I recently spent five days with my daughter Alexandra and her class while on an astronomy camping trip in the mountains. One evening around midnight, some boys came to visit some girls in their dormitory. The professor caught them and sent them back to sleep. The next day there was concern and alarm among the accompanying mothers and the professor. The professor feIt betrayed, and the mothers felt those involved should be sent home. Listening to this, I felt the tension and uneasiness among the group. Suddenly, I remembered having read in Being Peace the steps for conflict resolution between monks and their community. I whispered calmly to the professor that the problem should be presented to the whole class (the community) and that the offenders should express themselves in order to create understanding.
Before breakfast, the professor told everyone that the rules which were defined at the beginning of the trip had been broken. He called out the names of the eight young people involved, and scheduled a meeting between them and the adults after breakfast. For the first time in five days we had a silent meal!
I went to the meeting room and started a fire--to warm our hearts and help us find illumination. The "council" took place in a serious and confidential manner. The professor, mothers, and students all had the opportunity to express their feelings. Everyone felt the importance of listening to what the others had to say. I remember saying that we were not there to condemn, but to try to understand. In closing, the students were asked to decide what they should do, and for the first time an open dialogue was created. We were all satisfied with the positive outcome of this situation.
Afterwards, the teacher thanked me for the idea. I thank Thay and the whole community for using this method and letting it be transmitted to other generations.