Forest Hills Elementary School students, staff and parents came together for a rare opportunity last week.
"Most of the kids and the adults have not had an interaction with a Buddhist monk," Forest Hills Principal Amy Blakey said, but the school brought in a guest speaker that provided that opportunity.
Tenzin Tsultrim Palden — also known as Khangser Rinpoche (which means yellow house) — a Buddhist monk from India, visited the fifth-grade classes "and shared his story and unique cultural background," Blakey said.
"His message aligns with all of the work we have done with empathy building, as well as our Peace Pole rededication ceremony," she added.
The pole, inscribed with thew words "May Peace Prevail on Earth," is part of a Lake Oswego Rotary Club effort to inspire community unity. The pole was installed in January 2015, and the April 10 rededication and May 17 visit from Khangser Rinpoche were part of a continuing message of peace, unity and empathy at Forest Hills, Blakey said.
Palden, who was born in 1975, was recognized five years later as the eighth reincarnation of Khangser Rinpoche, who was one of three highly respected lamas responsible for locating the 14th reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, according to Rinpoche's website. He now serves as a spiritual teacher at Sera Jey Monastic University, and his accomplishments include founding the Himalayan Buddhist Heritage Foundation, based in Kathmandu, Nepal. This month, he happened to be in the United States spreading his teachings after traveling to Vietnam in March and April.
Fifth-grader Connor Olshey said he enjoyed benefitting from some of those teachings and learning first-hand about a culture that's different from his own. Connor said students had a lesson in meditation and mindfulness, breathing and focusing on the brain and body, and they also learned about a positive way to unite people: peace.
"I feel like it's true how peace can bring people together," Connor said.
Fifth-grader Henry Mygrant also found the meditative exercise enlightening, and he liked the guest speaker's message of peace. But one thing he found particularly valuable was the holy man's message about anger.
"I don't think I get angry that much, but when I do, it's not pleasant, like most kids," Henry said.
Khangser Rinpoche taught the 11-year-old that "instead of slamming doors and stuff, that doesn't help because that's feeding" the anger.
"You can meditate, and that will conceal it," Henry said. "If you control your emotions, you can become a better person. Anger is one of the bad emotions, and if you conceal it, you might become a better person, in a way."
Blakey said that's just the kind of tool she wants her students to pick up in this time of tiny computers in everyone's palm. She said social-media sniping and other factors in this fast-paced, intense world all can contribute to an inability to see one's self in others' shoes, to empathize.
"We live in a very stressful society, and that's probably one of the No. 1 factors in terms of the challenges we see, much more so than when we were growing up," she said.