Unrestricted Ecumenism, the Total Ecumenism, the Ecumenism of the Hearts and the Divine Ecumenism--“Ecumenism of the Hearts is that which convinces us not to waste any time with hatred and sterile disputes, but rather to reach out one’s hand to the fallen, for it is compassionate with sorrow. …Ecumenism is Education open to Peace.”

To learn more about the six stages of this educational proposal developed by the Legion of Good Will, known as MAPREI (which stands for Learning Method through Rational-Emotional-Intuitive Research), please refer to this special publication available at the literature table in the entrance of this auditorium.
I will now give the floor to our distinguished guest speakers, since we are eager to learn about their experience and actions in helping foster a global citizenship for a sustainable society.

If we all succeed in this ambitious endeavor this millennium will certainly be grateful for it; Thank you very much!

Agenda

Developing Global Citizens for a Sustainable Society
Why is spiritual dimension an essential component of education for the 21st century?

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H.E. Ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk
H.E. Ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk, Permanent Representative of Bhutan to the U.N.

I have been asked to speak on a topic entitled “Why is spiritual dimension an essential component of education for the 21st century”. Frankly, I don’t know if I am the right person to speak on a topic as important as this one.

It is true that our world has made unimaginable progress over time.  We have seen unprecedented economic growth. We have seen monumental advance in the field of science and technology. Medical sciences have progressed beyond our imagination. Communication and Internet age has shrunk our world to the extent that we could not even dream of. Yes, we have seen invention of sophisticated war machines and technology that can kill humanity many times over. Human intelligence has been used and misused.

On the other hand, the world is grappled with frequent economic ruins, financial crisis, wars, terrorism, climate change, dying ecosystems, depleting resources, natural and manmade disasters, poverty, diseases, human trafficking, drug trafficking, so on and so forth.

We boast of our economic growth and yet we have abject poverty throughout the world. The world food production is admirable but the distribution system is flawed and millions die of hunger. In spite of extraordinary achievement in medical science, millions die of simple treatable diseases. Millions remain deprived of any access to even most rudimentary medical facilities, safe drinking water and so on. We are faced with endless conflicts – conflicts within and among nations. Wars are waged to fight wars. Terrorism is unleashed to fight terrorism.

So, what do all these mean? Surely, there is a serious disconnect between development and real benefit to humanity – a missing bridge?

Along the way, we have forgotten all about the wellbeing of humanity – the wellbeing of ourselves. The very purpose of our development got pushed aside. Our greed for material possession has made us blind and we cannot see the end reason for the progress.  Our arrogance, selfishness, ignorance, engaged in the pursuit of name, fame, power, etc. got the better of us – fooled our intelligence. We have blindly pursued growth, profit being the ultimate motivation, without any regard to cost implications. We produce goods that pollute and deplete our finite resources.  It may be fair to say that our so-called progress is proving to be self-destructive. So our development has been lopsided, imbalanced and shamelessly irresponsible.

It is not true that we have not invested in the education sector. Countries spend billions of dollars on human skills – training scientists, doctors, economists, engineers, architects, etc., and yet we feel that there is something fundamentally wrong with our education system – something that is lacking. What should we do?

Let me share with you something about my country:

Bhutan’s Fourth King having realized that the purpose of development was more than simply economic growth, decided to base his country’s development policy on the philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH). To him, the happiness and wellbeing of his people was more important than just economic growth.  He realized that “happiness” was the ultimate goal of every individual and that to him - the happiness was the true wealth of his people.

Here, I would like to quote from my Fifth King, “Today, GNH has come to mean so many things to so many people but to me it signifies simply – development with values. Thus for my nation today GNH is the bridge between the fundamental values of kindness, equality and humanity, and the necessary pursuit of economic growth. GNH acts as our National Conscience guiding us towards making wise decision for a better future.”

GNH has been a development model that has guided Bhutan’s development for over three decades. Here, I would like to quote a paragraph from my Prime Minister’s recent speech at the United Nations, which aptly describes the development philosophy. I quote - GNH is based on the belief that the purpose of development and the role of the state is to create conditions within which people can pursue and find what they aspire for most in life – HAPPINESS. It is a holistic development paradigm to make human society resilient. It motivates an individual and society to consciously balance material wants with spiritual growth wherein the needs of the body and those of the mind are addressed in equal measure within a stable and sustainable environment – end of quote.

For those of you who may not be familiar with GNH, I would like to take a few moments to explain. It is founded on a multidimensional approach to development that is essentially people-centered, a holistic approach to development that addresses economic, social and environmental aspects in a balanced way. GNH is based on four basic pillars. These are:

a) Equitable or inclusive and sustainable economic development;
b) Judicious use of natural resources while conserving the environment;
c) Cultural promotion (spiritual enrichment);
d) Promotion of good governance;

These pillars are then elaborated into 9 domains that are critical for enabling happiness:

1. Emotional and psychological wellbeing;
2. Educational attainment;
3. Time use and balance;
4. Ecological (environmental) resilience;
5. Cultural diversity and spiritual enrichment;
6. Community vitality;
7. Health (Physical wellbeing);
8. Income level and distribution;
9. Good governance.

