• Phase 1: Discover and Assess

    Man Reaching For A Star art

    "Man Reaching for a Star" by Richard Stine

    The first phase involves discovery and assessment. What is the current situation related to compassion, and what assets can we draw on as we work toward a more compassionate community?

    Step 1:  Identifydiscomfortsin your communitythose issues that are causing pain and suffering to individuals or groups or the entire communitywhich can be addressed and relieved through compassionate action.

    Perhaps you are part of your community’s local government, or you may work in social services or healthcare, and you have wished that something more could be done to resolve the difficulties facing people in your community—for example, the homeless, the isolated and depressed elderly, an immigrant population, or youth who are pressured to be part of a gang culture.

    Maybe you work with the community’s youth as an educator, a counselor, or in recreational services, and you have recognized both the promise of youth as well as the difficulties they face in our rapidly changing world.  Or, you may be a citizen who has deep concerns about the safety, the health, or the emotional well-being of other groups of community members—the disabled, orphaned or abandoned children, the mentally ill, or racial or ethnic groups who are confronted by discrimination.

    You may be concerned about the transport of hazardous materials through your area, or about the increasing air pollution or the lack of clean water in your community.  Or you may be an observer who has recognized other issues that cause suffering in your community.  Perhaps you have been motivated by your concern to identify possible ways to relieve suffering—quality, affordable childcare; anti-bullying programs in schools; or compassionate care for veterans in your city or town or neighborhood.

    All of these issues are what author Karen Armstrong means when she talks about those issues that are “uncomfortable” for a community and therefore in need of compassionate action in order to provide for the well-being of all community members.

    One useful tool for beginning an evaluation in your community is the Compassionate Community Assessment.  Other helpful resources from the Community Tool Box are listed below.

    Step 2:Find out what is already being done, or has been done, to address issues in your community, learn what has worked and not worked, and, recognize and acknowledge those successes.

    Even if you, as an individual, have already identified the major challenges and “discomforts” of your community, your initiative will benefit from some investigative work alongside others who care about the community.  Discover who else is working to improve your community, and working to provide a place of well-being. Recognize and acknowledge that work, and invite those people to join you in creating a Compassionate Community.

    The Dutch Compassion Movement in The Netherlands provides a wonderful example and model related to this step:

    In the Dutch Compassion Movement, city and community initiatives and partners are all organized under one charity trust, Handvest voor Compassie.  In 2013, the organization decided to design a project to find out how various groups in the greater Amsterdam area were going about handling complex social issues. They wanted to produce a book to showcase how local problems were continually being handled and could result in providing the impetus for other groups to follow suit, locally and throughout the country. A similar project had been done the preceding year in another Dutch town, Gorinchem. They believed that this initial step would help identify issues that would eventually be part of a compassionate city campaign.

    In early 2014, The Amsterdam project resulted in the publication of De Ander (meaning "The Other"), a book that recorded over 50 stories about how several social services organizations were dealing with complex issues, many of them arising from misunderstandings between Amsterdammers and newly arrived immigrants. Like many European countries, the Dutch have received large influxes of refugees from Eastern Europe and war-torn countries in Africa.  In addition, in the 1960s, large numbers of Turks made The Netherlands their new home.

    Today a myriad of organizations and committees have sprung up to deal with problems that were not previously found in the country. 

De Ander presents heart-warming stories of conflict between families, neighbors and among ethnic groups. For example, it showcases the story of a group of medical students who are working to reform healthcare delivery processes, an education organization working to teach mediation skills to young people, ethnic groups dedicated to teaching children of immigrants the customs and language of their ethnic group and helping them function as being "in between" cultures.

    Step 3:  Invite people to join you in assessing your community. Include community leaders as well as those informal leaders of other community constituencies that can give voice to the needs of the community.

    During Phase One of creating a Compassionate Community, it may be helpful to bring together community leaders and influencers to discover, assess, and evaluate the community’s existing strengths as well as those challenges that need to be addressed.  You may find people in formal leadership positions—for example, in local government or healthcare or education—who can make valuable contributions to your initiative or may already be addressing the issues you have identified.  You may also invite more informal leaders, for example--those people who have influence in their neighborhoods, faith groups, or ethnic groups.

    Together, you can discuss what it means for a community to take care of all community members—and to relieve pain and suffering wherever it exists in your community.  You may find it useful to provide presentations that inform people about the community’s current opportunities and challenges.  In a collaborative and inclusive discussion, you will gain a clearer picture of what is good about your community and where compassionate action is working—those will be strengths to build on--and together you can discover the issues that are causing pain and suffering to some individuals or groups—those are the places where the community is vulnerable and in need of compassionate action. 

