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Lions Roar : May 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2010 48 some $25 million in charitable pledges he had made when he was a much wealthier man. he saw to it that a portion of the money was directed to found CCARe. “Buddhist contemplative practices are quite evolved and there is an exten- sive technical language, a taxonomy, sur- rounding them,” Doty says. “Yet i agree with his holiness that ethics and com- passion are universal. they can occur without the foundation of a specific re- ligion, and for them to be embraced by a larger group of people they must not be tied to any faith.” the kinds of prac- tices Doty describes generally fall under what’s known in tibetan Buddhism as lojong (literally “mind training”) and in theravada Buddhism as metta (loving- kindness). they employ various kinds of thought exercises to increase open- ness, empathy, and willingness to help others. in one such practice, known as tonglen (“sending and taking”), you vi- sualize taking in others’ pain with your in-breath and sending out relief with the out-breath. Doty points out that other traditions, including Catholicism, also contain contemplative practices that cultivate the heart. when he first floated his idea, Doty encountered resistance from many fac- ulty members, who feared a religious agenda might be masquerading as sci- ence, but he now feels that CCARe’s commitment to rigor and secularism has been amply demonstrated and most of the resistance has fallen away. Doty and his colleagues look to the exercise movement as a mod- el. google’s meng points to the harvard fatigue laboratory, started in 1927. “their pioneering work in creating the field of exercise physiology,” he says, “changed the world.” it has led, he notes, to a world where gyms are filled with people whose doctors have sug- gested exercises scientifically proven to improve health. “if we could come up with a set of mental practices and show that these improve personal and communal well-being,” Doty says, “it could become the basis for a huge pro-social movement.” Doty postulates that many prisoners end up in a penitentiary because of an insufficiently nurturing environment in their early lives. he argues that teaching compassion practices to prisoners would reduce recidivism by getting to the core of their criminality. he and others have also been looking at large corporations in Silicon valley that have self-insured health plans. “One of the prime expenditures,” he says, “is for mind–body disconnect is- sues, including depression, anxiety, stress, back pain, and neck pain. many of these can be traced to a lack of caring—of self- compassion—and they spur a lack of car- ing and attention to the needs of others, such as children, family, colleagues, and community. if we demonstrate the cost of a lack of compassion, organizations will pay attention. further than that, wouldn’t it be helpful to know why some children become bullies; whether parents can be taught to be more compassionate; how clergy, chaplains, and others in helping professions could use exercises to over- come compassion fatigue; whether every- day people can attain levels of compassion observed mainly in monks?” if CCARe is to succeed in bridging—and even transcending—the divide between eastern spiritual practice and western science and scholarship, it needs people with a firm grasp of both. So one of the first people recruited to be part of the CCARe team was thupten Jinpa, who, among his many other roles and accom- plishments, is the Dalai lama’s principal english translator. in addition to his ti- betan monastic scholarly training, Jinpa holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a doctorate in reli- gious studies, both from Cambridge University. he moves eas- ily from Buddhist perspectives to western perspectives and back again, with no sense of holding one or the other viewpoint as dominant. “western science and Buddhism both have meticu- lous understandings of the human mind, but so far western in- vestigations of the mind have focused mainly on pathologies,” Jinpa told me. “there has been little focus on the more construc- tive and positive qualities of the human mind, and very little re- search into how people can be trained to cultivate those.” Jinpa feels that the imprimatur of a university as respected for rigor and innovation as Stanford is helping to legitimize an area of research that would have been stigmatized even a decade ago. Study- ing the effects of mindfulness has become almost mainstream, but Thupten Jinpa PhOtOBYmARKeSteS