These domains are then broken down into 72 indicators that capture a wide variety of dimensions that are important for the people in relation to their environment, traditions and aspirations, and these can be measured. I will not go into each of these variables, but would like to cite one or two examples. In the ‘Psychological wellbeing’ domain, for instance, it is said that in a GNH society, collective happiness is the main goal. Therefore, psychological wellbeing is of primary importance in finding out the success of the state in providing appropriate public policies and services. The psychological wellbeing includes satisfaction with all elements of life, including positive and negative emotions such as generosity, compassion, calmness, etc. and jealousy, frustrations, selfishness, etc, and the spiritual activities include activities such as daily meditation, prayers, etc.

Another example is the ‘Time Use’ domain. In GNH, ‘Time Use’ is considered as most crucial in achieving happiness and wellbeing.  Non-work time such as time for sleeping and personal care is crucial for happiness. Time must also be set aside for activities such as community participation, education and learning, religious activities, social and cultural activities, sports, leisure and travel.

Although Bhutan has a long way to go in realizing the optimum benefit from the GNH concept, it has been successful in incorporating the concept into our public policies.  To help maximize the implementation of GNH, my country has a plan to establish a Gross National Happiness Centre in the central part of Bhutan. This Centre will seek to demonstrate the GNH principles and share them with the rest of the world through regular courses, seminars and workshops.

With a view to sharing the Kingdom’s GNH Index, my country introduced a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly last July, entitled, “Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development”. This resolution was adopted without a vote. This can be understood as a wider acknowledgement that the conventional indicators of progress have serious limitations that prevent them from adequately measuring conditions related to the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development. “For example, GDP measures the flow of income and the production of goods and services in a given time-period. However, it ignores income inequalities and does not evaluate access to social services or human rights protections, etc. GDP does not reflect the proportion of a country’s population living in poverty. One of the main findings of the MDG Summit in 2010 was that while GDP was on the rise in many developing countries, millions within those same countries were unable to share in the benefits.”

As a follow-up to the resolution, we have planned a series of workshops, seminars and panel discussions. In the Spring of 2012, we plan to host a panel discussion at the UN in New York, which will be attended by about 250 – 300 participants, including a number of Heads of State or Government, academia, economists, thinkers, philosophers, civil societies and UN member states. The outcome of this discussion is expected to feed into the Rio + 20 in June 2012.

In Bhutan, we have started incorporating the GNH concept into the school curricula. To begin with, we have introduced a meditation program in most of the schools and colleges.  So far, I am told, the feedback on this program is very encouraging.

In the GNH values, the spiritual aspect is given a high priority. This belief emanates from the fact that everything flows from our mind. We are born into this world with a pure nature or theBuddha natureas we call it. However, as we grow, the environment in which we live and develop conditions our mind, conditions the way we view our world, and influences the way we interact. It is important that the conditioning that goes into us is wholesome and balanced. This we believe can be achieved through the introduction of a well-balanced curriculum in our education system that teaches high moral and spiritual values. If our mind remains wholesome and balanced, peace and security, harmony and happiness will prevail. We will have a better understanding of the inter-relation between human beings and a better understanding of inter-dependence between human beings and nature.

Let us direct our energy and resources towards developing global citizens for a harmonious and sustainable society!!!

Thank you and Tashi Delek!

Agenda

Meditation
It is only through a change in human consciousness that the suffering of humanity can eventually be healed.  The technique of meditation—focused thinking, governs all expansions of consciousness.  It is the single most effective means for transcending the binding, restrictive sense of separateness and isolation, which imprison the human consciousness and circumscribes its life.
For further information, please write to un@aquaasc.org.

Agenda

Closing
There is no escaping that we live in grave and pivotal times.  Humanity has the opportunity to soar into a lighted new era or continue with the warring tendencies of the past.  What is at stake is the freedom of the human spirit and liberation from the dominance of ancient and outworn modes of thinking and behavior.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. famously stated, “It is not the violence of a few that scares me, it is the silence of the many.”
Let us not be silent. 
I wish to leave you with the following thought from The Tenth Great Joyful Realization in A Buddhist Bible (p. 622)

It is great joy to realize that the Path to Freedom which all the [Enlightened Ones]… have trodden is ever-existent, ever unchanged, and ever open to those who are ready to enter upon it.”   

May each of you know firsthand the joy of treading that path!

Thank you.  Namasté.

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