    Each community will find its own way to explore how compassion can bring well-being to all community members.  As one example, in 2008, a young Pakistani journalist, Naween Mangi, started the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust in memory of her grandfather, whom she describes as “compulsively compassionate.”  She explains:

    The aim was to create a model village in his ancestral hometown of Khairo Dero, a village in southern Pakistan. A model that could be replicated elsewhere in turning poverty-stricken and forgotten rural hamlets into habitable places; complete with access to clean water, a sanitation network, housing for all, education, income-generating opportunities, and health-care services.

    As we began the process of engaging the community of 3,700 people in their own development, something felt sorely amiss. While projects were doing well and impact was visible, the work seemed somehow to be standing in isolation. Then, I came across the Charter for Compassion, became a signatory, and started thinking about how we could bring compassion into village life, creating a binding force that would weave our work and our community together.

    When we opened a community center and park in 2011, we documented our symbolic commitment to practicing compassion by displaying the Charter in our Community Hall. We then started by teaching our trust’s employees and volunteers about compassion and seeking their views on how we can implement this approach in our daily lives.

    Since we wanted to make compassion real, a part of village life, and a practice rather than a notion, we began holding regular activities exploring how to live compassionately. Some of the events we routinely host are:

    Readings from the Charter for Compassion and group discussions.

    Readings from Karen Armstrong’s Letter to Pakistan and Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.

    Short plays developed and performed by village children on the theme of compassion.

    Drawing competitions about compassion.

    Compassion Counter: We maintain a journal at the Community Center where adults and children can come and record their acts of compassion. We’ve crossed 700 acts and are aiming to hit 1,000 by the summer. Two examples: a schoolboy took a few extra moments to clear away stones from the road so passengers wouldn’t be hurt and on a chilly January morning, and a teacher brought in one of her favorite sweaters for a maid who didn’t have any warm clothes.

    Compassionate Living Day: We celebrate this without schedule and as often as our community feels we need to center ourselves and come back to the mindful practice of compassion. The day is marked by cultural performances, plays and speeches on how we can treat fellow villagers as we would ourselves would like to be treated.”


    Compassionate Communities Assessment 

    Many of the partners and members of the Charter for Compassion have worked together to develop this assessment tool.  The Compassionate Communities Assessmentincludes 18 topics with related questions that any community may use to reflect on and discuss.  The questions will be helpful in making an initial evaluation and identifying issues that may be addressed through compassionate action.  The list and the questions may not be exhaustive, but we hope that they will give you a good place to begin. The Compassionate Communities Assessment will help you:

    • Discover the community’s strengths—which can be celebrated and serve as a foundation for further building a Compassionate Community
    • Discover the “discomforts and fears”--those challenges and issues that bring pain and suffering to individuals or groups in the community

    Assist in understanding the big picture in your community so your initiative can focus on the most significant issues for compassionate action

    A Collective Impact Approach

    (The following is an excerpt from The Community Tool Box, at the University of Kansas in a section on a “Collective Impact” approach to organizing various groups who are working to achieve similar results. See complete article.

    Many funders and health and human service organizations aim to make progress on large and complex social problems – such as improving educational outcomes for all children, reducing homeless, or improving community health outcomes.  This has proved challenging for all of us.

    This community-level work goes by different names and associated models—including collaborative action, community mobilization, and comprehensive initiatives. One version of this approach is known as “collective impact.” Collective impact refers to the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem at scale.

    Organizations have been implementing collective impact for a long time. These successful collective impact initiatives often assure five conditions that are associated with their relative success:

    Common Agenda
    All participants share a vision for change that includes a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving the problem through agreed-upon actions.

    Shared Measurement
    All participating organizations agree on the ways success will be measured and reported, with a short list of common indicators identified and used for learning and improvement.

    Mutually Reinforcing Activities
    A diverse set of stakeholders, typically across sectors, coordinate a set of differentiated activities through a mutually reinforcing plan of action.

    Continuous Communication
    All players engage in frequent and structured open communication to build trust, assure mutual objectives, and create common motivation.

    Backbone Support
    An independent, funded staff dedicated to the initiative provides ongoing support by guiding the initiative’s vision and strategy, supporting aligned activities, establishing shared measurement practices, building public will, advancing policy, and mobilizing resources.

