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Spokane Collaboration Creates “Friends of Compassion”

Led by members of Downtown Rotary Club 21 of Spokane, Washington, and Sravasti Abbey of Newport, a diverse cross-section of the Spokane community has spent the last several months preparing an invitation to His Holiness the Dalai Lama to visit their city for three days of teachings and events. Ven. Thubten Chodron, Sravasti’s Abbess, hand-delivered the invitation to His Holiness when he visited New York in late May.

Though the sponsors have recently learned that His Holiness is unable to accept the invitation at this time, enthusiasm remains undiminished for a proposed two-year plan to explore ways of applying the values of kindness and compassion in community life. Spearheaded by John Hancock, Project Chair for Downtown Rotary 21, in collaboration with Sravasti Abbey, the project will go forth under the name “Friends of Compassion”.

Local business leaders, people of diverse faiths, members of city government, social service providers, educators, and others participated in the earlier discussions. Though they brought different vocabularies and experience to the conversation, they have found they share similar ideals and common goals.

The broad objective of “Friends of Compassion” will be to meet local needs and enhance community life through compassionate action. According to Hancock, the central question to be addressed is, “How can institutions, not just persons, act compassionately?”

The combination of Rotarians and Tibetan Buddhist nuns isn’t one that readily springs to mind. Rotary Club 21 became acquainted with Ven. Chodron when a Rotary member, having read of her work with prison inmates in Washington State and elsewhere, suggested the group invite her to speak at one of their regular meetings. After addressing the commonalities of the Buddhist 8-Fold Path and the Rotarian 4-Way Test, she received a standing ovation.

Rotary Club 21 has made a grant to Sravasti Abbey to help distribute videotapes of Ven. Chodron’s teachings to prisons throughout the United States. The grant enabled the Abbey to purchase duplicating equipment.

According to the recently launched “Friends of Compassion” website ( Spokane’s Rotary Club 21 is one of the largest worldwide, with about 350 members. Founded in 1910, its mission is to promote “Service Above Self”.

For more information about Rotary Club 21, please visit:
To learn more about Sravasti Abbey, see
Information about “Friends of Compassion” c/o John Hancock, Project Chair
Downtown Rotary 21, (509)244-8559 and

Contributor: Julie Welch.
Graphics: Courtesy of Rotary International and Wikipedia.