The Mind & Life Institute will host the Dalai Lama in partnership with Amherst and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst for a three-day visit to western Massachusetts in October 2015.

This visit will focus on a global framework for incorporating care and compassion into education, and will culminate in a public lecture at the University of Amherst on October 25th. Read the press release here.

Tickets for this event will go on sale in the fall. We will announce further information once it is available. To stay up to date on the latest news from the Mind & Life Institute, please sign up for our mailing list or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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The Mind and Life Dialogues began in 1987 as a joint quest between scientists, philosophers, and contemplatives to investigate the mind, develop a more complete understanding of the nature of reality, and promote well-being on the planet. Originally conceived as small, private talks between the Dalai Lama and a few scientists and scholars, the Dialogues have since grown to include large public conferences that have embraced a variety of contemporary topics including physics and cosmology, neuroplasticity, addiction, education, altruism, economics, and ethics. These Dialogues will expand as Mind and Life grows to include Europe, Asia, and beyond.

Past Dialogues


Location: Dharamsala, India

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Kent Berridge; Sarah Bowen; Richard Davidson; Wendy Farley; Vibeke Asmussen Frank; Roshi Joan Halifax; Thupten Jinpa; Marc Lewis; Matthieu Ricard; Nora Volkow; Diana Chapman Walsh; Arthur Zajonc

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. 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.


Location: Mundgod, India

Participants:  Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Michel Bitbol; Khen Rinpoche Jangchup Choeden; Richard Davidson; Sona Dimidjian; James R. Doty; John Durant; Anne Harrington; Wendy Hasenkamp; Thupten Jinpa; Bryce Johnson; Geshe Lhakdor; Rajesh Kasturirangan; Christof Koch; Geshe Dadul Namgyal; Lobsang Tenzin Negi; Matthieu Ricard; Geshe Ngawang Samten; Tania Singer; Aaron Stern; Diana Chapman Walsh; Carol Worthman; Arthur Zajonc

This landmark six-day event, convened at the specific request of the Dalai Lama, brought together 20 of the world’s foremost scientists and philosophers with senior Tibetan scholars. Several thousand monks and nuns from numerous Tibetan monastic centers of learning were in attendance. In addition to critically engaging in important questions of mutual interest and challenge such as the fundamental nature of our physical world, the problem of consciousness, the nature and workings of our mind, and the interface of contemplative practice and scientific research, this conference also aimed to offer an educational forum, whereby the monastic students could learn about the historical development of science, and how science has come to shape the way we understand our world.


Location: New York, New York

Participants: Richard Davidson, Anne Harrington, Alfred Kaszniak, Bruce McEwen, Clifford Saron, Jimmie Holland, Lis Nielsen, Matthieu Ricard, David Spiegel

For some years now, there has been a great deal of interest in the ways that contemplative practices with roots in spiritual traditions may also provide a range of emotional and physical benefits to practitioners. We now have a substantial body of experimental and clinical work focused both on outcomes and on the neural, cognitive, and affective markers of changes resulting from practice. It is often assumed that these data have a great deal to offer the world of psychotherapy, stress management and what some call “wellness” practices — so much so that some now speak of an emerging field of “clinical contemplative science.” But how relevant really are the laboratory data for the real-world complexities of health maintenance and enhancement? Does the fact that we might measure changes in response to distressing images in a laboratory study have any bearing on how well-being can be enhanced in real world contexts? When persons undergo training in mindfulness meditation in the context of a supportive community of fellow travelers searching for better health, do we know enough to say that the meditation practice is the critical ingredient in any improvement they might experience? How does the current “medicalization” of meditation affect patients or potential patients coming from religious traditions where contemplative practice is either central, or regarded with suspicion?


Location: Rochester, Minnesota

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso the 14th Dalai Lama; Thorsten Barnhofer; Willoughby Britton; Richard J. Davidson; Norm Farb; Thupten Jinpa; Baljinder Sahdra; David Vargo; Helen Weng

In this private dialogue, six young scientists were chosen to represent the Francisco J. Varela Awards program, a catalyst for seeding the field with young scientists investigating contemplative practice. These researchers, representing a new generation of scientists, presented the Dalai Lama with their recent research outcomes.

