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Barry Kerzin

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Barry Kerzin
Barry Michael Kerzin

(1947-11-01) November 1, 1947 (age 76)
  • Teacher
  • physician
  • Buddhist monk
Known forMedical doctor to Dalai Lama and teacher at the interface of Buddhism and medicine
Medical career

Barry Michael Kerzin (born November 1, 1947) is an American physician and Buddhist monk. He has lived in Dharamshala, India since 1988 and serves as a personal physician to the 14th Dalai Lama, along with treating people in the local community. Following his ordination as a monk by the Dalai Lama in January 2003, he has travelled, teaching and offering workshops in which he blends Buddhist teaching and his medical training. He has served as a research participant in neuroscience research into the effects of meditation on the brain.

Kerzin is an adjunct professor (2021–22) at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and a former Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington. He is founder and president of the Altruism in Medicine Institute (AIMI) and founder and chairman of the Human Values Institute (HVI) in Japan.

Early life and education[edit]

Kerzin was born in Hollywood, California in the Good Samaritan Hospital on All Saints day, November 1, 1947.[1][2] He says, "It's all been downhill from there!" When he was fourteen, two books mysteriously came to him. One by D.T. Suzuki, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism, and The Way of Zen, by Alan Watts.[3] Although he didn’t understand much, both books shifted something inside him. Starting at around six, he was plagued by questions of who he was and why he was here; they led him to join a philosophy club in high school and to switch to studying philosophy in college; he had started as a pre-med student.[4] He had wanted to become a doctor and did choose to continue on to medical school, because at the age of eleven he had a brain abscess that caused him to have seizures and fall into comas; it was eventually treated by a neurosurgeon with four brain surgeries over several years; the experience inspired him to become a doctor so that he could help other people.[3]

Kerzin received BA in Philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley and in 1976 he received an MD degree from the University of Southern California.[5][6]


Kerzin did his residency at Ventura County Medical Center and practiced family medicine in Ojai, California for seven years.[1] His mother had died when he was 27, and just after he started working in Ojai, his wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She died in 1983 and they had no children.[1] He travelled in India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal for nearly a year, visiting several monasteries.[7] He then obtained an appointment as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine from late 1985 to early 1989.[1][8]

In the mid-1980s, B. Alan Wallace and the Dharma Friendship Foundation coaxed a lama from Dharamsala, Gen Lamrimpa, to come to Seattle for two years, and Kerzin served as his driver.[9] In 1988 Gen Lamrimpa returned to India and Kerzin accompanied him, intending to take a six-month leave of absence from the University of Washington.[10] He stayed in Dharamsala when his leave ended, and began providing free medical care to the local community, Dalai Lama and other Tibetan lamas.[1][5][6] He also began studying Buddhism and meditation, and 19 years after he moved there (in the early-2000s), he was ordained in February 2003 as a Bikkshu (Buddhist monk) by Dalai Lama.[1][6] Kerzin has maintained his board certification with the American Board of Family Medicine.[6]

Kerzin meditating with EEG for neuroscience research

In the mid-2000s, Kerzin served as a research subject in neuroscience research into the effects of meditation on the brain led by Richard J Davidson at the University of Wisconsin, as well as at Princeton University.[11]

Kerzin founded the Human Values Institute in Japan in 2010, since teaching there starting in 2007; he serves as chairman of the organization.[12] The institute publishes books and instructional movies, gives lectures, leads workshops and meditation retreats, holds an annual symposium in Tokyo, and leads pilgrimages on the island of Shikoku; the education focuses on healthy physical and emotional living and handling death compassionately.[12] He taught about the Heart Sutra at the Gokokuji Temple in Tokyo shortly after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.[13]

In 2014, Kerzin founded the Altruism in Medicine Institute (AIMI) in the US.[14] He participated in a 2011 weeklong workshop organized by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, exploring the role that compassion training has in changing human behavior and emotions.[15] The workshop led to a documentary film and a multimedia book to which Kerzin contributed two chapters.[16]

Kerzin had a visiting professorship at the Central University of Tibetan Studies, Varanasi, India in 2006.[17] At the University of Hong Kong he was appointed 'Visiting Professor of Medicine' for 2014 and 2015 and was made an Honorary Professor at the university's Centre of Buddhist Studies in March 2015.[17] Kerzin is a fellow of the Mind & Life Institute,[18] which was initiated in 1985 to foster a dialogue between Buddhist scholars and Western scientists.[19][20]

On the occasion of the Altruism in Medicine Institute's (AIMI) moving its headquarters to Pittsburgh, Kerzin received a Proclamation from the Mayor of Pittsburgh, William Peduto, honouring Kerzin and AIMI's work as well as declaring November 19, 2021 as "Altruism in Medicine Institute Day" in Pittsburgh.[21]


Kerzin is the author of No Fear No Death: The Transformative Power of Compassion; Nāgārjuna’s Wisdom: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Middle Way; The Tibetan Buddhist Prescription for Happiness[22] (in Japanese); Mind and Matter: Dialogue between Two Nobel Laureates (in Japanese).

