Our Mission
Bridging science and contemplative wisdom
to foster insight and inspire action toward flourishing.

At the Mind & Life Institute, we bring science and contemplative wisdom together to better understand the mind and create positive change in the world. At this critical moment in history, we’re expanding our reach beyond individual well-being to focus on societal flourishing and interconnection.

Our mission has evolved in response to a global crisis of disconnection: from loneliness and isolation to racism and tribalism, our disconnection from one another is causing tremendous suffering for people and the planet. We believe that this crisis starts in the human mind—and that the solution can start there, as well. Through grantmaking, convenings, and strategic partnerships, we seek to foster healthy human connections.

For over 30 years, Mind & Life has forged a dialogue about how science and contemplative wisdom can break down barriers within us and between us. As we deepen and expand that work, our hope is to spark a global transformation toward a society where we embrace our shared humanity.


Our Values

Compassion: We aspire to relieve suffering through open-hearted and wise action.

Integrity: We commit to be consistently equitable, trustworthy, transparent, and respectful.

Curiosity: We explore with a sense of humility and courage, embracing the innovation and creativity that comes out of the unknown.

Inclusion: In intention and action, we embrace diverse perspectives and backgrounds that enrich our knowledge and broaden our community.

Excellence: We seek to reach our highest potential in all that we do through rigor and reflection.


Our Roots

Mind & Life emerged in 1987 from a meeting of three visionaries: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama—the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and a global advocate for compassion; Francisco Varela, a scientist and philosopher; and Adam Engle, a lawyer and entrepreneur.

The trio understood that science was the dominant framework for investigating the nature of reality, and the modern source for knowledge that could help improve life for people and the planet. And they wondered: what greater impact could science have if it were combined with the transformative power of contemplative wisdom?

While science relies on empiricism, technology, “objective” observation, and analysis, the Dalai Lama, Varela, and Engle were convinced that well-refined contemplative practices and introspective methods could be used as equal instruments of investigation. They saw the potential not only to make science itself more humane, but also to ensure its conclusions were far-reaching. They formed the Mind & Life Institute to bridge this divide and advance human well-being.


Watch the recording of our 2020 President’s Call Webinar >>
Read about our expanding vision in the 2020 President’s Letter >>
Learn about our work in the Mind & Life Institute 2018 Annual Report >>