B. Alan Wallace

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B. Alan Wallace, Padma Samten, Marlene Rossi Severino Nobre and Roberto Lúcio Vieira de Souza, UFRGS, 2009

B. Alan Wallace (born 1950) is an American author, translator, teacher, researcher, interpreter, and Buddhist practitioner interested in the intersections of consciousness studies and scientific disciplines such as psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and physics. He endeavors to chart relationships and commonalities between Eastern and Western scientific, philosophical, and contemplative modes of inquiry.

Since 1976, Wallace has taught Buddhism, philosophy, and meditation in Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Australia. Wallace grew up in America and Switzerland but left college after three years to study Buddhism in India. He has served as interpreter for many Buddhist contemplatives and scholars, including the Dalai Lama. He is a prolific author of numerous books and essays and has translated dozens of Sanskrit and Tibetan texts into English. Wallace has a bachelor's degree in physics and philosophy of science from Amherst College and a Ph.D. in religious studies from Stanford. He also founded and is president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies.

In 2010 Wallace became the Director and Chairman of the Thanyapura Mind Centre, Phuket, Thailand, which provides a blend of contemporary psychology and neuroscience alongside ancient Asian contemplative practices. For the past several years he has led two annual 8-week, residential, intensive meditation retreats. In addition, together with Paul Ekman and Eve Ekman he teaches a 5-week course to train instructors in Cultivating Emotional Balance, a 42-hour program developed by Wallace and Ekman Sr., which was scientifically studied at the University of California, San Francisco.[1] These and other retreats and courses are organized in collaboration with the Santa Barbara Institute.


Alan Wallace was born in Pasadena, California, in 1950, the son of Protestant theologian David H. Wallace, and was raised in the United States, Scotland, and Switzerland.

In 1968, he studied for two years for a career in ecology at the University of California at San Diego. During his third year of studies at the University of Göttingen in Germany, he began studying the Tibetan language.

In 1971, he went to Dharamsala, India, where he studied Tibetan Buddhism, medicine, and language. He lived with Dr. Yeshi Dhonden, personal physician of H.H. Dalai Lama.

In 1973, he trained at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics.

In 1975, the Dalai Lama asked him to join Tibetan Buddhist scholar Geshe Rabten, in Switzerland.

In 1979, left Switzerland to begin a four-year series of meditation retreats, he started in India, under the guidance of the Dalai Lama, then he did retreat in Sri Lanka and United States.

In 1984, he enrolled at Amherst College. There he studied physics, Sanskrit, and Philosophy of Science.

In 1987 he graduated summa cum laude and phi beta kappa. His thesis was published in two volumes: Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind (Snow Lion: 1996) and Transcendent Wisdom: A Commentary on the Ninth Chapter of Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life (Snow Lion, 1988).

After graduation, he spent nine months in retreat at the high desert of California.

In 1988, he organized with Tibetan teacher Gen Lamrimpa a one year retreat near Castle Rock, Washington, teaching methods for improving and stabilizing attention.

Since 1987 he has been an organizer for the Mind and Life Institute conferences with the Dalai Lama and Western scientists.

In 1995, he earned a PhD in Religious Studies at Stanford University.

During 1992-1997, he translated for Venerable Gyatrul Rinpoche, senior Lama of the Nyingma Order of Tibetan Buddhism. He translated several texts.

During 1995-1997, he was a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University. He and his wife, Dr. Vesna A. Wallace, translated the text.[2]

From 1997-2001, he taught in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, integrates scientific and contemplative methods for the study of consciousness. One of the institute’s projects was the Shamatha Project, a longitudinal scientific study of the effects of intensive meditation training.[3]

Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies[edit]

In 2003, Wallace founded the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies as a not-for-profit institution with the interest of furthering our understanding of the nature, origins, and role of consciousness. He proposes that the nature of consciousness can most deeply be studied from a first-person perspective, and not be limited to the third-person methodologies of psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Optimally, the first-person methods of the contemplative traditions of the world, such as Buddhism, may be integrated with the objective methods of science to create a new discipline of “contemplative science.” Influences on his thinking and research derive not only from Buddhism and contemporary physics and neuroscience, but also William James, the pioneering American psychologist and philosopher whom he often refers to as one of his intellectual heroes.

