RFSD teacher Brittany Rose had the opportunity to ask a question of His Holiness the Dalai Lama during a virtual conversation on Monday night, Oct. 25. Screengrab by Raleigh Burleigh.

Basalt Elementary dual-language educator Brittany Rose was selected among her peers to address His Holiness the Dalai Lama during a virtual conversation hosted on Monday night, Oct. 25.

The opportunity came by way of the Compassion and Dignity for Educators project developed by the University of Boulder School of Education with the Renée Crown Wellness Institute and Compassion Institute. This new online certificate program was designed specifically for teachers, in response to the tremendous challenges facing young people and the critical role that educators play to prepare them for a well-lived life.

“I feel great honor you give me this opportunity,” the Dalai Lama began. “Survival of humanity requires a compassionate mind.”

Prior to Monday’s event, The Sopris Sun caught up with Rose. Asked about the lessons she’s gleaned from her studies, she responded that compassion, though often confused with empathy, is special. She described empathy as a mirror, reflecting an experience held in common. As in, “I’ve been there before and I know how it feels.”

“Compassion is action,” Rose continued. It’s less emotional and requires taking steps to alleviate the suffering of others. Neither, she shared, is compassion the same as love. “Love requires morality and is judgmental.” She said that it’s unrealistic to believe that love can fix the world, because love is selective based on deep feelings. Compassion, however, does not exclude. “Everyone is deserving of compassion.”

Compassion can also take many forms. From a simple smile to a helping hand, even holding others accountable by sharing hard truths can be considered taking compassionate action.

Addressing the students and audience, the Dalai Lama described the energy produced by anger as “short, temporary and may become self-destructive.” On a planet with 7.8 billion human beings, “7 billion brothers and sisters,” said the Dalai Lama, educators must go beyond intellectual knowledge and teach “warm-heartedness.”

“It brings me immense joy to speak with you,” Rose addressed His Holiness, “This past year has had many challenges because of COVID. But, despite this, I didn’t have a bad year. I think I had a beautiful year. Knowing that we can be happy in my classroom brings me peace. At the same time, I don’t want to be dismissive of the suffering that is out in the world. My question is, how can I be both happy with my students and keep my heart open to the suffering in our world?”

“The troubled world is a source of practice of compassion,” the Dalai Lama responded. “In order to show others more compassion, firstly you yourself practice, all your life. Then, even toward your enemies.” 

He continued, “The problem cannot be solved by force, by weapon, by anger. The problem can be solved with more compassionate minds.” 

“There’s no other alternative,” he emphasized, suggesting that to carrying a smile into the classroom will help spread warm-heartedness, “My face always smile. If Dalai Lama’s face more angry,” “or stern?” offered the translator, “I may not be so popular,” said the Dalai Lama laughing. “Even animals with no religious faith appreciate a warm-hearted attitude.” 

In addition to nurturing warm-heartedness, “Compassion is key factor for peace of mind,” the Dalai Lama explained. “A compassionate, open mind allows for less fear and more inner strength and confidence.”

In conversation with The Sopris Sun, Rose also acknowledged those qualities as essential to teaching. “Educators must be self-aware, and aware of others, to be intentional.” To remain “regulated,” she said, evenly navigating every circumstance to equitably tend to the needs and growth of students — this also requires compassion and realism toward one’s self.

“If teachers can ‘self care,’ that’s going to make a difference for our kids.” Asked about Ballot Initiative 5B, Rose responded, “We can’t be good to others unless good to ourselves.”

View the full conversation here: https://bit.ly/RoseandDalai