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Schooling for Happiness: Bhutan's DreamHome > News > Kent in Bhutan
This wonderful article captures many schools and areas absolutely faithfully. What a treat it is to see Bhutan celebrated in a well-know magazine.
Reading the article I feel you know our journey from the past, you know our dreams, and, most wonderful of all, you share those dreams.
Read the original NAIS Article: Schooling for Happiness: Bhutan’s Big Dream
Below - Kent’s Talk at Motithang HSS, Thimphu, Bhutan on 11th March, 2011
In December of 2009, Sant Bani School Principal Kent Bicknell traveled to the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan for a weeklong workshop, “Educating for Gross National Happiness.” At the invitation of of the royal government, international participants joined with local teachers, principals, and students to discover ways that Bhutanese schools could better support the country’s commitment to Gross National Happiness (GNH). Curious to see how the ideas were manifesting, Kent returned to Bhutan in March 2011 as a guest of the Ministry of Education for meetings and to tour schools. Here is a talk given by Kent to the students of Motithang Higher Secondary School during his stay.
Principal Karma Zangmo of Motithang Higher Secondary School
introduces “Dr Kent” to the 1255 students
Principal Karma Zangmo: Good morning. On behalf of the Motithang Family I would like to welcome Dr Kent Bicknell and Madame Karma Wangmo to our school. We had a short meeting the day-before-yesterday, and after listening to Dr Kent talk about his experiences and the values he holds closest to his heart – and about his school – we felt it would be nice if he could share with the whole school here today. We are about 1255 students and 75 teaching and non-teaching staff. The school was established in 1975. Welcome Dr Kent.
Kent Bicknell: Good morning everyone.
Students: Good morning Sir.
Kent: I have had a wonderful time visiting during my second trip to Bhutan. I arrived a week ago, and was very fortunate to meet with your Minister of Education, Lyonpo Thakur S. Powdyel, at four in the afternoon. The Minister kindly invited me to come to dinner at his home in the Ministers’ Enclave so he and his lovely wife and Karma and I had a wonderful conversation for several hours. Over the next few days I visited several schools at all levels, and I was thrilled to be invited to address you all today.
As I said to the small group of students and faculty when I visited on Wednesday, teaching is about heart connecting to heart. One of the wonderful things I see here in your country is that many people are becoming more interested in learning as something to do with the heart, not just with the mind.
I started off as a very normal American child. My father taught in a private boarding school, so I went to that school and then off to a prestigious American University. The adults around me were wonderful people, but it seemed like everything was about getting “better” – and better often meant bigger: a bigger car, a bigger house, more things. I was part of that generation that started to question this, and we kept asking: what is the real value of life? It is the kind of question that your very wise kings, particularly the Fourth King, asked: what should a country, what should a people really be looking for in life? Clearly it should be more than possessions.
In my second year in college I took a seminar in modern Hinduism where we studied four people: Sri Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi, two great saints from India; Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Prize winning poet; and then Mahatma Gandhi. As an American youth studying these enlightened souls, my eyes were opened; my heart was opened. I suddenly decided that, for the moment, university life was not for me, so I left school and went searching for something else. In my travels around the country I met Karen, a wonderful person, and we are still happily married after forty plus years. As we searched together we found a great teacher from India named Sant Kirpal Singh Ji, and in 1968 we became followers of a spiritual path. We continue on that path, and I was up at four o’clock this morning doing my pujas, sitting for meditation. Let me add that I am not recommending for any of you to leave school, as I went back and finished at the university, then got my master’s degree and finally my doctorate, which is why I am being referred to as “Dr Kent.“
Students in the Assembly listening to Kent’s presentation
In 1973 Karen and I helped start Sant Bani School in the small state of New Hampshire. One of the things that we wanted was a commitment to a reverence for all life. We feel that it is a good thing to live your life in such a way you cause as little harm as possible. That meant we were vegetarian. And to be a vegetarian in America in the 1970s was not easy, as it was mostly unfamiliar to people at that time. We also wanted the school to have a strong commitment to service, because Sant Kirpal Singh Ji always taught that the end of all your learning should be service to others. Otherwise what is the point of learning?
I was very happy to be part of the GNH (Gross National Happiness) in Education Workshop in December of 2009. As your Minister of Education himself noted, I was invited because the school I run has been operating on GNH principles since we began. So in our own small way we have been doing this for a long time, and therefore I was delighted to come and share as well as to learn from all of you.
In our small group meeting on Wednesday I heard how the student government group was asking questions and making suggestions while the faculty, the teachers, and the principal were all listening to you. That is a huge step forward, and it is about heart resonating with heart. None of us has all the answers; we all need to be learning from each other. Sant Kirpal Singh Ji said,
“There is a divine purpose behind the life of everyone who comes into the world. No one has been created for nothing. We have
A great hero of mine was a 19th century thinker named Henry Thoreau, born in the state next to mine. 160 years ago he wrote one of the great classics of world literature, Walden, which some of you may read when you go on to university. When he was your age he started having experiences like he was meditating, but those happened without any purposeful meditation. He started to become what he called intoxicated, but he wasn’t taking alcohol or anything like that. He was feeling very happy for days on end. He asked people, “What is going on? What is happening to me?” But no one could explain it to him. Then he discovered the Bhagavad Gita. And in that holy book from India he found the answers he was seeking. 75 years later Mahatma Gandhi, India’s famous leader, read Thoreau’s ideas about changing government policies through non-violent resistance and was inspired by his thinking. So we all can learn from each other.
I wish I had more time as there is so much that I want to share with you. My advice is that you should be bold. Be bold and be brave. The graduates of Sant Bani School go off to universities and if they have any questions in class, they raise their hand, and the university teachers are very happy to respond. But many of the other students say to our graduates afterwards, “How do you dare raise your hand?” But that is what you should do. Be bold. Ask questions.
I know of no other single thing so conducive to misery as this uncultivated, untrained mind.
So let us sit quietly for one minute. [we do…]
May we find peace and joy throughout the day and I will say mil gracias, which is a thousand thanks in Spanish, and I will say dhanyavad and I will also say tashi delek! Thank you.
Faculty lead high school students from the Assembly
I hope that you will take some time to think about whatever Dr Kent said here today. I hope, and I know, that you would have gained some insights which would lead you towards finding your purpose of life. With this, thank you so much.