Location: Dharamsala, India

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Dekila Chungyalpa;  John Dunne; Daniel Goleman; Roshi Joan Halifax; Thupten Jinpa; the Karmapa; Diana Liverman; Sallie McFague; Gregory Norris; Clare Palmer; Jonathan Patz; Matthieu Ricard; Elke Weber

The slow meltdown of Earth’s capacity to sustain much of life, as we know it, poses an urgent challenge for both spiritual traditions and science. These two ways of knowing have developed distinctive responses, which are potentially synergistic. The goal of the meeting is to provide an opportunity to articulate an engaged environmental ethics. This would include the understanding of interdependence through an examination of the most recent data on the scientific case for effective ecological action. Furthermore, it will be a unique opportunity to meet with other faith traditions that have arrived at a religious basis for motivating environmental activism. A dialogue between contemplative scholars, activists, and ecological scientists could enrich the response to our planetary crisis. Our hope is that this conference will be a significant catalyst for the formulation of new research ideas in these fields, and solutions to our planetary crisis.


Location: New Delhi, India

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Swami Atmapryiananda; Richard Davidson;  John Dunne; Adam Engle; BN Gangadhar; Daniel Goleman; Thupten Jinpa; Abdul Kalam; Rajesh Kasturirangan; Muni Mahendra Kumar; Rajiv Mehrotra; Aditya Murthy; HR Nagendra;  Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad; VS Ramamurthy; Viji Ravindranath; Matthieu Ricard; Geshe Ngawang Samten; Wolf Singer; PN Tandon; Shirley Telles; Kapila Vatsyayan

The impetus for this Mind and Life meeting stems from the Dalai Lama’s wish to have a Mind and Life meeting in Asia, particularly India. To this end, the conference brings together scientists, philosophers, and contemplative scholars and practitioners to discuss the benefits of contemplative science. In doing so, it provides a context for scientists and contemplatives in India to explore contemplative practices in the new, interdisciplinary ways that are currently emerging.


Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Thupten Jinpa; Richard J. Davidson;  John Dunne; Barbara L. Fredrickson; Antoine Lutz; Matthieu Ricard; Sharon Salzberg; Clifford Saron

As part of the grand opening of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, the Dalai Lama, along with contemplatives and contemplative scholars, engaged in a dialogue with scientists envisioned in the style of a working lab meeting. In a session to update His Holiness on the latest scientific discoveries, presenters outlined recent research findings as well as obstacles and challenges.

Location: Zurich, Switzerland

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Thupten Jinpa;  Daniel Batson; Richard Davidson;  John Dunne;  R. Adam Engle; Ernst Fehr;  William George;  Roshi Joan Halifax; Diego Hangartner; William Harbaugh; Antoinette Hunziker-Ebneter; Lord Richard Layaard; Matthieu Ricard; Sanjit Bunker Roy; Gert Scobel; Joan Silk; Tania Singer; Arthur Vayloyan

This conference facilitated dialogue between Buddhist contemplatives, economists, and scientists who have been exploring a new understanding of the role of psychology, emotion, and human values in economic systems under the rubric of neuro-economics.

Classic economic theory is based on the assumption that humans are self-interested and rational actors, and casts doubt on the very existence of altruism. New research in both economics and neuroscience reveals a much richer and more complex picture of humanity, where altruism and compassion are not only part of the equation but also can be encouraged and learned. Further, research is revealing that pro-social behavior is critical for the survival of humanity, while egoistic and non-altruistic behavior are antithetical to human well-being. These findings have profound implications for public policy and the shaping of future institutions, even as the recent global financial crisis shows how vulnerable economic systems are to negative human behaviors such as corruption and greed.


Location: Washington, D.C.

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Peter L. Benson; Martin Brokenleg; Ronald E. Dahl; Richard Davidson; Marian Wright Edelman; Linda Darling-Hammond; Jacquelyn Eccles; Nancy Eisenberg; Adam Engle; Daniel Goleman; Mark Greenberg; Roshi Joan Halifax; Takao Hensch; Thupten Jinpa; Anne Carolyn Klein; Linda Lantieri; Kathleen McCartney; Matthew Ricard; Lee S. Shulman

How can our educational system evolve to meet the challenges of the 21st century? How will we educate people to be compassionate, competent, ethical, and engaged citizens in an increasingly complex and interconnected world? The urgent challenges of a globalized and interdependent world demand a new vision of world citizenship that is not confined to national boundaries, but encompasses moral and ethical responsibilities to all humanity.


