CCARE was envisioned by Dr. James Doty, a Stanford neurosurgeon, entrepreneur and philanthropist, and current CCARE Director. Dr. Doty has a longstanding interest in the fundamental motivations of individuals to do good. He originated the concept of a rigorous multi-disciplinary scientific effort at Stanford directed at understanding the neural, mental, and social bases of compassion and altruism, and he provided the initial funding for the endeavor.

This interest was further spurred by the historic visit by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Stanford University in October of 2005, a visit hosted by the Stanford School of Medicine, through the leadership of Dean Philip A. Pizzo, and the Stanford Office of Religious Life, headed by Rev. Scotty McLennan. A high point of this visit was a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Stanford scientists from the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and medicine. This dialogue, moderated by Dr. William Mobley, former Professor of Neurology and former Director of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute, had the important consequence of recognizing that a deep engagement between science, especially in the cognitive science disciplines of neuroscience and psychology, and Buddhism and other contemplative traditions could make significant contribution towards a deeper understanding of many important aspects of the human mind and emotion.

Recognizing the historic nature of the initial dialogue held at Stanford between scientists and the Dalai Lama, Dr. Doty organized an informal group of individuals with similar interests to further explore these areas. Subsequently, he provided the funding for Dr. Thupten Jinpa, a noted contemplative scholar and translator to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to come to Stanford as a Visiting Scholar and join Project Compassion as the principal contemplative scholar. As the group expanded, it became evident that there was serious interest in formalizing what was informally called “Project Compassion.”

With the encouragement of Dr. Mobley and Dr. Gary Steinberg, Chairman of Neurosurgery and Director of the Stanford Institute of Neuro-Innovation and Translational Neurosciences, Dean Pizzo created The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford (CCARE). Thus, CCARE came into being with Dr. Doty as Director, Dr. Mobley (who has since left Stanford to work as Chair of Neuroscience at UCSD) as Co-Director, and Mr. Tenzin Tethong (Distinguished Scholar, Tibetan Studies Initiative at Stanford) and Dr. Steinberg serving as members of the founding Executive Committee.