Mundgod, Karmataka: - Over twenty of the world's foremost scientists and philosophers gathered with His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet and other senior Tibetan scholars for the 26th conference of Mind and Life, Dialogue on the "Mind, Brain and Matter." The conference was held at Drepung Monastery in Karnataka State of South India.
The morning's theme, Exploring the Nature of Reality: Buddhist and Scientific Perspectives was to serve as an introduction. Arthur Zajonc, President of the Mind & Life Institute, recalled that the first such meeting had taken place 25 years ago and now science is being introduced into the monastic curriculum.
This is a courageous move, he said, but clarified that science is not a branch of materialism but an attempt to penetrate reality. "We follow the evidence of the senses employing the power of the mind. Our research in our labs is intent on benefiting humanity."
Richie Davidson remarked, "Our discoveries have already led to major benefits in health care and education, both of which are now more receptive to contemplative practice."
His Holiness the Dalai Lama discussed the state of the scientists' minds, particularly during an experiment. "Scientists themselves should have calm mind, through that way, you can carry-out experiment very objectively. Then you can share with other people. Firstly share your own experiences to those younger generation of scientists," said His Holiness.
The Tibetan spiritual leader also stated that it is important to keep the traditional monastic education as the main subject to focus, after introducing the modern science into the monastic curriculum. His Holiness said that since the majority of the audience were Tibetan he would prefer to speak in his mother tongue. Several interpreters immediately stepped in to help those who needed an English translation.
The spiritual leader of Tibet repeated what he had told the scientists yesterday that the conference was taking place in Drepung, the second Nalanda of Tibet and the monastery to which the line of Dalai Lamas since the second have belonged.
His Holiness acknowledged that in their objectivity, intelligence and enthusiasm these scientists, several of whom he has known for many years, fulfil the Indian philosopher Aryadeva’s criteria for fit recipients of knowledge.
“I am known for being frank and in our monastic studies we rely a great deal on citing scriptural sources, but we also need to employ reasoning. In the Buddhist investigation of reality we traditionally employ four principles of reasoning: dependence, function, nature and evidence.”
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate said that in their investigations it seems that scientists seek evidence, and to do that they look for function, dependence and nature. Both approaches seem to work in parallel. He also mentioned the four reliances that guide Buddhist investigations: not relying on the person, but on his words; not relying on the words, but on their meaning; not relying on the conventional meaning, but on the ultimate meaning; and not relying only sensory evidence, but on the mind.
His Holiness also alluded to the Buddhist categorization of phenomena into evident, slightly hidden and completely hidden. "While the Buddhist tradition has developed means of achieving happiness through overcoming the disturbing emotions, science has focussed on material development with an emphasis on seeking truth and reality. Buddhist and modern science involve common approaches to extending knowledge in order to benefit humanity," said the Tibetan spiritual leader.
“Having preserved the Buddhist tradition of study, reflection and meditation, I hope that the monks here will come to have some idea of the profound investigations involved in science too," said the Buddhist leader. In 1955, Chairman Mao praised what he called my scientific turn of mind, and yet in the 1960s the Chinese criticized Buddhism as dependent on blind faith that Tibetans needed to overcome.”
“When I told my tutors of my interest in science, they replied that it made sense. However, although we have an interest in science, that doesn’t mean we have to devote all our energy to it. I spend the majority of my time in meditation on love, compassion and wisdom, which is the source of my interest in science. It is also my training in reasoning and Madhyamika philosophy that gives my way of thinking a quality that is of use to scientists,” said His Holiness.
"The exchange and dialogue between what we have together is not one to show or display knowledge, but it is a meeting to explore the depth of each others' prediction. And to see the best views on those knowledge for the peace, harmony or well being of at-least mankind, if you do not talk about all sentient beings," said Geshe Lhakdor, director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archive.
He stated that he particularly happy and grateful that this important meeting with presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is taking place today at a monastic environment, which he proudly says, "the living Tibetan Nalanda Monastic University."
Lhakdor said, "The organizers tried their best to arrange the necessary facilities for the time being. Not only 800-900 people listening to His Holiness here, but we have arranged a bigger hall, new Losel-ling assembly hall, which can accommodate at-least ten thousand people and an exhibition on five senses is opened at the old Losel-ling temple during the meeting."
Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, stated, "During the last 25 years, we from the Mind and Life Institute have often gathered together; scientists, scholars, philosophers, and contemplative practitioners in your residence, Dharamshala, India. Not too many people, but we have been there often to discuss important questions, concerning the natural of reality and the natural of consciousness, meditation and like.
"This week, we have gathered together once again, but this time, thousands of teachers, scholars, and students from your Tibetan Buddhist monastic universities. We came here from the U.S., Europe, Nepal, and India, in-order to have initiative, which is a very important new program of study, particularly the introduction of modern science into the monastic curriculum. It is a courageous decision, because, for centuries, you have taught a curriculum without science," he further said.
Critical conversations between Buddhist thought and science will focus topics over the course of the week that include the historical sweep of science, the revolutions in our understanding of our physical universe, and the nature of the mind. Scientific and the classical Buddhist philosophical methods of inquiry will be studied, as well as selected topics in quantum physics, neuroscience, and Buddhist and contemporary Western views of consciousness.
"I started this dialogue with scientists out of my own curiosity, but when it became clear how helpful it could be for Buddhists already familiar with the inner world to learn more about physical reality, I wanted to open it up to them too. I wanted to bring scientific understanding to our Tibetan Nalanda. Our monks have heard about this dialogue and I thought it would be really meaningful for them to have a taste of it - and now they can," His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his arrival at Drepung Monastery.
According to the institution, the Mind and Life Institute is a recognized world leader in emerging scientific investigation of the effects of contemplative practices on brain, behavior, and translation of this data into effective tools to benefit people in all walks of life.
The 26th Mind & Life dialogue is being held at Drepung University on Thursday morning, January 17, and will continue for next six days. The proceedings will be in English with a Tibetan translation available. Live webcast can be viewed from http://dalailama.com/liveweb