This paper is a collection of small, formal and informal writings and is part of the early groundwork we have been doing together on the topic of the pedagogy of suffering, a phrase that has certainly given pause to many colleagues we have spoken to. We are trying to understand and articulate how and why suffering can be pedagogical in character and how it is often key to authentic and meaningful acts of teaching and learning. We are exploring threads from both the hermeneutic tradition and from Buddhism, in order to decode our understandable rush to ameliorate suffering at every turn and to consider every instance of it as an error to be avoided at all costs. We also look to these traditions to begin to formulate how a pedagogy that turns away from suffering suffers a great loss, and how a pedagogy that turns towards suffering can become a locale of great teaching and learning, great wisdom and grace.
In this paper, I explore practices for opening the heart and offering compassion towards others and also myself in the context of teaching. In doing so, I reflect upon experiences that involve the uneven distribution of “air time” in the classroom; I concentrate on such experiences because, as long-standing sources of irritation for me, I believe they can evoke insights about being present. How, for example, might I invite deeper awareness of my own being in such situations, notice how I am feeling in relation to the students, individually and collectively? How might I become better acquainted with my own resistances? Send love and compassion towards the students and also myself? Through contemplative practice, I observe my mind and habits of being. My aspiration is to teach from a softer, gentler place. I situate this work in relation to the literature in contemplative education, specifically that which offers insights into teachers’ inner work.
In teaching culturally sensitive and difficult issues, tensions and interruptions may arise, and educators and students may retreat to their respective comfort zones to avoid conflict and suffering, a pedagogical aporia occurs. This article introduces and examines Bodhisattva compassion from the Buddhist tradition, which offers insights and wisdom in transforming unexamined emotional responses into healthy and nonviolent expressions and embodiment of difference and dissonance. By tracing the Chinese etymological history of the term compassion and its use in Buddhist literature, I argue that Bodhisattva compassion embodies 悲心, a somatic, but unattached and awakened responsive heartmind. Bodhisattva compassion recognizes and accepts the unavoidability of human suffering, but it also liberates us from the common assumption of fellow-feeling and pity subsumed in sorrow and suffering. Guided by the concepts of wisdom and transforming the mind in Buddhism, bodhisattva compassion focuses on lucid awareness of one’s responsive heartmind and skillful actions to engage suffering. Pedagogy enlightened by bodhisattva compassion has curricular and instructional implications. In the struggle of identity politics or for social justice, it is probably more critical to develop ethical and undifferentiated compassion pedagogy than wrestling with power dynamics in our teaching.
The purpose of this paper is to make a contribution to our working knowledge, practice and pedagogy of compassion through consideration of a Daoist perspective on the matter. I begin with a consideration of Daoist cosmology and a sage’s compassion drawn primarily from the Daodejing, This serves as a backdrop to consider Daoist contemplative pedagogy for the cultivation of virtue and compassion. Consistent with Daoist practices which rely on exemplars as a means of inspiring others I justify considering Nelson Mandela an exemplar of compassion. I then discuss how his life lines up with the Daoist conception of compassion. Finally I discuss the practicalities of developing compassion along with other virtues in post-secondary business ethics education classes. These classes work with the following principles: starting small, self- compassion, person to person connections and relationship. Students engage in emotional intelligence activities including: exercises to know their purpose or calling, meditative exercises that help them become aware of their emotions, and structured interpersonal interaction challenging them to develop new social skills. While this work is in its early stages it appears to assist students in developing compassion for others.
This paper argues that Carol Gilligan’s Ethic of Care has strong affinities with the Buddhist concept of karuna (compassion) which, Jay Garfield has argued, is the necessary foundation of rights theory. Its central argument is that both moral compassion and thus rights theory are grounded in the natural compassionate care a mother exercises in order to promote the flourishing of her child without which children, and consequently adult society, would not survive in any form. Wittgenstein’s concept of language-games is brought to bear on Buddhist philosophy to foreground the rootedness of human experience in connection and empathy. This further supports the naturalness of compassionate care, the Ethic of Care and karuna. Finally, mindfulness meditation is proposed as a practice appropriate for the educational context for the development of karuna as a moral resource for personal, civil and professional life.
Within broader social concern about compassion and learning to live well together in the world, a non-profit community-based organization called Waves of Compassion has emerged in Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) in Nova Scotia, Canada. In this article, we explore how compassion relates to some “hard questions” that have arise for the organization—questions related to issues of marginalization and inclusivity: for example, what it might mean to “walk in another’s shoes,” particularly when that person or group of people is different from you in terms of age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or citizenship. We also wonder what role the Waves organization might take up in terms of action and/or practice with regard to transforming inequity and promoting inclusivity in the community. We consider such questions in the context of data derived from a recent survey that Waves of Compassion undertook. We integrate found poems (many of which are derived from the survey data) and expository writing as means of underlining what some writers have said about compassion—that it involves both emotions and rational thought, the undoing of sharp distinctions between the two. We see compassion as a form of practice where boundaries and separations might be dissolved (at least at times) through being and knowing in different ways.
This paper aims to clarify the meaning of the pedagogical concept of encounter by providing an overview of its use from the historical foundations of the concept in Otto Friedrich Bollnow’s (1903 to 1991) philosophy to contemporary phenomenological readings by Maxine Greene, Donald Vandenberg and Robyn Harrison. The outcome is a critical analysis and evaluation of the significance of the concept in educational contexts. The aims of the paper are as follows: a) to articulate the educational significance of the concept of encounter, and b) to clarify its relationship to the humanistic concept of formation (or unfolding; Bildung), in order to establish the tension between Bildung-theory and the existential theory of human formation. The paper claims that, for a more elaborated understanding of the human educative process, the tension between the processes of encounter and Bildung should be seen as the core tension behind the holistic view of becoming human. Also, c) for an analysis of the Anglo-American reception of the concept, a phenomenological view of the encounter as a transcendental aspect of a learning process will be made in order to gain a wider view of the concept.