Location: Dharamsala, India

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Adele Diamond; Shaun Gallagher; Rupert Gethin; Amishi Jha; David E. Meyer; Elizabeth Phelps; Clifford Saron; Anne Treisman; B. Alan Wallace

The discussions during this Dialogue will primarily focus on the subjective phenomenology, information-processing operations, and neural mechanisms of attention, memory, and conscious awareness from both scientific and Buddhist perspectives. Special attention will be focused on the distinctive characteristics and interactions of attention, memory, and metacognition as seen from diverse viewpoints, including the possibility of multiple dimensions of awareness (not limiting the discussion to the familiar categories of the conscious and subconscious mind), and the relationship between the entire spectrum of human information processing, awareness, and the world of experience (Lebenswelt) as a whole. We anticipate that this exploration will lead to further systematic plans for groundbreaking empirical and theoretical research on meditation and contemplative practice at the interface between science and Buddhism.


Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Richard J. Davidson; John Dunne; Brent A. Field; Joseph Goldstein; R. Adam Engle; Amishi P. Jha; Thupten Jinpa; Antoine Lutz; Matthieu Ricard; Clifford Saron; Tania Singer; B. Alan Wallace; Jonathan Cohen

Private Dialogue

Location: Rochester, Minnesota

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Linda E. Carlson; Richard Davidson; Daniel Goleman; Roshi Joan Halifax; Jon Kabat-Zinn; Matthieu Ricard

This Dialogue reviews the current science and clinical applications of meditation, and identifies new lines of research on clinical applications of contemplative practices such as meditation within medicine. New scientific studies are beginning to show that meditation may have specific beneficial effects for helping patients cope with certain diseases and the stress associated with them, particularly chronic diseases; and that biological processes underlying some of these diseases may be affected in beneficial ways by the practice of meditation.


Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Richard Davidson; John Dunne; Thupten Jinpa; Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi; Helen S. Mayberg; Charles B. Nemeroff; Robert A. Paul; Charles L. Raison; Zindel V. Segal

In contemporary behavioral science, the general term “depression” covers a wide range of some of the most striking and prevalent forms of mental suffering in the world today. Within the broad spectrum of depression, some forms are relatively well understood. This Dialogue builds on that understanding to further examine the nature of depression and explore the possibility that some meditative practices may be helpful in its treatment or prevention.

Location: Dharamsala, India

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Dorji Damdul; Richard Davidson; John Dunne; Paul Ekman; Adam Engle; Martha Farah; George Greenstein; Thupten Jinpa; Matthieu Ricard; Bennett Shapiro; Wolf Singer; Evan Thompson; Anton Zeilinger; Arthur Zajonc

In addition to being a scientific autobiography, the Dalai Lama’s book The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality highlights those issues he feels are most important in the “convergence of science and spirituality.” In his book, the Dalai Lama includes ethical, philosophical, and metaphysical reflections prompted by science. These issues and questions will form the focus of this Dialogue, and will become the foundation on which a group of scientists will develop a deeper dialogue with the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist scholar-practitioners.


Location: Washington, D.C.

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Ajahn Amaro; Jan Chozen Bays; Richard J. Davidson; John J. DeGioia; R. Adam Engle; Joan Halifax; Thupten Jinpa; Jon Kabat-Zinn; Thomas Keating; Margaret E. Kemeny; Jack Kornfield; Helen S. Mayberg; Edward D. Miller; Matthieu Ricard; Sharon Salzberg; Robert Sapolsky; Zindel V. Segal; Bennett M. Shapiro; David S. Sheps; John F. Sheridan; Wolf Singer; Ralph Snyderman; Esther M. Sternberg; John Teasdale; B. Alan Wallace

Though still in the early stages, there have been efforts to scientifically study the clinical application of meditative practices as well as the physiological effects of meditation in both novice and advanced practitioners. This Dialogue is a further opportunity for some of the scientists who have contributed most to this field to present their approaches to the Dalai Lama and a panel of other scientists and contemplatives. This exchange will also provide an opportunity for scientists whose basic research is focused on mind-brain-body interaction to learn more about meditation and to contribute to an ongoing dialogue about the mechanisms by which meditation may be affecting our physical and mental health.


