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My Contemplative Bio

The 10-Second Version

Dr. Nikki Mirghafori is an Artificial Intelligence scientist and an internationally recognized Buddhist teacher. She serves as a Stewarding Teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, where she is also on the Board of Directors, and a Dharma Teacher at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, CA.  She teaches with clarity and warmth on topics ranging from mindful leadership to cultivating kindness, with a rare expertise on mindfulness of death. Dr. Mirghafori is widely published in AI, has led international research collaborations as a Berkeley academic, and advised technology startups. She is of Persian heritage, an advocate for wisdom and compassion in daily life, as well as ethical AI in our zeitgeist.


With Ven Pa Auk Sayadaw


The 30-Second Version

Dr. Nikki Mirghafori is a Buddhist teacher and Artificial Intelligence scientist. She is a lineage holder in the Theravada tradition, empowered by the Burmese meditation master Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw, with whom she practiced the jhanas and detailed analytical (Abhidhamma-style) vipassana.  She also received empowerment from the Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Insight Meditation Society, Insight Meditation Center, and is a Stanford-trained compassion cultivation instructor.  


Additionally, Nikki has been a researcher and inventor in AI, holding multiple patents and co-author of 40+ scientific research articles.  She has directed international research programs as the Principal Investigator, mentored post-docs and PhD students, taught graduate courses at UC Berkeley, and been a scientific advisor to Silicon Valley technology startups.

Nikki serves as a Stewarding Teacher and on the Board of Directors at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA, and also as a Teacher at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, CA. Nikki is Iranian-American, has taught contemplative practices internationally, and aspires to serve as a champion for wisdom and compassion, as well as ethical AI in our zeitgeist.

The Minute+ Version

Nikki Mirghafori, PhD, is of Persian heritage and immigrated to the US in her teens.  She was introduced to contemplative practices and yoga in the early 1980s, to meditation in 1991, and to Theravada Buddhism in 2003. She has practiced jhanas and a detailed analytical method of vipassana under the guidance of Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw, who empowered her in 2008 and instructed her to teach.  


Nikki has practiced with other monastic teachers such as Bhikkhu Analayo, Ajahn Sucitto, U Tejaniya, and Tsoknyi Rimpoche (Dzogchen), as well as highly respected Western teachers, such as Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, Guy Armstrong, Gil Fronsdal, and Steven Tainer (Chan).  She particularly appreciates and enjoys the depth of long retreat practice.


Nikki has studied at Stanford's CCARE and UCLA's MARC and is a Stanford-certified Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) instructor and UCLA-certified mindfulness MAPS facilitator.  


In addition to the Eastern first person perspective contemplative research, Nikki has studied the Western contemplative perspective through philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience.  She spent four years as a Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley's Psychology Department with the renowned psychologist, Professor Eleanor Rosch, the co-author of the seminal book The Embodied Mind .

In 2012 Nikki was invited by Jack Kornfield to join the four year 2013-2016 joint teacher training program of Spirit Rock/Insight Meditation Society/Insight Mediation Center, and was mentored by Gil Fronsdal and Guy Armstrong.  She was again empowered in 2016 as a Spirit Rock/IMS/IMC Retreat Teacher.

Nikki has taught silent meditation retreats with Western luminaries such as Sharon Salzberg, Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, Guy Armstrong, Gil Fronsdal, Norman Fischer, and others on a variety of contemplative topics ranging from cultivating kindness to mindful leadership, with a distinct expertise on mindfulness of death.  Nikki serves as a Stewarding Teacher at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA, and is a Teacher at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, CA.  She serves on the Board of Directors at Spirit Rock.


Her teaching includes lectures, classes, day longs, workshops, silent retreats on meditation and Buddhist contemplation in the San Francisco Bay Area and internationally.  

Concurrent with her dharma practice and teaching, Nikki has been an Artificial Intelligence scientist and academic at a research institute affiliated with UC Berkeley.  She holds a Ph.D. in computer science from UC Berkeley.  She has had an active career as a scientist, with years of experience in managing research teams as the Principal Investigator, co-teaching graduate-level courses at UC Berkeley, mentoring post-docs and grad students, publishing scientific articles, presenting at international conferences, and serving as consultant for Silicon Valley technology startups.  She has authored 40+ scientific articles and holds multiple patents.  She is interested in the ethics of AI.  See LinkedIn for more information.

A Longer Version?

See "Meet a Teacher" feature published in Tricycle Fall 2022.


Or an interview conducted by Spirit Rock Meditation Center in 2014.

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Some of my other teachers, who have become co-teachers...


Sharon Salzberg


Joseph Goldstein


Jack Kornfield


Gil Fronsdal and Sally & Guy Armstrong

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