Barry Kerzin: History
Please note this is an old version of this entry, which may differ significantly from the current revision.
Subjects: Philosophy
  • dharamshala
  • meditation
  • values

Basic Information

Barry Kerzin
Name: Barry Kerzin
(Nov 1947–)
Hollywood, USA
Titles: Teacher Physician Buddhist monk
Affiliations: Private practice (Ventura County, California) University of Washington School of Medicine (Assistant Professor) Private practice Human Values Institute (Japan) Altruism in Medicine Institute (USA) University of Hong Kong (Honorary)
Honor: Unknown

1. Introduction

Barry Michael Kerzin, M.D., (born November 1, 1947) is an American physician and Buddhist monk. He has lived in Dharamshala since 1988, and serves as a personal physician to the 14th Dalai Lama, along with treating people in the local community, free of charge. Following his ordination as a monk by HH Dalai Lama in the mid-2000s, he has travelled widely, teaching and offering workshops in which he blends Buddhist teaching and his medical training, emphasizing the spiritual and health benefits of meditation and compassion. He has served as a research participant in neuroscience research into the effects of meditation on the brain.

Barry Kerzin is an Affiliate Professor at the University of Washington Tacoma, a Visiting Professor at the Central Institute of Tibetan Studies, India, an Honorary Professor at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), and a former Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington. He is a fellow at the Mind and Life Institute and consults for the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig on compassion training.

He is founder and president of the Altruism in Medicine Institute (AIMI) and founder and chairman of the Human Values Institute (HVI) in Japan,

2. Early Life and Education

Kerzin was born in Hollywood, California on November 1, 1947.[1][2] When he was young he read a book by D.T. Suzuki's World of Zen, which sparked an interest in Buddhism.[3] 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]

3. Career

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, HH Dalai Lama and other Tibetan lamas.[1][5][6] He also began studying Buddhism and meditation intensively, and 19 years after he moved there (in the early-2000s), he was ordained in Feb. 2003 as a Bikkshu (Buddhist monk) by HH Dalai Lama, and now cares for him as his doctor.[1][6] Throughout his career, Kerzin has maintained his board certification with the American Board of Family Medicine.[6]

Since his ordination, Kerzin has been combining his work as a monk and doctor, harmonizing the mind and body, lecturing around the world in Japan, Hong Kong, Russia, Mongolia, Taiwan, Korea, Europe, and North America. He is teaching about the interface between modern medical science and Buddhist psychology and philosophy, with particular reference to altruism in medicine and secular ethics as well as compassion, wisdom, meditation, death and dying and emotional hygiene (managing anger, jealousy, pride, etc.); he has also participated in neuroscience research on the effect of meditation on the brain. [3][6]

Kerzin meditating with EEG for neuroscience research.

In the mid-2000s, he 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 has completed many meditation retreats, including a three-year retreat.

Kerzin founded the Human Values Institute in Japan in 2010 since teaching there regularly 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] For HVI, Kerzin also works in juvenile prisons in Japan, and is developing well-being curricula, taught to doctors at St. Luke's International Hospital in Tokyo, and other hospitals and medical schools in Japan, e.g. Kyoto University, and leads meditation retreats at Mt. Fuji.

For AIMI, Kerzin gave a medical grand rounds lecture on compassion at Stanford Medical School, and the Stanford CCARE, and in July lectured at Surgical Grand Rounds on the science behind meditation to the Ventura County Medical Center, as well as lectured at the University of Washington. In Spring 2016, he lectured at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and U.K. medical schools. Kerzin was the keynote speaker for the White Coast Ceremony for new first-year medical students at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in 2016 and again in 2018. In Fall 2016 he presented the plenary lecture to 800 Family Doctors at the Family Medicine Education Consortium in Pittsburgh, and in 2018 set the foundation for a Mindfulness-Compassion-Resilience training program for 16,000 nurses at UPMC.

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.[14] The workshop led to a documentary film and a multimedia book to which Kerzin contributed two chapters.[15]

In 2014, Kerzin founded the Altruism in Medicine Institute in the US.[16]

He 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]

4. Works

  • Publications: 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 (in press); The Tibetan Buddhist Prescription for Happiness[21] (in Japanese); Mind and Matter: Dialogue between Two Nobel Laureates (in Japanese). Furthermore, Kerzin has written many chapters for books and done many interviews for radio and TV, in the US and abroad.
  • TEDx Talks: He delivered a TEDx talk, on Happiness in 2010[22] and one in 2014 on Compassion and Anger Management[23]
  • Documentaries: Professor Kerzin was featured in the 2006 U.S. Public Broadcasting Service documentary entitled The New Medicine.[24] This TV documentary received a largely negative review in the Wall Street Journal,[25] but a more positive one appeared in the New York Times.[26]
  • Kerzin was also featured in October 2015 in a PBS Newshour documentary "Dalai Lama’s American doctor wants more compassion in medicine"

The content is sourced from:

Further Reading
In this part, we encourage you to list the link of papers wrote by the character, or published reviews/articles about his/her academic contributions.


  1. 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. "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. "Barry Kerzin MD ’76 (MED)". USCTrojan Family. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 30, 2015. 
  6. Altruism in Medicine Institute About Dr. Barry Kerzin 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 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. Human Values Institute. HVI Purpose & Methods 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. Workshop "How to Train Compassion" 20.-23. July 2011, Studio Olafur, Berlin
  15. Chapters 4 and 6
  16. Altruism in Medicine Institute in the Open Corporates Database Page accessed August 9, 2015]
  17. 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 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. "Tibetan Buddhist Prescription for Happiness". Human Values Institute, Tokyo. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  22. "Happiness" (Video). TEDx Phoenixville Salon. July 2010.;Lifestyle. 
  23. "Barry Kerzin at TEDx Taipei 2014" (Video). Taipei, Taiwan: TEDx Taipei. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  24. "The New Medicine" (Radio programme). PBS. March 29, 2006. 
  25. Dorothy Rabinowitz (March 24, 2006). "The New Medicine". Wall Street Journal. 
  26. Charles McGrath (March 29, 2006). "'The New Medicine' on PBS: Doctors Turn to the Mind for Healing". New York Times. 
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