What Is It?MCI-Logo-2016

The Mindfulness & Compassion Initiative at Maitripa College includes a series of educational programs, events, and opportunities focused on the exploration, cultivation, and practical application of the contemplative practices of mindfulness and compassion in the modern world. The unique perspective of the Mindfulness & Compassion Initiative at Maitripa College involves the grounding of contemplative practice in traditional Buddhist thought and the emphasis on Compassion Practice as a means to the greatest benefit for self and others.

This Initiative is an expression of our intention to follow the 2013 advice of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Maitripa College community, as well an assessment of how Maitripa College can best serve our degree students and community, in relation to broader academic, cultural, and professional discourses as well as within the context of the FPMT’s Five Pillars of Service.

Degree Program Course Offering in the Mindfulness & Compassion Initiative

PHL331: Mindfulness & Compassion: Mahayana Buddhist and Scientific Approaches

This course will explore understanding what traditional Mahayana Buddhist and Western psychology have to say about mindfulness and attention on the one hand, and compassion and self-compassion on the other. Both perspectives suggest possibilities for strengthening compassion and mindfulness, and yet each has its own view of the aims, mechanisms, and outcomes of these techniques. This class will familiarize students with the histories and cultural contexts of scientific and Buddhist traditions; understand the similarities and differences between the two tradition’s approaches to and uses of mindfulness and compassion; consider what is at stake for each side in the emerging dialogue; and practice the basic and intermediate mindfulness and compassion training techniques of each tradition. Course materials will include a close reading of Tibetan and Indian Buddhist texts (such as Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, Nagarjuna’s Letter to a King, and/or selections from the LoJong (Mind training) genre of literature), along with articles from scientific and contemplative studies literature and the Buddhism and Science discourses.  Instructor: Yangsi Rinpoche | Registration is closed, but watch for announcements for upcoming related courses.

Brief Introduction to the Scope of the Initiative

The first year of the Initiative (Fall 2015-Spring 2016) will be a “pilot phase” to discern project scope in line with mission focus and clear objectives. Maitripa College Administrative staff will identify the short and long term development of possible programs and courses that meet the needs of degree students, continuing education students, and the general public (including professionals in psychology, healthcare, education, law/mediation, etc.), for development of skills to cultivate and implement mindfulness and compassion in their own lives and in the lives of others. Maitripa College will explore the feasibility of the development of introductory to advanced curricula and skills for the general public to learn to settle their minds.

Maitripa College will also assess the potential of the Mindfulness & Compassion Initiative to be an institutional ‘container’ for accreditation-relevant curricula and course development, learning outcome design and assessment, pedagogical development of graduates, students, and faculty, and staff and faculty professional development, training, and contribution to ongoing, broader conversations in contemplative education.

The Mindfulness& Compassion Initiative will also be examined in terms of its potential to contribute to outreach, recruiting, alumni employment, community and professional partnerships, and donor relations.

Following the Advice of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

In May 2013, His Holiness the Dalai Lama offered advice to Yangsi Rinpoche regarding the curriculum at Maitripa College and our future growth. In the words of Geshe Thubten Jinpa, PhD, this advice included:

Here are some rough thoughts on what His Holiness advised about the potential expanding of the curriculum at Maitripa College. The key point His Holiness made was to underline the point that Maitripa could become a place of learning that could both appeal to benefit a broader range of students, as well as a predominantly Buddhist population. So, in addition to continuing with your more specific Buddhist Studies program, the College could develop courses that could have relevance for, say, those in the therapeutic disciplines, education, and general philosophy and psychology.

For example, you could have courses on contemplative psychology, with explicit focus on the ongoing secularized contemplative practices like compassion meditation, loving-kindness and mindfulness, and so on.

This could be of benefit to many, including therapists, life coaches, counselors, and so on. Similarly, you could have a more theoretical course on Buddhist Abhidharma psychology, with some adaptations on how to apply this in different contexts. You could also have a course on contemplative science, that will bring together Buddhist philosophy and psychology, meditation research, and happiness studies.

For example, I could see an entire course on anger management based on Shantideva’s Chapter on Patience.

In the academic year following this visit, Yangsi Rinpoche convened a group to explore the creation of mindfulness and compassion course curricula, and PHL331-332: Mindfulness and Compassion:Mahayana Buddhist and Scientific Approaches was offered in 2014-2015 for Maitripa College degree and continuing education students. Student evaluations to date have been positive. The Mindfulness & Compassion Initiative at Maitripa College is dedicated to furthering our realization of His Holiness’ advice.

The first phase of this Initiative will be focused on the assessment of feasible, responsible, and sustainable ways of growing our degree programs and public programs without losing a focus on our primary mission of obtaining accreditation. To this end, the Mindfulness & Compassion Initiative will develop in several stages and across various departments of the College.

