Compassion Movement

A compassionate or loving consciousness has ancient roots, but it is taking on a new importance as our world becomes integrated ecologically, economically, and culturally. Because we now share one another’s fate, it is increasingly clear that promoting the well-being of others directly promotes our own. We have reached the point where the Golden Rule is becoming essential to humanity’s survival. This ancient ethic, which is found in all of the world’s spiritual traditions, advises that the way to know how to treat others is to treat them as you would want to be treated. Here are some of the ways the Golden Rule has been expressed:

  • “As you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.” –Christianity (Luke 6 : 31)
  • “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” –Islam (Sunan)
  • “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” –Buddhism (Udanavarga)
  • “Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” –Hinduism (Mahabharata 5 : 1517)
  • “Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” –Confucianism (Analects 15 : 23)

As diverse and divisive as we are, the human family recognizes this common ethic of compassion at the core of life. This indicates there is a basis for reconciliation within humanity.

The Flowering of Seeds of Compassion

For one week in April 2008, Seattle hosted an unprecedented event — The Seeds of Compassion. “Seeds” was a historic series of public gatherings, discussions, and workshops that galvanized individuals, networks, and organizations. Over 154,000 people participated in the 5-day event. More than 7 million viewed the event online.

Anchored by the deep wisdom of the Dalai Lama, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and other luminaries, this community-focused event celebrated and explored the relationships, programs, and tools that nurture and empower children, families, and communities to be compassionate members of society. Each of the five days provided those present an opportunity to better understand the real benefits of compassion and concrete steps on how to bring compassion into their lives.

In addition, community and spiritual leaders, educators and writers, researchers and thinkers all gathered to share their wisdom, ideas, and questions with tens of thousands of others. Parents, children, youth, teachers, activists, politicians, and philanthropists were prompted to consider how we can help Seeds of Compassion resonate for many years after April 2008. One of the outcomes of that process was Compassionate Action Network International which began building a worldwide organization to help foster a culture of compassion. Other flowerings are below:

The Charter for Compassion

In 2008, Karen Armstrong won the TED Prize for her wish to create a Charter for Compassion. Thousands of people contributed to the process and the Charter was unveiled in November 2009. Since then, the Charter has inspired community-based acts of compassion all over the world. From Seattle to Karachi, Houston to Amsterdam, in schools, houses of worship, city governments, and among individuals everywhere, the message of the Charter is transforming lives.

For more information, please check out the Charter For Compassion Flyer.

Compassionate Cities

A compassionate city is an uncomfortable city! A city that is uncomfortable when anyone is homeless or hungry. Uncomfortable if every child isn’t loved and given rich opportunities to grow and thrive. Uncomfortable when as a community we don’t treat our neighbors as we would wish to be treated.” — Karen Armstrong, Founder of the global movement, The Charter for Compassion

Human beings are social animals. We live and work and socialize together in communities that exist in diverse cultures and climates throughout the Earth. Within each of these communities from Mongolia to Mogadishu to Managua to Minnesota, human beings experience compassion for others, relieving pain and suffering for their families, for their neighbors, for their communities.  But the structure of modern society—of nation states and mega cities and a world population that has grown to over seven billion—often thwarts and distorts this natural desire to be compassionate. The sense of disconnection is so pervasive that unkindness, indifference, and selfishness appear as the norm; compassion, kindness and caring are the outliers.

In a Compassionate Community, the needs of all the inhabitants of that community are recognized and met, the well-being of the entire community is a priority, and all people and living things are treated with respect. More simply, in a Compassionate Community, people are motivated by compassion to take responsibility for and care for each other. A community where compassion is fully alive is a thriving, resilient community whose members are moved by empathy to take compassionate action, are able to confront crises with innovative solutions, are confident in navigating changes in the economy and the environment, and are resilient enough to bounce back readily from natural and man-made disasters.

Although the early work of the Charter was focused on building a network of cities, it soon became evident that communities both larger and smaller than cities wanted to join the global movement in which compassion is at the heart of a community’s activities.  The Charter’s growing network of Compassionate Communities now includes cities, towns, townships, shires, hamlets, villages, neighborhoods, islands, states, provinces, counties, republics, and countries.