Wallace's beliefs on consciousness have not gained acceptance within the scientific community and have been criticized for employing dualism and quantum mysticism.[4]


Published books[edit]

  • Dreaming Yourself Awake: Lucid Dreaming and Tibetan Dream Yoga for Insight and Transformation.[5]
  • Minding Closely: The Four Applications of Mindfulness.[6]
  • Stilling the Mind: Shamatha Teachings from Dudjom Lingpa’s Vajra Essence,[7]
  • Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic: A Manifesto for the Mind Sciences and Contemplative Practice,[8]
  • Mind in the Balance: Meditation in Science, Buddhism, and Christianity.[9]
  • Embracing Mind: The Common Ground of Science and Spirituality, co-authored with Brian Hodel.[10]
  • Hidden Dimensions: The Unification of Physics and Consciousness.[11]
  • Contemplative Science: Where Buddhism and Neuroscience Converge.[11]
  • The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind.[12]
  • Genuine Happiness: Meditation as the Path to Fulfillment.[13]
  • Buddhism and Science: Breaking New Ground (Ed.).[14]
  • Buddhism with an Attitude: The Tibetan Seven-Point Mind-Training.[15]
  • The Taboo of Subjectivity: Toward a New Science of Consciousness.[16]
  • Boundless Heart: The Four Immeasurables.[17]
  • The Bridge of Quiescence: Experiencing Tibetan Buddhist Meditation.[18]
  • Tibetan Buddhism From the Ground Up.[19]
  • A Passage from Solitude: A Modern Commentary on Tibetan Buddhist Mind Training.[20]
  • Choosing Reality: A Contemplative View of Physics and the Mind.[21]

Published translations[edit]

  • The Vajra Essence: From the Matrix of Primordial Consciousness and Pure Appearances: A Tantra on the Self-arisen Nature of Existence by Düdjom Lingpa (Mirror of Wisdom Publications, 2004).
  • Healing from the Source: The Science and Lore of Tibetan Medicine by Dr. Yeshi Dhonden (2000).[22]
  • Naked Awareness: Practical Teachings on the Union of Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen by Karma Chagmé, with commentary by Gyatrul Rinpoche (Snow Lion Publications, 2000).
  • Transcending Time: The Kālacakra Six-Session Guruyoga by Gen Lamrimpa (Wisdom Publications, 1999).
  • Realizing Emptiness: The Madhyamaka Cultivation of Insight by Gen Lamrimpa (Snow Lion Publications, 1999).
  • A Spacious Path to Freedom: Practical Instructions on the Union of Mahāmudrā and Atiyoga by Karma Chagmé, with commentary by Gyatrul Rinpoche (Snow Lion Publications, 1998).
  • Natural Liberation: Padmasambhava’s Teachings on the Six Bardos by Padmasambhava, with commentary by Gyatrul Rinpoche (Wisdom Publications, 1998).
  • A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life: A translation from the Sanskrit and Tibetan of Ṥāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra by Ṥāntideva, co-translated with Vesna A. Wallace (Snow Lion Publications, 1997).
  • Ancient Wisdom: Nyingma Teachings of Dream Yoga, Meditation and Transformation, by Gyatrul Rinpoche. Co-translated with Sangye Khandro (Snow Lion Publications, 1993).
  • Shamatha Meditation: Tibetan Buddhist Teachings on Cultivating Meditative Quiescence by Gen Lamrimpa (Snow Lion Publications, 1992).
  • Transcendent Wisdom: A Commentary on the Ninth Chapter of Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life by the Dalai Lama (Snow Lion Publications, 1988).
  • The Kalachakra Tantra by Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey (Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1986).
  • The Life and Teachings of Geshé Rabten by Geshé Rabten (George Allen & Unwin, 1980).
  • Waterdrop from the Glorious Sea: A History of the Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism by Sherab Gyaltsen Amipa (Tibet Institute, 1976).
  • The Ambrosia Heart Tantra: A Classic Treatise on Tibetan Medicine, Annotated by Dr. Yeshi Dhonden (Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 1976).


B. Alan Wallace has written dozens of published essays in the fields of philosophy, psychology, physics, and Buddhism. Electronic copies of his essays are available from his website.

Selected Essays:

  • "Vacuum States of Consciousness: A Tibetan Buddhist View." In Buddhist Thought and Applied Psychology: Transcending the Boundaries. D.K. Nauriyal, ed. London: Routledge-Curzon, 2006, pp. 112–121.
  • "Awakening to the Dream" Tricycle, Winter 2006, pp. 52–57.
  • "Religion and Reason: Letter to a Christian Nation Reviewed." Shambhala Sun, November 2006, pp. 99–100.
  • "Mental Balance and Well-Being: Building Bridges Between Buddhism and Western Psychology." American Psychologist, October 2006.
  • "Immaterial Evidence." Tricycle, Spring 2006. pp. 84–86.
  • "Buddhist and Psychological Perspectives on Emotions and Well-Being." Co-author with Paul Ekman, Richard Davidson, and Matthieu Ricard. Current Directions in Psychology, 2005, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 59–63.
  • "The Intersubjective Worlds of Science and Religion." Science, Religion, and the Human Experience. James Proctor, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  • "A Science of Consciousness: Buddhism (1), the Modern West (0) The Pacific World: Journal of the Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2003.
  • "The Spectrum of Buddhist Practice in the West." Westward Dharma: Buddhism Beyond Asia, Charles Prebish & Martin Baumann (eds.). Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.
  • "Tibetan Buddhism in the West: Is It Working?" Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Summer 2001, pp. 54–63.
  • "Intersubjectivity in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism." Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, No. 5-7, 2001, pp. 209–30.
  • "Afterword: Buddhist Reflections," concluding essay for Consciousness at the Crossroads: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Brainscience and Buddhism. With Zara Houshmand and Robert Livingston. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1999.
  • "The Dialectic Between Religious Belief and Contemplative Knowledge in Tibetan Buddhism." Buddhist Theology: Critical Reflections of Contemporary Buddhist Scholars, John Makransky & Roger Jackson, eds., pp. 203–214. London: Curzon Press. 1999.
  • "The Buddhist Tradition of Samatha: Methods for Refining and Examining Consciousness." Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6, No. 2-3, 1999. pp. 175–187.