    Examples of Issues in Compassionate Communities

    When Rev. Shayna Lester, a volunteer chaplain at the CA Institution for Women, women’s prison heard about the Compassion Games, she knew she had to bring it to the inmates. Immediately the women responded and self organized. They appointed leadership, created “games” and agreed on how they would account for their points. They agreed to play in housing units and identified their teams by color.  They coined the term “Compassionistas” and came up with games like: walk away from gossip, do a kind deed for another, let another go ahead of you in line, share magazines, food, personal items. See more

    The Forgiveness Project (a Partner of the Charter for Compassion) is a UK-based charity that uses storytelling to explore how ideas around forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution can be used to impact positively on people’s lives, through the personal testimonies of both victims and perpetrators of crime and violence. Our aim is to provide tools that facilitate conflict resolution and promote behavioural change. Central to the work is our commitment to work with ex-offenders and victims of crime as a way of modeling a restorative process. See more

    Sowing Empathy and Justice in Schools Through Restorative Practices. The kid wants to serve the volleyball, but his high school classmates ignore him. “Shut up!” he pleads, but they carry on—laughing as if he said nothing. He loses it, hurls the ball, storms out of the gym, and shouts, “I said, Shut your #&$% mouths!”

    Game over.

    Suspending or expelling a student, especially one who is angry or disruptive, is like ordering a triple Big Mac. It’s a devilishly quick and easy answer—and popular, too—but it’s an unhealthy choice for the long-term well-being of students who, after just one suspension, are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out, and enter the criminal justice system.

    “Far too many of our most vulnerable students are excluded from class for minor, non-violent behavior. Too often this sends them along an unnecessary journey down the school-to-prison pipeline,” says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. With that in mind, an increasing number of NEA members are turning to an alternative on the menu of school discipline: Restorative practices, including restorative justice.


    The Integral Approach

    (The following is an excerpt from Salt Lake Civil Network. Read the entire piece here)

    What is Integral?
    Our work through the Salt Lake Civil Network is integrally informed.

    Integral refers to a stage of human development and related capacities.

    Integral capacities enable people to address issues effectively and efficiently with multi-systemic, complex adaptive capacities. They are able to re-integrate that which postmodernism has deconstructed, but in much more encompassing ways than modernism has in the past. People with integral capacities tend to re-institutes hierarchies of competence and values that have been torn asunder by postmodernism, again in dramatically superior ways to modernism. Integral orientation is toward wholeness and integration. Integral capacities include an ability for the first time for people to integrate the key perspectives of the “I” the “We” and the “It”, that is 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person perspectives. One of the most important integral capacities which has never existed before is the ability to be able to connect with people from all backgrounds and stages of development and points of view and weave them together for much more comprehensive solutions to the world’s challenges.

    It is critical to model and promote integral approaches and to be an attractor to growth of more people into integral capacities before postmodernism – even with all of its gifts – leads to instability and possibly even the undermining of the foundations of society. Research suggests that any new stage of human development will become dominant and begin to transform the world when 10-20% of adults reach that capacity. This is why the Civil Network is doing everything it can to model integrally informed approaches and is dedicated to networking globally with those who have similar concerns and capacities in order to make a positive difference. Research shows that human evolution has been moving quickly enough that an integral critical mass may be accomplished within the next few decades, especially as global and local initiatives are actively pursued and interconnected by as many people, groups, and communities as possible.

    Human Development through Time: Modernism to Integral

    The Enlightenment arose because a critical mass of people achieved a new and higher stage of human development than had existed before, which introduced formal operational thinking. This gave rise to modernism, which includes the gifts of modern science, together with the separate domains of ethics and art–the pursuit of the good, true, and beautiful.

    In the second half of the twentieth century, a critical mass of people achieved a higher stage of human development referred to in developmental psychology as context awareness. This initial context aware capacity gave rise to what has been called postmodernism, and people with these early context aware capacities are often referred to as individualists or pluralists. A hallmark of what might be called negative postmodernism is to deconstruct assumptions, texts, value systems, etc. The result is deeper insights, but often fragmentation and sometimes even a shift toward nihilism. Early context aware development leads to seeing that everyone has a legitimate point to make from their unique perspective, but lacks the ability to discern which perspectives might be more mature than others.

    The gift of postmodern pluralism is people become much more honoring of diversity and more inclusive, but because of a relative inability to discern greater or lesser quality or maturity, this pluralism often ends up in endless discussions without making adequate decisions, and further tends to equally disregard all values and principles. This can lead to instability and even nihilism.

    Even with all of its spirit of inclusiveness, postmodernism tends to attack modern and traditional values and institutions. In other words, it often undercuts the very stages of human development and civilization which made post modernism possible in the first place, and which support and give stability and productivity to most societies in the world today. Many disciplines and institutions throughout the world are in the process of being transformed by postmodernism, with all the gifts and dangers that accompany it.

    In the meantime, at the beginning of the 21st century, another new and higher stage of human development is arising, which is a more mature stage of context awareness that is clearly discernible from postmodernism. It has been called post-postmodernism, but the dominant term for it has become integral.

    Currently there are only a few percent of adults in the developed world (and fewer elsewhere) who have the capacity to function fully with integral capacities. This does not yet comprise a critical mass of people who may transform thought and action in the world. Yet much of the cutting edge work being done in many disciplines in the world today is beginning to reflect integral methods and capacities.

