SCENCE & RELIGION The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford

“I truly believe compassion provides the basis of human survival, the real value of life, without that there is a basic piece missing. We cannot be happy ourselves without thinking about the happiness of others.”        

-His Holiness, The Dalai Lama 

The origins of Project Compassion can be traced to Dr. James Doty, a Stanford neurosurgeon, entrepreneur and philanthropist who originated the concept of a rigorous multi-disciplinary scientific effort at Stanford directed at understanding the neural, mental and social bases of compassion and altruism and provided the initial funding for the endeavor. This can be traced to his longstanding interest in the fundamental motivations of individuals to do good.  

This interest was further spurred by the historic visit by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Stanford University in October of 2005, a visit hosted by the Stanford School of Medicine through the leadership of Dean Philip A. Pizzo and the Stanford Office of Religious Life headed by Rev. Scotty McLennan. A highpoint of this visit was a scientific dialogue between scientists – representing such diverse fields as neuroscience, psychology, and medical science – with the Dalai Lama and other contemplative scholars on a range of questions pertaining to human suffering, especially depression, as well as the problem of craving and addiction.  

This dialogue, moderated by Dr. William Mobley, former Professor of Neurology and former Director of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute, had the important consequence of recognizing that a deep engagement between science, especially in the cognitive science disciplines of neuroscience and psychology, Buddhism and other contemplative traditions could make significant contribution towards a deeper understanding of many important aspects of the human mind and emotion. Following this visit, Mr. Tenzin Tethong, a Distinguished Fellow of the Tibetan Studies Initiative at Stanford, continued to promote the concept of an ongoing dialogue between science and His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Stanford. 

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