Penn State professor joined Dalai Lama in panel discussion

Robert Roeser, Bennett Pierce Professor of Caring and Compassion and professor of human development and family studies at Penn State, took part in a panel discussion with the Dalai Lama on March 15 at the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamsala, India.

Roeser and the Dalai Lama participated in a panel discussion titled "Ethics and Compassion in Education Research" as part of the Dharamsala Dialogue, a five-day discussion sponsored by the Mind & Life Institute.

“The goal is to create compassionate communities of learning in which ethics and prosocial behavior are valued and recognized as central to learning, well-being, and the process of becoming fully human,” Roeser said.

Roeser researches contemplative practices, including mindfulness and compassion in education. He also studies schools as central cultural contexts for child and adolescent academic and social-emotional development, and globalization and adolescent development in India.

Roeser also is a leader of the Student Flourishing Initiative, a multi-university project that includes Penn State, which offers a course designed to assist students in attaining holistic well-being, deeper awareness and a strong foundation for success.

The dialogue focused on education in light of the Dalai Lama’s longstanding priority and deep commitment to secular ethics education initiatives, Roeser said.

“The program gave attention to social-emotional education and how compassion, ethics, and attention training can be more fully integrated into existing educational frameworks,” he said. “The structure of the program was designed to encourage interactive and inclusive conversation between the faculty.”

The event, held March 12-16, featured select scientific and practitioner presentations each day, giving more time for genuine discussion between the Dalai Lama, scientists, education researchers and practitioners, Roeser said.

“This format enabled crucial questions about how to expand the existing Social Emotional Learning framework to incorporate compassion and secular ethics more fully,” Roeser said.

Also presenting with Roeser and the Dalai Lama were Matthieu Ricard, Buddhist monk at Schechen Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal; and Sona Dimidjian, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Since its founding 30 years ago, the Mind & Life Institute has been the driving force in creating and growing the contemplative sciences. Beginning as a series of dialogues between the Dalai Lama and leading Western scientists and scholars, Mind & Life has since expanded to become the leading convener, catalyst, and community builder in supporting contemplative research and bridging practice and real-world applications.