The concept of self-compassion is widely used in contemplative science, and there is growing research showing its strong relationship to individual physical and mental wellbeing. However, evidence suggests that ‘self-compassion’ as conceptualized by Western Buddhist scholars and academics for primarily western audiences may lack validity in non-western and particularly Buddhist communities. This study investigates how Tibetans, who are constituted of Buddhist majority, understand the concept of self-compassion and to what extent this overlaps with, complements, or contrasts with current Western understandings. In-depth interviews will be conducted with Tibetan monastics and lay persons to explore the utility of the concept of self-compassion among Tibetans and how these populations respond to tendencies of self-criticism, self-hatred, low self-esteem, and rumination. This will result in a revised measure of self-compassion based on the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS) that is expected to have greater validity and reliability among Tibetans. In addition, this study will lay important groundwork more generally for the cross-cultural exploration of contemplative concepts and practices such as self-compassion.

Tenzin Sonam, PhD

Emory University