The Intersection of Buddhism, Developmental Science and Holistic Perspectives on Human Development
Lecturers: Khenpo Sherab Tenzin, Dr Gay Watson, Dr Tawni Tidwell, Dr. David Vago, and Dr Meyrav Mor
Dates: 29 July - 9 August 2024
Duration: 10 days (49 hours)
Time: 16.45 – 21.40 Nepal time
Format: Live streaming
In this module we lay the foundation for holistic child development by establishing the Buddhist worldview from which to understand the nature of the human being from birth to rebirth. This provides the philosophical underpinning for the following modules. At the heart of this course is the Buddhist view of self and selflessness, and we explore what developmental science and Steinerian psychology have to contribute to this view.
The first section of this module focuses on introducing Buddhist psychology, developmental science and Steinerian/ Waldorf views of the nature of reality as the foundation for holistic child development. We examine how we think about our thinking and how we know what we know. We look at how, in the attempt to answer these questions, we form the worldview from which we perceive and experience the world.
We establish the Buddhist view of reality from which to understand the nature of the human being. Nature of reality is explained as the two truths: relative truth as the understanding of interdependence, borrowing from Vaibashika, Sautantrika and Chittmatra philosophical schools; and ultimate truth as the understanding of emptiness in Madhyamika. This lens provides the philosophical underpinning for the following six modules.
In developmental science we examine how meta theories, though invisible and unstated, drive our intellectual and scientific thinking. We examine how human development theories and studies, with different underlying meta theories, reach different answers to certain important questions.
Steiner’s theory of human development emphasises an unfolding of consciousness towards manifesting our full spiritual potential or inner freedom. When a person actualises this potential, she has reached a level where her thinking is motivated by ethical ideals or altruism. Steiner called this ethical individualism and saw it as the highest expression of human inner freedom. From a Buddhist perspective this can be related to developing a healthy sense of self. In Buddhism, the purest expression of bodhichitta or altruism goes beyond dualism, as boundless compassion for all sentient beings.
In the second section of this module we offer an overview of the development of self from birth to rebirth from a Buddhist perspective and, nested within it, we include developmental science and Steinerian perspectives on the understanding of the evolving sense of self.
We contemplate how a sense of self develops by engaging with the questions: How can we understand the developing child in a way that we discern the process of becoming a person not trapped in the self? What tools do we have within us that allow us to rediscover our true nature?
In Buddhist psychology we study the following aspects which taken together explain the evolving sense of self:
Self: Luminous self, healthy self and unhealthy self
Impermanence: subtle momentary impermanence and gross continuity impermanence
The 5 aggregates, 12 links of dependent origination and the kleshas
These themes will also be the threads or “touch points” we continue to weave through developmental science and Steinerian psychology in the other modules.
Developmental science, as an interdisciplinary field, brings together multiple disciplines, such as, psychology, sociology, anthropology, biology, neuroscience, and medicine to try and understand how an individual becomes the person they become in time and space. We shed light on different aspects of human development we may not have considered before, explore metaphors, equitable questions, and bridge ideas.
Engaging with Steiner, we look at the period from birth to death where he suggested that human beings are essentially spiritual in nature. He highlighted that spiritual development evolves in conjunction with physical, emotional and cognitive development and he described the influences and effects of biological, environmental and spiritual aspects on the individual ‘s evolving consciousness.
Steiner considered that the human being is a complex interconnected system comprising the physical body (form and matter) and three subtle energy systems (life force body, feeling body and Self or I body) that together form the vehicle of consciousness. We link this to his explanation that development proceeds from the natural awakening of the thinking, feeling and willing faculties resulting from the work of formative forces on the individual.
In this way, at the intersection of Buddhism, developmental science and Steinerian psychology we can explore the deep structures or backgrounds where we find shared assumptions. We take a dialectical stance on the interpenetration of apparent contraries rather than establishing opposing views. In other words, our lens is Buddhist and with that we journey into developmental science and Steinerian psychology, letting each of the two fields describe human development as we weave them together within the Buddhist view or allow them to lie nested side by side, or within one another. In doing so, we lay the foundation from which to relate Buddhism, developmental science and Steinerian psychology to nurturing a holistic approach to child development.
Our aim in this 8-module course is to encourage a wholesome understanding of the nature of the human being, on which we base our transformational experiential Buddhist pedagogy, known as Abiding Heart Education™.