Monk, Physician to High Lamas to Speak on Effect of Meditation

As traditional Eastern wellness practices such as meditation and yoga continue to gain in popularity across the United States and as evidence builds regarding their resulting health benefits, such techniques are slowly being incorporated into Western medical care.

Smith College faculty and scholars from other institutions will examine intersections between Eastern and Western medical practices and the applications for traditional Eastern medicine from a range of academic perspectives during a research colloquium, “Traditional Eastern Medicine,” hosted by the college’s Kahn Liberal Arts Institute on Thursday, March 27, through Saturday, March 29.


Barry Kerzin, M.D.

As part of the three-day project, the Kahn Institute will host Dr. Barry Kerzin, who has spent 25 years in Dharamsala, India, serving as a physician to many high lamas, including the current Dalai Lama, and providing charitable medical care to the poor.

Kerzin will speak on “Meditation and Its Effect on the Brain,” on Thursday, March 27, at 7 p.m. in Neilson Browsing Room. The lecture is free and open to the public.

In several ways, Kerzin is positioned to offer informed dual perspectives on Eastern and Western medical practices. Following completion of his medical degree from the University of Southern California, he completed a residency in family practice. He served as an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Washington and as a visiting professor at Central University of Tibetan Studies in Varanasi, India, and at Hong Kong University.

Ordained as a Buddhist monk by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Kerzin teaches compassion and secular ethics in medical schools internationally. Kerzin is the author of several books, including Tibetan Buddhist Prescription for Happiness, published in Japanese. He is the founder and chairman of the Human Values Institute in Japan and the founder and president of the Altruism in Medicine Institute in the United States. A noted speaker at the the Mind and Life Institute’s International Symposia for Contemplative Studies, Kerzin is also a consultant to the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany.

“Integration is the wave of the future,” comments Kerzin. “Making available the best from all health-care traditions to any one patient is slowly gaining traction.”

One Eastern practice with proven health benefits is mindfulness meditation, a technique derived from Buddhist tradition, which focuses the mind on the present state of being, increasing awareness and relaxation while decreasing stress and resistance

“Mindfulness meditation practices are seeping into mainstream medical care in the West,” notes Kerzin. “Research is demonstrating that mindfulness practices have beneficial effects in patients suffering with depression, anxiety disorders, cancer and victims of child abuse. Even patients with arthritis, diabetes, psoriasis and chronic pain find benefit.”

While in residence at Smith, Kerzin will also visit classes in psychology, anthropology and other disciplines and will speak at the Lewis Global Studies Center.

The Kahn Liberal Arts Institute supports collaborative research among Smith College faculty, students and visiting scholars without regard to the traditional boundaries of departments, programs and academic divisions. Each year the Kahn Institute supports long- and short-term projects proposed, planned and organized by Smith College faculty.