No single community in the world is a Compassionate Community in any abstract or formal sense, just as no community is devoid of compassion. Each community will find its own path to establishing compassion as a driving and motivating force, and each will conduct its own evaluation of what is “uncomfortable” in that community’s unique culture—that is, those issues that cause pain and suffering to members of the community. For one community that discomfort may be youth violence or an epidemic of teen suicide. Another community may discover that a portion of their community—perhaps immigrants, the homeless, or an LGBTQ group–has been marginalized, harassed, or even physically threatened. Yet another community, as in Botswana for example, the major discomforts may have to do with the needs of large numbers of street children orphaned by the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic.

The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education

While science has made great strides in treating pathologies of the human mind, far less research exists to date on positive qualities of the human mind including compassion, altruism and empathy. Yet these prosocial traits are innate to us and lie at the very centerpiece of our common humanity. Our capacity to feel compassion has ensured the survival and thriving of our species over millennia.

For this reason, the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University School of Medicine was founded in 2008 with the explicit goal of promoting, supporting, and conducting rigorous scientific studies of compassion and altruistic behavior.

Founded and directed by Dr. James Doty, Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery, CCARE is established within the Department of Neurosurgery.

To date, CCARE has collaborated with a number of prominent neuroscientists, behavioral scientists, geneticists and biomedical researchers to closely examine the physiological and psychological correlates of compassion and altruism.

James R. Doty, M.D., is a Clinical Professor of neurosurgery at Stanford University and founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, a part of the Stanford Institute of Neuro-Innovation and Translational Neurosciences. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart published by Penguin Random House on February 2, 2016. It has been translated into 19 languages.

Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest

Compassion Games make our communities safer, kinder, more just and better places to live. The Compassion Games fosters creativity to develop empathy into action and adapts creatively to any community who wants to embrace and play them.

Since 2012, players of the Compassion Games have served over 18,000,000 people in more than 40 countries by over 1,000,000 reported volunteer players. The Games have been played between cities, businesses, faith and interfaith organizations, schools, and even prisons. Participating teams in the Compassion Games perform acts of kindness and service, reporting on the number of volunteers, hours of service, money raised for local causes, and the number of people served, providing measurable results that can be improved upon, year after year.

Players can participate in the Compassion Games as an individual by performing acts of kindness, such as visiting someone who is sick, acknowledging the kindness of a stranger, cleaning up litter, or volunteering to support a local cause.

Players can also join or organize a Team that may include friends, families, co-workers, classmates, congregants, or our neighbors, and can organize or join service projects to give back to our communities. Service projects can strengthen what is already taking place or lead to new projects, such as distributing clothing to the homeless, planting a community garden (and donating the food!), or helping a neighbor with home repairs.

After the acts of compassion and service projects have been completed, teams and individuals report and reflect on their activities and outcomes on a Compassion Report Map to measure impact and inspire others to get involved. Through these Compassion Reports, we are able to measure and benchmark the collective impact that our actions have on our world, allowing us to challenge ourselves to be more compassionate as we increase our capacity to bring compassion to life, year after year!

Short and Long Term Benefits of Playing in The Games
The following six impacts offer a way to appreciate and anticipate the benefits of participation in the Compassion Games:

Catalyst to Ignite Engagement: The Compassion Games reframe play and competition by turning “competitive altruism” and “friendly-competition” into “coopetition” amongst and between different teams to create excitement and motivate interest in participating.

Amplifier of What’s Already Working: The Compassion Games can strengthen and amplify what is already working in a community.  Weaving together existing events and activities from different groups and organizations catalyzes a shared collective impact. The Compassion Games also inspires new events and activities that build upon existing efforts.

Framework and Baseline for Measuring Compassion Strength: The Compassion Games measure community service through the number of volunteers, hours of service, monies raised for local causes, and numbers of people served.  Results create a baseline for building a team’s compassion impact and value over time, strengthening our individual and collective “compassion muscles.”.

Engaging Environment for Reflection and Learning: The Compassion Games offer a means for engagement and reflection which transfers the experiences from the Games to the real world. Composing and sharing Compassion Reports that include these reflections helps players build the skills needed to act more effectively and compassionately with ourselves and our communities.

Platform for Cultivating Open Participation: The Compassion Games offer an open-source, “Do-It-Ourselves” creative platform. The Games tap into a growing capacity and desire to engage with compassion in ways that go beyond theory and passive consumption.  The Games are open, participatory, peer-driven, and a thriving example of open-source collaboration.

Connection to a Global Movement: The Compassion Games are a part of an international compassion movement that inspires participation in something greater than oneself. The Compassion Games help us to understand, connect, and learn from each other while co-


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