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Two Views, One Love

You can tell that a circle is strong when you hear two polar opposite viewpoints and everyone in the circle loves both the speakers. :) This happened at our Educators Retreat with two remarkable speakers.

One was Chaitanya-bhai, who has dedicated his life to running a small, rural school. He says the purpose of education is for children to discover themselves, in relation to the natural life around them. There are no exams in his school. No set curriculum. With such simplicity and depth, he narrated his experience profoundly. Some of his children came into our circle, and just seeing their stillness, you could tell something different was going on all this school. It's a school with modest means -- they put up a wooden slab on a tree, tossed on some tarp and that became the boys dorm. That's just how they roll. I would imagine that most everyone in the room would figure that if they had Chaitanya-bhai as their teacher, they would grow up to be good human beings. I wish it was recorded, but hopefully this won't be the last time you hear from him. Someone asked him, "If you were principal of a school of few hundred or few thousand students, like many here in this circle, what would you do?" "I would never be that principal," he said flatly with his usual tone of kindness. He felt compassion cannot be scaled, and hence schools shouldn't be scaled.

Another speaker was Jayanti Ravi. Everything about her is grace. With a keen Harvard-educated mind and a profoundly spiritual heart, she is a very uncommon combination of hands, head and heart. She farms in her backyard, she is a mother of two children, she translates scripture daily with her mom (over Skype). Right after we first met, she went home and did Smile Deck ideas with her kids and husband. Oh, and she was the former Education Minister of Gujarat -- where one stroke of her pen would affect change for millions of lives -- and she still runs the Ministry of Rural Development. In a way, she was the antithesis of Chaitanya-bhai, and yet it all seemed perfectly yin-and-yang. When asked about scale, Jayanti-ben smilingly said, "Didn't Gandhi scale? Mandela? Martin Luther King Jr.? Yes, we have to scale. But we must understand the distinction between growing roses and cultivating rice."

At the end, one of the principals raises his hand and says, "Can I do a vote of thanks, whenever we're done?" "Sure," I said. With an emotional heart, he expresses profound gratitude for just having met Jayanti-ben. "I've followed her work, I've admired her life, I've been part of her program. I never thought I would actually be sitting in a circle with her. This is a dream come true. And I was thinking how can I honor such a woman? We've been talking about love and giving, and I want to offer this." Now with tears in his eyes, he takes out a pen from his pocket. "This is the most precious thing I have. It's a gift from my six year old daughter and something I absolutely cherish, and I want to offer this an expression of my gratitude. Thank you." At first, Jayanti-ben felt like she couldn't take such a gift, but then she accepted it and said that she'd love to meet that young woman next time she's in town. It was a special moment.

The whole retreat seeded some solid ripples. Most everyone in the circle had organized events and circles, and yet the most frequently asked question was, "How does this crew do it?" More pointedly, a gang of 6 principals came together and asked me, "How did you get these amazing volunteers?" They really are amazing. For instance, 23 year-old recent PhD student named Sanchi went to a school at the Gandhi Ashram to make a difference. But instead of impact, she led with transformation; she started “Tulsi Talk” circles in each dorm room; soon they spread and shifted the culture of the campus. Principals are often used to hierarchy, but we had all these youngsters like Sanchi leading the school principals. :) 

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