Maitripa College intends to not only develop just another program in the mindfulness movement, but also believes that it is fundamental to integrate compassion with mindfulness in order to bring about ideal transformative benefits. Research in the past decade in medical, psychological, and sociological fields support the benefits for individuals and society of various mindfulness-based interventions and methods. While appreciating these contributions, influential leaders—including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Geshe Thubten Jinpa, researchers at the Mind and Life Institute, and various universities and secular mindfulness training programs—predict Compassion training will be the next major development. This corroborates Yangsi Rinpoche’s view about the great contributions that the Tibetan Buddhist tradition in particular can make to the world today, namely a contribution in the form of a compassionate revolution.

Relationship to the FPMT Five Pillars

Maitripa College, created as an offering to Lama Zopa and His Holiness the Dalai Lama by Yangsi Rinpoche, is honored to be an affiliate of FPMT and a supporter of FPMT vast visions for bringing benefit to the world. The Mindfulness & Compassion Initiative enables Maitripa to make greater contributions to the FPMT’s Five Pillars of Service.

The FPMT’s Five Pillars of Service are instantiates of the many ways centers and projects of the FPMT can contribute to the Vast Visions and expand the sphere of beneficial activities. Maitripa College is already offering Dharma, particularly in the form of precious and rare advanced, in-depth study and practices. Social/Community Service is a strong ethic in our community—with extensive community and public events facilitated by dozens of volunteers—and for our degree program students who all complete community service partnerships as part of their degree requirements. Maitripa College has also hosted multiple major Interfaith and Ecumenical Buddhist events, including a 2007 “Building Bridges, Building Wisdom” Buddhist – Christian dialogue, a 2013 “Interfaith Summit” with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the “Mahayana Lineages Symposium: The Heart Sutra” weekend with Buddhist leaders of various schools and lineages in 2013. Revenue generating activities are also critical to Maitripa’s sustainability, and have utilized a number of creative platforms to keep the College solvent. Maitripa College now intends to develop offerings within the fifth pillar, Universal Education for Wisdom and Compassion.

In accord with the Universal Education for Wisdom and Compassion (UE)  pillar and Lama Yeshe’s vision of UE, the Mindfulness & Compassion Initiative at Maitripa College could develop programs that are suitable for people of any age, culture, race, faith tradition, or secular orientation (universal), immediately applicable in everyday life (practical), affirmative of every person’s worth and potential (appreciative), encouraging of intellectual freedom (non-dogmatic), and promote holistic, contemplative learning methods that bring together intellect and the good heart (integrated).

Contemplative Learning and Assessment

Maitripa College has the unique and precious opportunity to be among the thought leaders shaping the field of contemplative education as it develops in the United States. Many of the goals of Centers for Teaching and Learning (CTL) nationwide and concepts delivered in Professional and Organizational Development are already encompassed in the Maitripa College Mission. In particular, a rising trend in higher education is a thirst for assessment measures of contemplative education.

Like other colleges and universities nationwide, which in the past decade have been subject to tremendous increase in the rigor of assessment expectations, Maitripa College will need to gather and analyze several years of student data in order to be prepared for a Regional Accreditation application in 2019. This student learning assessment data must evince both that program learning objectives are being met, and that where results are lower than desired, adjustments are being implemented and improvements achieved. Because Maitripa College is among the pioneers of holistic, contemplative education that aims to transform not only intellect, but also hearts and minds, we need cutting-edge assessment tools to quantify the impact of this type of education. In addition, the College also intends to designate time and support to staff to research the current models and trends in contemplative assessment, and to identify the tools the College can use or develop. Our Assessment project will properly articulate the aims of our educational programs and verify that the outcomes we intend are being met by our curricula.

The Mindfulness & Compassion Initiative will support the Contemplative Learning & Assessment Project through:

  • Staff education related to assessment in contemplative higher education
  • Staff time for research of national trends and the status of the current field of study
  • Staff support for analysis of the curriculum map for measurable outcomes
  • Faculty support for designing courses and assignments that contribute to contemplative program outcomes
  • Faculty professional development opportunities in contemplative pedagogy
  • Education of the community regarding strategic planning
  • Accreditation preparedness
  • Exploring innovative course planning and feasibility
  • Recruitment support with student and alumni data of success
  • Participation in national discourses in higher education regarding contemplative learning, through attendance at conferences, publications, etc.

Internal Strategic Development of the Mindfulness & Compassion Initiative

We continue to spend 20-30 hours per week of staff time developing new and revolutionary Maitripa College Contemplative Learning and Assessment systems headed by Jacob Lindsley (Maitripa IT Coordinator) and Alfredo Piñeiro (Senior IT Supervisor) in partnership with Leigh Miller (Director of Programs) and Namdrol Miranda Adams (Dean of Education) in accordance with an overhaul of the degree program learning outcomes in preparation for Regional Accreditation for the College

We continue to seek professional development for our faculty and staff and develop our contacts in the emerging field of contemplative education as we seek to position Maitripa College within this field

Please email Namdrol at [email protected] to receive future updates about the Mindfulness & Compassion Initiative at Maitripa College.