I was also among the crowd that gathered at Maples Pavilion this morning to hear the Dalai Lama speak about “The Centrality of Compassion and Human Life in Society”. It was mentioned that His Holiness had previously donated to Stanford’s “Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education” (CCARE) . His generous donation ($150,000 generated from book sales) was one of the largest he’s ever made to a non-Tibetan cause. Dr. James Doty, director of CCARE, comically told the audience that his first thought at the time was “Who am I to take the Dalai Lama’s money?”.
Not knowing anything about CCARE, I was curious about that same thing.
Much of the foundational ideas behind the center sprouted from Doty himself. He wondered what motivated people to do good. The Compassion Project was formed in collaboration with many other medical doctors, religious scholars, and psychologists. CCARE’s website states that its mission is:
“To undertake a rigorous scientific study of the neural, mental and social bases of compassion and altruistic behavior that draws from a wide spectrum of disciplines, especially neuroscience, psychology, economics and contemplative traditions.
To explore ways in which compassion and altruism can be cultivated within an individual as well as within the society on the basis of testable cognitive and affective training exercises.”
As you can see, the rigorous scientific research involved uses a widely multidisciplinary approach. It also crosses lines of faith, looking into what brings us all together as human beings. In a fascinating interview of Dr. Thupten Jinpa, the Dalai Lama’s longtime interpreter describes compassion as “a beautiful capacity of the human heart”.
It sounds pretty cool to me. For more information on CCARE’s background, take a look at the video below.