Compassion has been taught and practiced since the earliest period of Buddhism, yet the role of compassion and its centrality on the path to enlightenment, as well the methods for cultivating it, have varied across diverse Buddhist traditions. The different purposes, motivations, and practices for compassion articulated in these Buddhist traditions have shaped the development of modern, secular compassion-based programs—including Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT), Cultivating Compassion Training (CCT), and Sustainable Compassion Training (SCT)—that have been adapted for a variety of clinical and educational settings. These modern compassion programs, in turn, also have been shaped by and in response to their own historical-cultural context, as well as by the ways in which they interpret the category of the secular. As interest in compassion programs increases, a deeper investigation into the potential and implications of the various goals, motivations, and methods for cultivating compassion is warranted. This talk reviews the different ways in which compassion has been conceptualized and cultivated in both traditional Buddhist and modern secular contexts. The goal is not to determine which articulation of compassion is most authentic or effective, but rather to call attention to the ways in which these conceptualizations frame, limit, and permit different possibilities for defining and realizing compassion. Such an approach may deepen our understanding of these practices and thereby both inform more context-sensitive adaptations and reveal new directions for research.

Brooke D. Lavelle, PhD

Courage of Care Coalition

Convening Faculty, Grantee

Brooke D. Lavelle, PhD, is the Co-Founder and President of the Courage of Care Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to facilitating the co-creation of a more just, compassionate world. Together with her … MORE

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