Announcing the Fellows Program

By Dr. Joe Loizzo

These past ten years developing Nalanda Institute with all of you—students, graduates, colleagues and friends—have been years full of discovery, revelations, opportunities, challenges, and unanticipated rewards. In preparing for our tenth annual benefit on June 12th, I’ve had a rare opportunity to take a long exhale with board members, faculty and graduates to look back over all we’ve accomplished together. In that same breath, hindsight showed with fresh perspective who we’ve become as an Institute and community and where our future must take us.

Every day I’m more in awe of how widely and avidly our popular and professional culture is investing in the healing power of contemplative methods of mindfulness, compassion, and embodiment. This welcome development brings not just the strongest possible validation of our mission, programs and community, but also a timely reminder for us to refine our crucial role in an increasingly broad and complex movement.

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Truth or Dare? How About Both!

By Fiona Brandon

2019–2020 San Francisco faculty include Pilar Jennings, Joe Loizzo, Tara Brach, Robert Thurman, Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Diana Fosha, Lama Rod Owens, and Fiona Brandon.

Contemplative Psychotherapy Program students were challenged by visiting faculty Mariana Caplan to, “Think of a time when you rejected a part of yourself thinking it was keeping you from deeper transformation. And see if you can call that part back. And how could you use it to deepen your practice?” What a dare! And what an inroad to the truth about why many of us stay in a state of suffering. Instead of ostracizing parts of ourselves, what if we use them as a way to create profound psychological and spiritual transformation? Is that possible? Absolutely.

The CPP Compassion Year, beginning September 20th, teaches how to use compassion practices, and the analytic wisdom of emptiness, to relate to the parts of ourselves we have deemed unacceptable and how to ultimately extinguish the cycle of stress and trauma these aspects are born from.

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A Conversation Between Joe Loizzo and Emma Seppälä

Emma Seppala and Joe Loizzo

Editor’s Note: Nalanda Institute’s Director, Dr. Joe Loizzo recently sat down with Dr. Emma Seppälä for a conversation about compassion science and their hopes for the future. Dr. Seppälä is the Science Director at The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research at Stanford University. We present a small portion of their conversation here.

Dr. Seppälä is also our Guest of Honor at our 10th Annual Benefit on June 12th. Her talk entitled “Compassion Science: Healing Our Interconnected World”  further explores the topics presented here. Find out more about our forthcoming benefit.


Joe Loizzo: Welcome, Emma, and thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me about your work in the science of compassion. First of all, maybe you could fill us in about how you found your way to your unusual career.

Emma Seppälä: While I was doing my master’s degree at Columbia in East Asian languages in the late 90’s, I took a class with Bob Thurman, and decided to focus on Buddhist Studies. That lead me to the seminar you gave on Science, Spirituality and Healing in the Tibetan tradition, where I remember you urged me to go to a talk at Union Seminary by Richie Davidson and Dan Goleman on meditation research, remember?

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Compassion in Action: A Review of Books

By Joe Loizzo

Emma Seppala

Editor’s Note: In this post Nalanda Institute’s Founder and Director, Dr. Joe Loizzo reviews two books written and edited by Dr. Emma Seppälä, this year’s Guest of Honor at our 10th Annual Benefit (June 12, 2019). As you’ll see, her writing, research, and position as Science Director of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research aligns perfectly with Nalanda Institute’s mission. Read on to find out more about compassion in action.


Review: The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success (HarperOne, 2016), by Emma Seppälä, Ph.D.

For most of the modern age, our scientific view of human nature and our understanding of the social emotion of compassion have been drifting further and further apart. This is no accident. It reflects the widening gulf between modern science and religious ethics that has caused such a troubling divide in human culture and consciousness in our age. Specifically it reflects an intentional distortion of Darwin’s view of human “fitness” to mean that the traditional ethical values of love and compassion conflict with our natural strengths, and that such emotions are in fact sentimental weaknesses. Quietly over the last five decades, biology has begun to heal the modern divide and expose this distortion, helping us rediscover the wisdom in Darwin’s observation that “communities with the greatest number of sympathetic members would flourish best.”

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Dialogue with Lama Rod Owens: Wise Compassion and Healing for our Times

By Helen Park

On an unseasonably warm November night, current students and alumni of the Contemplative Psychotherapy Program (CPP) in New York City gathered to receive teachings from Lama Rod Owens. Lama Rod is one of the most exciting and inspiring Dharma teachers of our time, having received teaching authorization by the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism after completing a three-year silent retreat, and drawing upon his own very personal life experiences as a Black, queer man raised in the South. He held space with us for close to three hours, inviting us to be in contemplative presence together that was intimate, playful, ‘triggering in a positive way,’ and deeply restorative.

Lama Rod Owens

Lama Rod Owens teaching about skillful ways to work with compassion and anger for the Contemplative Psychotherapy Program in New York City.

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I Want That!

by Geri Loizzo

One of my favorite stories found in the Jewish tradition was told to me by my dear teacher, Yogini Mary Reilly Nichols. It’s a story of a young man who goes to see a famous rabbi and is asked by a friend, “are you going to hear the rabbi speak?” “No,” replies the young man, “I am going to watch the rabbi tie his shoes.” He did not mean this as a joke, and he understood that the embodied qualities of enlightenment which the rabbi exuded in his very being, could offer powerful inspiration that he could intuit.

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Shedding Skins: Reflections on Monastic Life and Beyond

By Scott Tusa

Scott Tusa

The day I became a Buddhist monk was one of the best days of my life. If I had to compare it to something, it’s sort of like a wedding day, but you are marrying yourself! I had been preparing for it for over 7 years, and it felt like the fruition of a lot of hard work and aspirations.

When the day arrived, myself and a group of 150 novices from around the world sat in front of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to formally take our monastic vows. After a beautiful and moving ceremony I was motioned by an attendant to approach His Holiness.

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Yoga, Mind & Spirit: Mindful Movement and Letting Go

by Mar Aige

Yoga, Mind & Spirit

My love story with mindful movement began at 18, when I tried my first yoga class at my college gym. The teacher was a kind old lady who explained that we had to completely let go of everything in her class. Ideally our backs would rest flat on the floor, each muscle gently touching the ground because there would be no stress or holding. She called the pose Shavasana, saying it was the most difficult of all. She then enumerated a long list of obscure-sounding body parts, asking us to relax them in turn. We giggled and tried our best. This was a different type of exercise, and I was very intrigued.

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2018: The Year in Review

by Nalanda Institute Editors

  • 1. Joe Loizzo with graduating Canadian bodhisattvas.

As this year of the Earth Dog comes to an end and we usher in the new year of the Earth Mother Pig, we are happy to look back at just a few of the amazing accomplishments of our community. 2018 has been a pivotal year in which we’ve evolved our teaching methods, deepened our community, and made our programs more widely available.

Extended captions and an elaboration of some of our programs and events in 2018:

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Walking the Line

by Mary Reilly Nichols

Mary Reilly Nichols

I was speaking about non-dual awareness with a friend when she rightly pointed out that the phrase ‘non-dual’ itself is dualist. That is why i like the term samadhi to describe the non-dual state. The word samadhi derives from the Indo-European root, sam, which is also the source of the English word ‘same’. It connotes unity, evenness, equality. Samadhi, the perception of oneness, is the true bread of life. The visceral experience of union we get from yoga practices is a delicious recharge of the nervous system.

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