Dalai Lama-backed Institute Honors Meditation Researcher Clifford Saron

Photo of folded hands of meditating monk

The Mind & Life Institute, a nonprofit organization co-founded by the Dalai Lama, recently featured UC Davis neuroscientist Clifford Saron in a blog tribute.

Portrait photo of UC Davis meditation researcher
Clifford Saron

Saron, a research scientist at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain in the College of Letters and Science, studies the long-term effects of intensive meditation.

Last November, he received the Mind & Life Institute’s inaugural Service Award at the International Symposium for Contemplative Research in Phoenix, Arizona, for his nearly 30 years of collaboration. “His heart, mind, wisdom and brilliance are woven throughout the fabric of our work,” institute President Susan Bauer-Wu said at the time.

The Mind & Life Institute, founded to integrate science with contemplative practices, grew out of a 1987 meeting between American entrepreneur R. Adam Engle, Chilean neuroscientist Francisco Varela and the Dalai Lama.

In November 1990, Saron presented research findings from his collaboration with neuroscientist Richard Davidson at the third Mind & Life Dialogue with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. At the event, Saron and colleagues began envisioning a neuroscience study of the mental abilities of Tibetan monks.

“My life changed. It was like all of my interests came into a single basket,” Saron said in the May 14 blog feature, “Clifford Saron: Embracing the Mystery.”

Since 2003 Saron has directed the large collaborative Shamatha Project, the most comprehensive longitudinal study of the effects of meditation on the physiological and psychological processes related to attention, emotion regulation and health. The study has been endorsed by the Dalai Lama.

Over the past three decades, Saron has been active in Mind & Life, presenting at its annual dialogues with the Dalai Lama and other leading thinkers, giving lectures at its International Symposia for Contemplative Research, and teaching at its Summer Research Institutes. He has served on advisory committees, reviewed grants and, in the early days, recorded the archival videography of these unique meetings at the Dalai Lama’s residence in McLeod Ganj, India.

— Kathleen Holder, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science

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