Location: Dharamsala, India

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Richard Davidson; Adam Engle; Fred H. Gage; Thupten Jinpa; Michael J. Meaney; Kazuo Murakami; Helen J. Neville; Matthieu Ricard; Phillip R. Shaver; Evan Thompson; B. Alan Wallace

Neuroplasticity refers to structural and functional changes in the brain that are brought about by training and experience. The brain is the organ that is designed to change in response to experience. Neuroscience and psychological research over the past decade on this topic have burgeoned and are leading to new insights about the many ways in which the brain, behavior, and experience change in response to experience. This basic issue is being studied at many different levels, in different species, and on different time scales. Yet all of the work invariably leads to the conclusion that the brain is not static but rather is dynamically changing and undergoes such changes throughout one’s entire life. The scientists assembled for this meeting represent the various levels of analysis in which these questions are being pursued. Research on structural plasticity will reveal how the literal composition of the adult mammalian brain is constantly changing, and will show the factors that influence these changes.

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Ajahn Amaro; Marlene Behrmann; Jonathan Cohen; Richard J. Davidson; Georges Dreyfus; John Duncan; R. Adam Engle; Daniel Gilbert; Anne Harrington; Thupten Jinpa; Jerome Kagan; Daniel Kahneman; Nancy Kanwisher; Stephen M. Kosslyn; Dacher Keltner; Eric Lander; David E. Meyer; Matthieu Ricard; Daniel Reisberg; Evan Thompson; Phillip A. Sharp; Anne Treisman; Charles M. Vest; B. Alan Wallace; Arthur Zajonc

From its inception Buddhism has probed the nature of mind, using the mind itself as its instrument of investigation, especially with the aid of refined meditation methods. For the past millennium, Tibetan Buddhists have pursued this investigation in monastic universities with rigor and exacting scholarship. Until now, science has been skeptical of this course of investigation because of its subjectivity — the use of the mind to investigate itself. Today, however, especially with the development of new technology, the biobehavioral sciences (neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, biomedicine) are in the process of extending their methods in search of ever-bolder approaches to studying the workings of the human mind. This Dialogue will consist of three sessions that address empirical findings about three aspects of mind that have been addressed by both Buddhism and biobehavioral science: attention and cognitive control, emotion, and mental imagery.

Location: Dharamsala, India

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Michel Bitbol; Steven Chu; Ursula Goodenough; Thupten Jinpa; Eric Lander; Pier Luigi Luisi; Matthieu Ricard; B. Alan Wallace; Arthur Zajonc

At the outset of his famous 1943 lecture What Is Life?, the physicist Erwin Schrödinger posed the question, “Can that which takes place inside a living organism be accounted for by physics and chemistry?” In this Dialogue, we explore the perennial question concerning the nature of life and its relationship to matter. Schrödinger’s question is asked once again, but within a broader and modern context. We explore his question through those sciences — physics, chemistry, and biology — that have occupied themselves directly with this inquiry. In addition, we examine the foundational assumptions on which the modern theories of life depend, and the implications of these for the very definition of life we employ and the ethics we adopt for the use of the awesome biological technologies under development.

Location: Madison, Wisconsin 

Participants: Tenzin Gyatson, the 14th Dalai Lama; Richard Davidson; Paul Ekman; Thupten Jinpa; Jon Kabat-Zinn; Antoine Lutz; Michael M. Merzenich; Matthieu Ricard; Francisco J. Varela; B. Alan Wallace

This Dialogue presents an overview of modern methods for investigating human brain function, and discussions of the application of these methods to understand the changes produced by meditation practice.

Location: Dharamsala, India

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Richard Davidson; Paul Ekman; Owen Flanagan; Mark Greenberg; Thupten Jinpa; Matthieu Ricard; Jeanne L Tsai; Francisco J. Varela; B. Allan Wallace

This Dialogue explores a perennial human predicament: the nature and destructive potential of “negative” emotions; for example, when jealousy turns into murderous rage. The Buddhist tradition has long pointed out that recognizing and transforming negative emotions lies at the heart of spiritual practice. From the perspective of science, these same emotional states pose a perplexing challenge. These are brain responses that have shaped the human mind and presumably played a key role in human survival but now, in modern life, they pose grave dangers to our individual and collective fate. In examining the nature of emotions and when they become “destructive,” distinctive answers come from Buddhist and Western philosophy. From the perspective of affective neuroscience and evolutionary theory, the destructive emotions are seen within the wider context of the full human range, such as maternal love, pleasure seeking, and defense — functions that have shaped the neural architecture that now forms the basis of our emotional repertoire.

Location: Innsbruck, Austria

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Thupten Jinpa; Arthur Zajonc; Anton Zeilinger

The purpose of this Dialogue is to compare the epistemologies of two major intellectual traditions: Western science culminating in modern quantum physics, and Eastern contemplative sciences as represented by Tibetan Buddhism. What are the roles of observer and consciousness? Are there fundamental limits to what can be said about the world? What are the foundations of cognition and experience in the natural sciences?

