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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

His Holiness Discusses Meditation, Compassion with Emory Scientists

October 20, 2010

AOL News
October 19. 2010

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and panelists during
the conference "Mapping Current Research and
Charting Future Directions" held at Emory
University on 18 October 2010/Photo by Kay Hinton/Emory

Atlanta: During the third of his visit to Emory
University on 18 October, His Holiness the Dalai
Lama deliberated with scientists and educators on
the state of current research on empathy and
compassion, the scientific study of meditation
practices for cultivating compassion, and the
implementation of such meditation programmes in
various clinical and educational settings.

The conference, under the theme of "Mapping
Current Research and Charting Future Directions"
included panelists from Emory University, the
University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Stanford
University, the three universities that are
conducting on-going scientific research on compassion meditation.

The morning session’s panelists were Dr Frans B M
de Waal, C H Candler Professor of Psychology at
Emory University; Dr Richard Davidson, Director,
Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and
Behavior, Director, Laboratory for Affective
Neuroscience at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison; Dr Barbara L Fredrickson,
Kenan Distinguished Professor, Director, Positive
Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory at the
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Dr
Philippe Goldin, Research Scientist, Department
of Psychology at Stanford University; and The
Venerable Matthieu Ricard, Buddhist monk,
photographer, and author Dr Daniel Goleman,
Psychologist, author and science journalist, acted as the moderator.

The panelists presented some of their findings.
Dr de Waal spoke on "the Evolution of Empathy and
Compassion in Humans and Other Primates." He
talked about the presence of empathy among
animals like apes and elephants through visual
display of activities by these animals. He felt
that the entire communication system of nonhuman
primates seems emotionally mediated.

Dr Davidson spoke on "Neuroscientific Studies of
Compassion Meditation: Challenges and
Opportunities." He presented findings from both
long-term practitioners and novices on whether
short-term practice can make a difference on
cultivating compassion.  He said that remarkable changes can be seen.

Dr Barbara L Fredrickson spoke on how loving
kindness meditation can increase positive
emotions and build additional cognitive and
social resources. She said meditation on loving
kindness increases our Vagal Tone, the nerve that
connects the brain to the heart and by increasing
the level of resting Vagal Tone, we are better
able to regulate our emotions, attention, and behavior.

Dr Philippe Goldin spoke on "Psychological
Effects of Compassion- Cultivation Training" and
presented a research on a study that examined the
effect of an eight-session  Compassion
Cultivation Training that has been developed in
Stanford University on modifying emotional
awareness distinct forms of emotion regulation,
empathy and compassionate intention in healthy
adults.  He also spoke about data that show
individuals who habitually suppress emotion were
less aware of their own and others’ emotional
state, less empathic, and less willing to offer
their own time for the benefit of others.

In his interventions during the presentations,
His Holiness wondered whether comparative studies
have been done on the issue of cultivating
compassion to someone negative and doing the same
with one’s relatives.  In response to a question
on how he perceived the issue of suppression of
emotion, His Holiness said that suppression here
must be understood as part of the mechanism that
people use to project an image that they want others to see.

In the afternoon, His Holiness first made brief
remarks at a luncheon for supporters of the
Emory-Tibet Science Initiative. Thereafter, he
participated in the afternoon session of the conference.

The panelists included the following. The
Venerable Matthieu Ricard, Buddhist monk,
photographer, and author; Geshe Lobsang Tenzin
Negi, Senior Lecturer, Department of Religion,
Emory University; Dr Charles Raison, Clinical
Director, Mind-Body Program, Department of
Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory
University School of Medicine; and  Dr Brendan
Ozawa-de Silva, Doctoral Student and Researcher,
Emory University. Dr John Dunne, Associate
Professor, Department of Religion, Emory University, moderated the session.

Venerable Matthieu Ricard spoke on the topic "Can
Altruism and Compassion Be Cultivated?" He talked
about the importance of training of the mind for
bringing our potential for empathy, altruistic
love, and compassion to their optimal capacity.

Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi spoke on "Essential
Elements of Cognitive-Based Compassion
Training."  He explained that the Cognitive Based
Compassion Training (CBCT) was a secular
meditation protocol that he had developed at
Emory University.  The protocol, he said, was
based on the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of Lojong
(Mind Training) but rendered in a secular form.
He said CBCT employs both focused and analytical
meditation techniques to transform the
practitioner’s perspective on events and people.
He mentioned a pilot study of CBCT for trauma
victims in Kosovo among some of the ongoing projects.

Dr Charles Raison gave a "Report from the Front
Lines: An Update on Health-Relevant Effects of
Compassion meditation from Ongoing Studies at
Emory University." He presented findings from
ongoing studies that showed that compassion
training was doing rather something unique on how
people behave.   Dr Raison also mentioned a
psychological stress test that he had conducted
among Tibetan students at the Tibetan Children’s
Village, which showed that students who had come
out of Tibet had higher stress level than those who were born in India.

Dr Brendan Ozawa-de Silva spoke on "Educating the
Heart and Mind: Teaching Cognitive-Based
Compassion Training for Children." He spoke of
his experience of undertaking studies among
teenage girls under foster care as well as among
young children in the Atlanta area.  He mentioned
how there have been effective results after the training sessions.

In his remarks, His Holiness mentioned that
today’s presentations were clear scientific proof
of the positive effect of compassion on the
wholesome development of the individual and for
the society as a whole.  His Holiness said over
the years he had been wishing for some concrete
plans that could enable the implementation of
compassion training and termed the presentation
of such plans during this conference as
wonderful. He concluded by saying that this is
the dawning of a new day in the incorporation of
training in inner values in the education system.

His Holiness' programmes in Emory University have
been positive received by the students and
faculty alike. Emory University had provided
1,500 free tickets to students to participate in the different programmes.

"I kind of correlate him with Martin Luther
King," Stephanie Davis, a program administrator
in Emory’s religion department, is quoted as
telling The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one of
the local newspapers.  "I realise that he’s all
about love and compassion and peace," Davis added.

Dr Gary Hauk, vice-president and deputy to the
president at Emory, told The Atlanta
Journal-Constitution that ticket sales have
underwritten the cost of His Holiness’ visit
adding that His Holiness receives no
stipend.  Emory University will direct funds
equivalent to what would have been his fee to
support the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, according to Dr Hauk.

The newspaper also quoted the impact felt by
another student. It said, "For Christian Harnett,
19, a pre-med student at Oglethorpe University
visiting Monday's conference, the Dalai Lama's
personal example was as powerful as any of the
scientific findings presented concerning
compassion and altruism in the primate brain.

"The fact that he remains so optimistic and
compassionate toward the Chinese and people that
may hate him -- he represents a
turn-the-other-cheek philosophy," said Hartnett,
"that many people need as a role model right now."

(Report filed by Bhuchung K Tsering)
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