Two important secular compassion training programs have been developed
at Stanford and Emory Universities. Each of these programs derives largely from the mind-training tradition of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. It is widely assumed that compassion is a good thing and that, by extension, such programs are therefore good. However, much more systematic attention needs to be directed towards the specific challenges of teaching compassion from a secular perspective. Some of these challenges include: (1) providing teachers with the institutional support they need to carry out this work; (2) providing students with supports necessary in the development of compassion (analogous to the sangha concept in Buddhism); (3) assessing the effectiveness of compassion training; (4) assessing possible risks of compassion training; (5) incorporating the “wisdom” aspects of compassion into secular programs; and (6) facilitating the development of equanimity and gratitude in the absence of Buddhist concepts. Each of these challenges will be explored.

Dent Gitchel

University of Arkansas at Little Rock