Location: Dharamsala, India

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; David Ritz Finkelstein; George Greenstein; Piet Hut; Thupten Jinpa; B. Alan Wallace; Tu Weiming; Arthur Zajonc; Anton Zeilinger

This Dialogue explores contemporary understandings of the natural world that have arisen through groundbreaking advances in physics and astrophysics made during the 20th century. These advances have exerted a profound influence on our conception of the world, changing it fundamentally from the views that reigned until the end of the 19th century. For example, through the careful study of atomic processes, quantum physics has raised deep epistemological and ontological questions, which are addressed with great sophistication and profundity in the Madhyamaka view expounded in Tibetan Buddhism. Likewise, general relativity, when taken together with recent discoveries concerning the distribution and movement of stars, has fundamentally transformed our understandings of space, time, and the evolution of the universe.

Location: Dharamsala, India

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Richard Davidson; Nancy Eisenberg; Robert Frank; Anne Harrington; Thupten Jinpa; Eliot Sober; Ervin Staub; B. Alan Wallace

This Dialogue focuses on the study of altruism and compassion in Western science. It addresses these topics from a highly multidisciplinary perspective since altruism and compassion are clearly significant for both the social and life sciences. A historical perspective on the role of compassion in science, and the bias in the study of negative rather than positive psychological states in the behavioral sciences, are first considered. The role of altruism in evolutionary biology is examined, and its relevance to understanding human motivation is discussed. The characteristics that determine whether people help other people in need will be another focus.

Location: Dharamsala, India

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Jerome Engel; Jayne Gackenbach; Roshi Joan Halifax; Thupten Jinpa; Joyce McDougall; Charles Taylor; Francisco J. Varela; B. Alan Wallace

The topic of this Dialogue focuses on the delicate areas of sleeping, dreaming, and dying. The meeting brings to discussion those “marginal states” in which our habitual, reified sense of personal identity is challenged, and in which concomitantly a host of phenomena of great significance for human existence become intensified or are made manifest. Current knowledge about the strictly neuroscientific correlates of sleeping and dreaming is presented. However, the multidimensional nature of these states requires other approaches of research, which are presented as well.

Location: Dharamsala, India

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Daniel Brown; Daniel Goleman; Thupten Jinpa; Jon Kabat-Zinn; Sharon Salzberg; Clifford Saron; Francisco J. Varela; B. Alan Wallace; Lee Yearley

The topic of this Dialogue is the role of emotional states in physical health. Over the past 2,500 years, Buddhists have explored this topic through contemplative practices and logical analysis. Their research has been conducted within the context of spiritual disciplines aimed at the release from physical and mental suffering. The principal means for pursuing this end are the identification and dispelling of mental afflictions such as delusion, hatred, and greed, which are regarded as instrumental in producing suffering. Contemplative practices are the traditional vehicle for countering afflictive mind states.

Location: Newport Beach, California

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Patricia Smith Churchland; Antonio R. Damasio; J. Allan Hobston; Thupten Jinpa; Lewis L. Judd; Robert B. Livingston; Larry R. Squire; B. Allan Wallace

Buddhism and neuroscience have parallel but quite distinct traditions for examining consciousness and its relation to the body. These traditions go back at least 2,500 years to the Buddha and Hippocrates. While both disciplines place great emphasis on experience and reason, their methods of research and verification are radically different. While neuroscience examines mind-brain processes largely objectively, using increasingly sophisticated technology, Buddhism pursues its research chiefly by enhancing stability and clarity of subjective awareness, and directs that awareness toward the exploration of cognitive events and other phenomena. Each discipline has its own clearly prescribed techniques for testing hypotheses. However, due to their radically different methodologies and isolation from one another, their views have remained quite disparate and incommensurable all these centuries. This Dialogue confronts the question: Are these disciplines simply incompatible, or might they rather be regarded as complementary? Are there scientific ways of testing Buddhist theories and Buddhist ways of testing Western science?

Location: Dharamsala, India

Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Newcomb Greenleaf; Jeremy Hayward; Thupten Jinpa; Robert B. Livingston; Eleanor Rosch; Francisco J. Varela; B. Allan Wallace

This groundbreaking meeting, which began the Dialogue series, was inspired by a shared interest in opening a conversation between Buddhist thought and cognitive science to mutually inform and enrich these two distinct modes of exploring existence.