2013 – XXVII


with His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India – October 28 – November 1, 2013

The mission of the Mind & Life Institute is to alleviate suffering and to promote human flourishing. We seek to achieve these broad goals in specific ways, especially by bringing together scientists, contemplatives, and scholars in order to deepen our insights into the causes of suffering and the means by which we can support human life at its most holistic.

Desire is a natural part of life that provides the motivating force for our achievements. Our highest aspirations are animated by desire. Yet, when desire becomes obsession or craving, we cross over into the territory of suffering. What before was an aid to accomplishment can devolve into a source of personal anguish and social violence. Behavioral and substance addictions are the expression of desires that have become obsessions. The harmful patterns of addiction take a profound toll on both the individual and society. Addiction to alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs, for example, is estimated to cost the United States $600 billion per year.

The Mind & Life Institute has chosen to focus its attention on craving, desire, and addiction, as these are among the most pressing causes of human suffering. By bringing contemplative practitioners and scholars from Buddhist and Christian traditions together with a broad array of scientific researchers in the fields of desire and addiction, we hope new understandings will arise that may ultimately lead to improved treatment of the root causes of craving and its many manifestations. . We have assembled a remarkable group of Dialogue participants who will bring first-person perspectives to the table, along with research into the experiential, neural, and sociological underpinnings of craving, desire, and addiction. These contributions will be complemented by ideas and input from contemplative traditions focused on desire and craving and the means by which obsessions can be met and transformed.

Human potential is boundless, yet we often falter, unintentionally causing suffering to ourselves and others, because of our uncontrolled or misguided desires. Through an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other prominent Tibetan Buddhist scholars, we hope to further the flourishing of human potential and mitigate suffering by discovering better ways to transform or temper the intense desires that challenge each of us.


Program and Schedule of Events (PDF)

Opening Remarks

Opening remarks by Mind and Life President Arthur Zajonc

Video Archive

Click here to watch an archive of the live webcast on Youtube


Day One – The Problem of Craving and Addiction
Morning Session: Introductory remarks
Afternoon sessions: The Role of Craving in the Cycle of Addictive Behavior

Day Two – Cognitive and Buddhist Theory
Morning session: Brain Generators of Intense Wanting and Liking
Afternoon session: Psychology of Desire, Craving, and Action: A Buddhist Perspective

Day Three – Biological and Cultural Views
Morning Session: The Role of Dopamine in the Addicted Human Brain
Afternoon Session: Beyond the Individual – The Role of Society and Culture in Addiction

Day Four – Contemplative Perspectives
Morning Session: From Craving to Freedom and Flourishing: Buddhist Perspectives on Desire
Afternoon Session: Contemplative Christianity, Desire, and Addiction

Day Five – Into the World
Morning Session: Application of Contemplative Practices in Treatment of Addiction
Afternoon Session: Concluding Remarks