He delivered a TEDx talk, on Happiness in 2010,[23] in 2014 on Compassion and Anger Management,[24] and in 2022 at TEDx Pittsburgh 'Time Capsule' on compassion and resilience.

Kerzin was featured in the 2006 U.S. Public Broadcasting Service documentary entitled The New Medicine.[25] This TV documentary received a largely negative review in the Wall Street Journal,[26] but a more positive one appeared in the New York Times.[27]

In 2023, he was interviewed by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Magazine 'PITTMED' with articles published on Cultivating Equanimity and Cures for Put-Downs.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Kim Lamb Gregory (March 6, 2014). "Doctor/Tibetan monk returns to Ventura County to speak on mind, body". Ventura County Star. Ventura County, California. Article says he is 66 years old. His birth year must be 1947 as he was born in November
  2. ^ Altruism in Medicine. Dr Barry Kerzin: A Personal Journey Video: Month and day of birth and location at 3:29-3:35.
  3. ^ a b Yaya Huang. "Mind the Gap —An Interview with Prof. Barry Kerzin". Hong Kong: HKU Medical Faculty 'Caduceus' magazine 2014. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  4. ^ Altruism in Medicine. Dr Barry Kerzin: A Personal Journey Video: 4:30-8:20.
  5. ^ a b "Barry Kerzin MD '76 (MED)". USCTrojan Family. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d Altruism in Medicine Institute About Dr. Barry Kerzin Archived August 10, 2015, at the Wayback Machine Page accessed August 9, 2015
  7. ^ Altruism in Medicine. Dr Barry Kerzin: A Personal Journey Video: 8:40 - 9:35
  8. ^ Barry Kerzin's LinkedIn Profile[permanent dead link] Page accessed August 9, 2015. Source used for dates.
  9. ^ Altruism in Medicine. Dr Barry Kerzin: A Personal Journey Video: 9:30 - 10:15
  10. ^ Altruism in Medicine. Dr Barry Kerzin: A Personal Journey Video: 15:25 - 17:00
  11. ^ CNN. HOUSE CALL WITH DR. SANJAY GUPTA House Call with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Encore Presentation: Happiness Cure Aired December 16, 2006
  12. ^ a b Human Values Institute. HVI Purpose & Methods Archived August 16, 2015, at the Wayback Machine Page accessed August 9, 2015
  13. ^ Tibet Post International March 32, 2011. Tibetans and Japanese Hold Prayers for Victims of Tsunami. Page 1 and 6
  14. ^ Altruism in Medicine Institute in the Open Corporates Database Page accessed August 9, 2015]
  15. ^ Workshop "How to Train Compassion" 20.-23. July 2011, Studio Olafur, Berlin
  16. ^ Chapters 4 and 6 Archived April 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ a b HKU Centre of Buddhist Studies Staff listing. Page accessed August 9, 2015. Kerzin CV at HKU Last updated March 2015. Page accessed August 9, 2015
  18. ^ Mind & Life Institute. List of Fellows Archived 2015-09-05 at the Wayback Machine Page accessed August 9, 2015
  19. ^ Gay Watson, Beyond happiness: deepening the dialogue between Buddhism, psychotherapy and the mind sciences, Karnac Books, 2008, ISBN 1-85575-404-5, ISBN 978-1-85575-404-1, p. 169
  20. ^ Barinaga M. Buddhism and neuroscience. Studying the well-trained mind. Science. 2003 Oct 3;302(5642):44-6. PMID 14526055
  21. ^ https://altruismmedicine.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Screenshot-2021-11-22-at-22.26.00.png
  22. ^ "Tibetan Buddhist Prescription for Happiness". Human Values Institute, Tokyo. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  23. ^ Barry Kerzin (July 2010). "Happiness" (Video). TEDx Phoenixville Salon.
  24. ^ "Barry Kerzin at TEDx Taipei 2014" (Video). Taipei, Taiwan: TEDx Taipei. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  25. ^ "The New Medicine" (Radio programme). PBS. March 29, 2006.
  26. ^ Dorothy Rabinowitz (March 24, 2006). "The New Medicine". Wall Street Journal.
  27. ^ Charles McGrath (March 29, 2006). "'The New Medicine' on PBS: Doctors Turn to the Mind for Healing". New York Times.