Venerable Tarpa shares her conference experiences on video at Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner. She talks about the conference in general,  and talks about the compassion meditation in Part 1 and Part 2.

Recently at Emory University in Atlanta was a meeting of East and West. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was the catalyst for four days of teachings and conferences that included a presentation of Western-style research on compassion meditation and an international summit on Tibetan Buddhism.

The first day opened with a public talk about The Nature & Practice of Compassion. The afternoon was an Interfaith Summit on Happiness, which was received with great enthusiasm and applause as religious leaders from Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam spoke about happiness. They focused on what these traditions hold in common and how they differ in their understanding about this state of being called happiness.

The second day’s focus was on compassion meditation research results. This was a most inspiring day as it represented both a fruition of efforts showing the positive effects of this meditation, and it marks a beginning of efforts to bring these methods to a wider audience whose suffering would diminish as a result of these practices.

The International Conference on Tibetan Buddhism filled the last two days. It has now been 50 years since Tibetan Buddhism left Old Tibet, and many well-regarded teachers, leaders, and practitioners came together to consider its future direction. There were meaningful discussions in several areas including Tibetan Buddhism’s encounter with modern science, academia, and Western culture. Other issues related to social engagement, translation, and surviving and embracing modernity in traditionally Tibetan Buddhist regions.

I left this conference with two distinct impressions based upon my experiences there: First, inspiration and a sense of hope from hearing about the multiple positive results found in studies recently completed about compassion meditation. Study groups included college freshman (which documented less anxiety and depression with this intervention); foster kids of adolescent age, and classroom children aged 5 to 8 years. In my mind this represents the beginning of substantive research utilizing the rigors of the scientific model in a way that governmental agencies and western institutions will be able to understand and accept. These methods can reduce suffering, and what is more needed in this time!

Second, I came away with greater understanding of Ven. Chodron’s vision for an environment that supports and fosters Western monastics in the Tibetan tradition. Of all the invited guests and panelists, only one Western monk and one Western nun were present. This is likely due to a variety of causes and conditions. It makes me very appreciative of both Sravasti Abbey and all of our friends worldwide who support the vision of the Abbey.