Other projects[edit]

  • Consultant for The Mechanisms of Meditation Project, with Charles Raison as the Principal Investigator, co-sponsored by Emory University and the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, 2007 – present.
  • Consultant for the research project Cultivating Emotional Balance in the Classroom (CEBC), with Patricia Jennings as the Principal Investigator and Margaret Kemeny as Co-Principal Investigator, co-sponsored by San Francisco State University, the University of California, San Francisco, and the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, 2005 – present.
  • Consultant and meditation instructor for the Mindful Attention Training (MAT) for epilepsy, a research project to study the effectiveness of attentional training for reducing the frequency and intensity of epileptic seizures, directed by Dr. Jerome Pete Engel at the Reed Neurologic Research Center at UCLA,[23] and Dr. Christoph Baumgartner at the Medical University of Vienna, 2005 - 2006.
  • Consultant for the Mindful Awareness Project (MAP), involving research to develop meditative training for the prevention and treatment of ADHD, directed by Dr. Susan Smalley and her colleagues at the Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics at the UCLA School of Medicine, 2004–present.
  • Co-principal investigator and Contemplative Director for the “Shamatha Project,”[24] a longitudinal, scientific study of the effects of 3 months of attentional training on attentional and emotional balance, in collaboration with a team of cognitive scientists at the University of California, Davis; co-sponsored by the Santa Barbara Institute and the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain, the Department of Psychology, and the Imaging Research Center, 2003–present.
  • Consultant and trainer for the “Cultivating Emotional Balance” (CEB) project, co-sponsored by the University of California, San Francisco and the Santa Barbara Institute, 2003–present.
  • Consultant and interpreter for a research project on traditional Tibetan medical treatment for breast cancer, University of California at San Francisco and California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco, 1995-8.
  • Researcher in the project “Training the Mind” to conduct psychological and neuroscientific studies of attention and compassion among advanced Tibetan contemplatives in northern India 1990-1992.
  • In 2007, Wallace and Cliff Saron, researcher from the Center for Mind and Brain at UCDavis, conducted a large-scale study of the effects of meditation training, known as "The Shamatha Project." Among the collaborating scientists was Elizabeth Blackburn and among the consulting scientists was Paul Ekman.[25][26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kemey, Margaret; Foltz, C.; Cavanagh, J. F.; Cullen, M.; Giese-Davis, J.; Jennings, P.; Rosenberg, E. L.; Gillath, O.; Shaver, P. R.; Wallace, B. A.; Ekman, P. (Dec 12, 2011). "Contemplative/Emotion Training Reduces Negative Emotional Behavior and Promotes Prosocial Responses" (PDF). Emotion (Winter). doi:10.1037/a0026118. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-10-22. Retrieved 2015-07-15. 
  2. ^ A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life (Snow Lion, 1997)
  3. ^ "Meditation Research". 
  4. ^ Novella, Steven. "B. Alan Wallace and Buddhist Dualism". Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  5. ^ Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2012
  6. ^ (Snow Lion Publications, 2011).
  7. ^ (Wisdom Publications, 2011).
  8. ^ (Columbia University Press, 2011).
  9. ^ (Columbia University Press, 2009).
  10. ^ (Shambhala Publications, 2008).
  11. ^ a b (Columbia University Press, 2007)
  12. ^ (Wisdom Publications, 2006)
  13. ^ (John Wiley & Sons, 2005)
  14. ^ (Columbia University Press, 2003)
  15. ^ (Snow Lion Publications, 2001)
  16. ^ (Oxford University Press, 2000)
  17. ^ (Snow Lion Publications, 1999)
  18. ^ (Open Court Press, 1998)
  19. ^ (Wisdom Publications, 1993)
  20. ^ (Snow Lion Publications, 1992)
  21. ^ (Shambhala Publications, 1989)
  22. ^ Snow Lion Publications
  23. ^ "UCLA And Beyond". UCLA. Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  24. ^ "The International Shamatha Project(ISP)". Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  25. ^ "Mind and Brain UC Davis". 
  26. ^ "The Shamatha Project". 

External links[edit]