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Lions Roar : January 2015
thupten Jinpa, the developer of Stanford Compassion Training, on proven techniques to help us deepen and expand our natural kindness. P eople usually thinK that compassion is something you’re born with or not. She is a caring person, he is not—it’s just who you are. But Buddhism (which recognizes no fixed identity anyway) views it differently, and Western science is beginning to as well. Buddhism and cutting-edge science see compassion, empathy, and cooperation as an inherent part of who we are as human beings—maybe who we really are. And scientists are discovering something Buddhists have known for thousands of years: that with the right techniques, our natural compassion can be cultivated, deepened, and expanded. None of us has a fixed allotment of love—in fact our love is unlimited. No one has done more to promote the important truth that compassion is both natural and can be cultivated than the extraordinary Thupten Jinpa. Best known as the principal translator for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he is a former monk with the highest philo- sophical degree in Tibetan Buddhism. As chairman of the Mind and Life Institute, he is at the center of the rich conversation between Western science and Buddhism. In association with The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE), Thupten Jinpa developed Stanford Compassion Training, an eight-week program adapt- ing traditional Buddhist techniques for the twenty-first century. It offers us all a path to a more compassionate life and world. — Me lvin Mcleod What is the traditional Buddhist approach to compassion? Historically, cultivating compassion has been a major focus in the Buddhist tradition. Meditation as a mental training is common to all the Indian spiritual traditions. Where Buddhism is different is in its systematic techniques to cultivate our compassionate side. In the Metta Sutta, the Buddha beautifully tells his disciples that just as a mother feels a natural, unconditional love for her child, so should we cultivate that sentiment toward all beings without any exception, whether they are near or far, friends or enemies. That state- ment by the Buddha has served as the basis for a long tradition of cultivating compassion. In Tibetan Buddhism, cultivating compassion is not done simply through closing your eyes and doing silent practice. The Tibetan tradition also uses the power of myth to inspire compassion. Avalokiteshvara, the thousand-armed Buddha of Compassion, per- sonifies the enlightened, perfected state of compassion. When compassion transcends all boundaries, when it is effortless, when it is one’s very mode of being, that is personified by the Buddha of Compassion. This kind of mythology speaks powerfully to the devout. How to Train the Heart SHAMBHALA SUN jANUAry 2015 61