  • Sravasti Abbey

    Sravasti Abbey Logo

    Sravasti Abbey

    "I am heartened to learn of the establishment of Sravasti Abbey in the USA... I am happy to give (it) my support and encourage others who share this interest to do likewise."
    -His Holiness the Dalai Lama

    About the Abbey

    Fulfilling a lifelong vision to support Western sangha, Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron founded Sravasti Abbey in Newport, Washington in 2003 and serves as Abbess.

    The Abbey's mission is to nurture a flourishing monastic community where learning and practicing Buddha's ancient teachings cultivate peace in the hearts of the residents and visitors and, by extension, in the world.

    While monastic training is the focus, lay visitors are welcome to visit the Abbey. Countless others benefit from the Abbey's Dharma outreach.

    Sravasti Abbey is named for Sravasti, where the Buddha spent twenty-five Rains Retreats. It is called an “Abbey” because male and female monastics train together as equals—brothers and sisters supporting each other on the Dharma path. We welcome your interest.

    "The flourishing of the Buddha's teachings in a particular place is determined by the existence of fully ordained monks and nuns and male and female lay practitioners. Thus the existence of monks and nuns and the practice of Vinaya, the Buddhist monastic discipline, are very important."

    -His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama


    Throughout the ages, monasteries have been centers of Buddhist learning and practice, places that have benefited monastics, lay practitioners, and society.

    Sravasti Abbey continues that tradition, providing a quiet environment conducive for Buddhist study and meditation. Fully ordained monastics, novices, and trainees live here.

    We welcome visiting lay and monastic practitioners who wish to live, work, and practice in a community setting.

    The monastics of Sravasti Abbey endeavor to live generously through dedicating our lives to the Buddha's teachings, practicing them earnestly, and offering them to others. We trust that people will value our way of life and work and will respond generously by providing what is needed to live and to spread the Dharma in a modern society. Together with the lay community, we are building facilities where all of us can study and practice the Buddha's teaching.

    The Monastic Tradition

    Buddhism began in India with Buddha Shakyamuni's enlightenment over twenty-six centuries ago. Passed from one generation of practitioners to another, the Buddha's teachings flourished throughout Asia and have recently spread to the West. Since the Buddha's time, monastics have been responsible for preserving the teachings.

    By living a life of simplicity as exemplified by the Buddha and described by the Vinaya, monastics provide a healthy challenge to society's concepts of success, power, and consumption. They exemplify community life centered around spiritual practice, and in doing so, they have sustained the Buddha's teachings to the present day.

    Until now, Buddhism in the United States has been focused on Dharma centers where lay students learn the Buddha's teachings. Now that these are well established, it is time to build monasteries where women and men can study, practice, and train in the monastic lifestyle.

    At Sravasti Abbey

    As Buddhism spread from one country to another, it has adapted to new cultural customs and evolved different external forms. In this area Sravasti Abbey is innovative. For example, gender equality and social service are key elements of community life. Most chanting is in English.

    We value service as a foundation for study and practice. In addition to regular public teachings at the Abbey, monastics teach in other locations, and the Abbey acts as a resource for Dharma centers. We write Buddhist books and articles and transcribe and edit our teachers' discourses.

    Monastics and lay practitioners are trained in leading meditation, discussions, and rituals. We cultivate inter-religious dialogue and offer service to the community through activities such as spiritual counseling and prison work.

    By nurturing individuals' unique talents within a traditional monastic setting adapted to the present American culture, we strive to embody the Buddhist values of non-harming, mindfulness, compassion, inter-relatedness, respect for nature, and service to sentient beings—all directed towards the enlightenment of all beings.

    The Abbey cultivates happy, well-balanced practitioners and a healthy community through study, meditation, and service. A community that models good communication and conflict resolution skills and is comprised of individuals who live simply and cultivate ethical discipline, love, compassion, and wisdom is an inspiration to society at large.

    Sravasti Abbey provides conditions conducive for a strong Western monastic community to study and practice the Dharma.

    The Buddha's teachings go beyond culture and historical time; they speak to the essence of human experience. Sravasti Abbey will preserve the meaning of these teachings in an unadulterated way.

    Sravasti Abbey trains monastics who will practice and teach the Dharma purely, yet explain them in a Western context.

    Living simply as the Buddha did, the monastics of Sravasti Abbey offer a model for society at large, showing that ethical discipline contributes to a morally grounded society.

    • Through actively developing their own qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, and wisdom, the monastics aspire to make Sravasti Abbey a beacon for peace in our conflict-torn world.
    • Visit our homepageand on Facebook.

    Location: Newport, WA, USA

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