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On Compassion: Science Meeting an Ancient Tradition

Contemporary science provides with evidence that compassion can be taught; applied attempts have shown that children also respond to the emotional training; as a result, the behavior differs through the cultivation of the desirable emotion. International discourse is developed on the topic of improving people’s emotional state, especially, when humanity experiences multiple versions of crisis affecting the whole planet. It is at this point when humans need the co-operation, the social understanding and the support amongst citizens of the world. In the book ‘A Force for Good’, the author discusses significant aspects of the cultivation of compassion, based on the vision of Dalai Lama for a future with diminishment of the destructive emotions and the creation of a culture of compassion.

Source: Simon-Thomas Emiliana (2012),'Three Insights from the Cutting Edge of Compassion Research', Greater Good Magazine,

Following this path of thinking unfold in this case by Dalai Lama, our time needs leaders with greater consideration for human needs, leaders who care about humans and have a warm heart; women are biologically more synchronized with the pain of others than men. On this, science serves with a crucial finding; results taken from ΜRIs show that when people face the pain of another person, the centers of pain in their brain react though a mirroring procedure. They mirror the pain of the one suffering. This sensitiveness to the pain of others -- the substance of compassion -- is higher connected to females than males (Goleman, 2015); science declares that women can “read” the emotion more accurately than men. In a way, according to Dalai Lama, female leaders could have more active role in the promotion of human values such as compassion. Those thoughts are expressed in the book ‘Force for Good’, written by the psychologist and author Daniel Goleman; the book includes the fruits of his discussions with the world peace leader Dalai Lama. Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. The amount received from the Nobel Prize was used for charity purposes.

Source: Goleman, D.,

Dalai Lama works and co-operates with numerous communities and people, including international leaders and scientists, to develop and apply his vision worldwide. There is an international pathway to compassion; in our times, it gains a new ally: the science (Goleman, 2015). Dalai Lama said to Professor Richard Davidson from Wisconsin University that in his tradition there are methods for the management of certain feelings and that if those methods have positive effects, they might be out of religious frame and be communicated the soonest possible to humanity (Goleman, 2015). This became a field of research for the neuroscience laboratories of the University. Also, Professor R. Davidson founded the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds to study and cultivate compassion. The neuroscientist Francisco Varela founded with Dalai Lama and A. Eagle the Mind and Life Institute with the intention to study emotion through scientific ways; the values it promotes are compassion, integrity, curiosity, inclusion and excellence. Amy Cohen Varela, F. Varela’s wife, is at head of Mind and Life Europe, which integrates science with wisdom traditions. Tania Singer, Scientific Head of the Social Neuroscience Lab at Max Planck Society in Berlin, is also member om Mind and Life Europe.

Source: Singer T. and Klimecki O., 2014, ‘Empathy and Compassion’,

In a study brought out by T. Singer and O. Klimecki, it is mentioned that concepts of empathy and compassion exist for many centuries, yet; the scientific research on these topics is relatively young (Singer T. & Klimecki O., 2014). The compassion is associated with feelings like warmth or concern and caring for other humans and an intention to improve the emotional state of other people (Singer T. & Klimecki O., 2014). In this research, the authors distinguish an empathic response to a person who suffers in two main categories: a. an empathic distress which occurs with emotions like withdrawal and b. compassion that is experienced with a motivation to support. The research showed that emotional states can be trained; a short-term training on compassion can provoke positive emotion neural network, and even the people are exposed to the distress of other humans (Singer T. & Klimecki O., 2014). As D. Goleman reports, according to programs by the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, kids are taught goodness; for example, when a child performs an action with kindness they gain a seed of goodness which is put on a poster named the “garden of goodness”; plus, various methods of learning how to be kind and calm are included. After a research, children who did not follow the program tended to behave in a more egoistic manner, which did not happen to the kids participating in the goodness learning experience (Goleman, 2015).

The behavior of children after the procedure of emotional training shows that emotion is also a topic which can be educated and learnt. For this reason, Dalai Lama encourages international leadership to educate children. Women can play a meaningful role through this procedure as research showed that, biologically, they tend to be more familiar with human feelings. Dalai Lama has said that if the tradition has methods which have positive impact, then they can be out of the usual context in order to serve society through scientific study. The emotional training helps humans to better emotional responses; it may bring people to behave in a more compassionate way in a society with better response to the pain of others. In a way to a more peaceful world.


Goleman Daniel:, retrieved at 28.8.2021

Goleman D., (2015), Force for Good, Athens: Pedio

Rule S., (1989), Dalai Lama Wins the Nobel Peace Prize,, retrieved at 27.8.2021

Dalai Lama, Use of the Nobel Peace Prize Money,, retrieved at 27.8.2021

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Compassion Games, Source:, retrieved at 28.8.2021

Center of Healthy Minds, Our Vision,, retrieved at 27.8.2021

Mind & Life, Our Mission,, retrieved at 27.8.2021

Mind & Life Europe, Mission,, retrieved at 27.8.2021

Simon-Thomas Emiliana (2012),'Three Insights from the Cutting Edge of Compassion Research', Greater Good Magazine,

Singer T. and Klimecki O., (2014), ‘Empathy and Compassion’,, retrieved at 27.8.2021


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