Start of Mind & Life

During the 1980s His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, neuroscientist Francisco Varela and businessman Adam Engle shared a vision to make science more humane and advance progress in human well-being. They understood that science had become the dominant framework for investigating the nature of reality and the modern source of knowledge to improve the lives of humans and the planet, however, they regarded this approach to be incomplete.

All three were convinced that well-refined contemplative practices and introspective methods could, and should, be used as equal instruments of investigation – instruments that would not only make science itself more humane but also ensure its conclusions were far-reaching.

They formed the Mind & Life Institute (MLI) in 1987 to bridge this divide and advance progress in human well-being. Over the past 30 years, Mind & Life has become more than just a leader in the field of contemplative science; it has become an incubator for discovery in all of the fields this new science touches. 

Mind & Life Europe

To further their cause in Europe, Mind & Life Europe was established in 2008. We are based in Switzerland and develop activities all over Europe. We strive to bridge and integrate contemplative wisdom and practices with modern research capabilities and bring a new wave of initiatives into the European science community.

1. What is the nature of our relationship with MLI?

Mind & Life Institute (MLI) and Mind & Life Europe (MLE) have a shared history and values. Both organisations, however, are independent and autonomous from legal, financial, programmatic, and administrative perspectives. We operate in different territories (see below) yet work together to promote each other’s respective programmes.

2. What are the similarities and differences between the two organisations?

Both organisations fund rigorous research grants across a range of disciplines related to contemplative sciences. MLI has three grant programmes: Varela grants, PEACE grants, Contemplative Changemaking grants, and various awards. MLE grants the European Varela Awards.

The differences relate to where we conduct our events and actively fundraise, and our research emphases. MLI focuses on understanding the role of the human mind in contributing to and solving problems of disconnection and othering, through insights from science and contemplative wisdom. MLE works from the foundation of the enactive approach to better apprehend the dynamic interplay between life and mind, between scientific research and contemplative practice, and between epistemology and ethics. We believe that ways of knowing are themselves ways of being in the world, and can therefore profoundly impact the state of life on this planet.

3. Where do these two organisations operate?

We both host events and actively fundraise in our defined geographic territories. Mind & Life Europe operates in geographical Europe, including the European Union, Scandinavia, the Balkans, Turkey, Russia, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. The Mind & Life Institute operates worldwide excluding the Mind & Life Europe territories.

4. How do these two organisations collaborate?

We communicate regularly and coordinate with regard to programs and the direction of each organisation. We ensure our programmatic calendars do not significantly overlap and we share insights and learnings that might benefit the other.

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