Merging Universal Values with Modern Education
~ Meeting Pam Cayton

‘Values such as kindness, generosity, compassion, humility, are not Buddhist values, they are universal.’

Universal Education was a vision of Lama Thupten Yeshe. The educational organization that was founded to realize this vision aims to merge universal values in education, and Pam Cayton has been actively involved in its flourishing over last 20 years.

She founded the ‘Tara Redwood School” in Santa Cruz, California, has published ‘Compassion in Education’ and runs the international program ‘Creating Compassionate Cultures’ (CCC). This blog focuses on Pam Cayton’s approach working with children at Tara Redwood School, however there are many Universal Education projects developing in a variety of domains such as businesses, parenting, psychology, and therapy across the globe.

Pamela Cayton has developed a framework used in Universal Education entitled “The 7 Steps of Developing Strength, Wisdom and Compassion.” This methodology starts with asking ourselves ‘What we really want?’ and finishing with ‘Compassion in Action’. 

One of the first questions Pam asks her children is “What do you really want?”, “What kind of classroom do you want to come to each day?”, “Do you want to come to a classroom where children don’t share toys? Or where classmate are happy for you to come and play with them?”

While the answers seem obvious, Pam Cayton emphasizes the importance to guide children to access their inner wisdom and set the intention to fulfill their wishes. Although Pam could just tell the children that they should be kind, she asks them “Why should you be kind?” These questions help create a conducive space for children to access their inner wisdom and explore their inner values. Children come up with these qualities that are basic human values. This nurtures children’s natural empathy and wish to make a positive difference in the world.

Pam’s wish is for all children to have guidance to gain access to these inner qualities that become their inner compass. Mainstream education teaches children in a very fragmented way: Languages/ Math/ Science, all in separate blocs. Pam Cayton’s explains that teaching in a holistic way enables to nurture an awareness in the children.  

“If you could teach children the way things exist (interconnected and impermanent), then what would arise out of that would be a healthy emotional state of mind.” 
~ Pam Cayton

The Seven Steps to Knowledge, Strength, and Compassion


1. Mindful Intention
What do I really want? 
Explore the dynamic psychology of our daily lives and the impact of developing our awareness of what we really want, how we can achieve it, and how to avoid habitual behaviors that thwart our happiness.

2. Interconnection
Everything is connected 

Examine the interconnected nature of our world, how the global impacts the personal, and our thoughts and actions directly affect ourselves, others, and the environment.

3. Change
Everything changes 

Recognize the freedom that comes by understanding the pervasive nature of change and the endless possibilities available to us in every moment.

4. Perception
My mind creates my reality 

Develop understanding of the nature of perception through exploring neuroscience, psychology and ancient wisdom to discover how we create our view of ourselves and the world.

5. Transformation
Transforming harmful emotions 

Experience the nature of emotion and the freedom to choose responses that will impact our lives and the lives of those around us in a positive way.

6. Empathy
Extend your understanding to others 

Awaken empathy by observing the universal wish for happiness, realizing the kindness of many and recognizing how fortunate we are to be able to make a positive difference in the world.

7. Compassion
Put your compassion into action! 

Take action to use our new found inspiration and empowerment in positive and beneficial acts towards others and ourselves.


To learn more about Pam Cayton’s work, Universal Education, and the “7 Steps of Developing Strength, Wisdom and Compassion,” explore the following resources:

A video interview with Pam on Universal Education for Compassion and Wisdom.

This blog is partly based on a meeting and interview with Pam Cayton at the Vajrayogini Institute (Institut Vajra Yogini) in the south of France in August 2016 by Lola Odessey Waters and Michael Ash of The Yogini Project.