Untitled) Two Brains, Kiki Smith, 1994, lithograph with collaged lithographs on two attached sheets of handmade Japanese paper, 29.5 × 39 inches; © 1994 by Kiki Smith
Untitled) Two Brains, Kiki Smith, 1994, lithograph with collaged lithographs on two attached sheets of handmade Japanese paper, 29.5 × 39 inches; © 1994 by Kiki Smith

Since 1987 the Dalai Lama has met biennially with small groups of Western scientists to talk about the nature of mind and reality, and to plan collaborative research between science and Buddhism. These sessions, organized by the Mind and Life Institute, are designed to explore not only what Buddhism and modern science can learn from each other but also what they can learn by working together. Studies sponsored by Mind and Life are beginning to unravel the brain mechanisms underlying contemplative practice, providing scientific validation of the beneficial effects of meditation practice.

Tricycle checked in with the Mind and Life Institute for an update on these studies. Seven board members (see box below) took a break from a planning session at Princeton University to sit down with Tricycle’s James Shaheen and Joan Duncan Oliver. The conversation ranged from the institute’s recent findings on the demonstrable effect of meditation on brain function to the potential of Buddhism to advance the efforts of modern psychology. As Mind and Life board member Daniel Goleman explains: “His Holiness said, ‘Take the methods of Buddhism and test them rigorously and scientifically. If you validate them, share them widely. If they can help alleviate suffering, they shouldn’t just be for Buddhists—they should be everyone.’” 

Roundtable Participants:
R. Adam Engle, J.D., M.B.A., chairman and cofounder of the Mind and Life Institute

Richard J. Davidson
, Ph.D., director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience and the W.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

Daniel Goleman
, Ph.D., psychologist and author of such books as the best seller Emotional Intelligence, and two works based on Mind and Life proceedings, Destructive Emotions and Healing Emotions


Jon Kabat-Zinn
, Ph.D., professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health, Care and Society

Matthieu Ricard
, Ph.D., cellular biologist and a Tibetan Buddhist monk at Shechen Monastery in Kathmandu

Bennett M. Shapiro
, M.D., former executive vice president of Merck Research Laboratories and former chair of the biochemistry department at the University of Washington

B. Alan Wallace, Ph.D., president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies and a former Tibetan Buddhist monk

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