Wallace sees common ground between Buddhist introspection and Western science

By Ari Rockland-Miller, Brown Daily Herald Campus News, April 19, 2005

Providence, RI (USA) -- Alan Wallace, one of the preeminent Western scholars of Tibetan Buddhism, stressed the importance of introspection as a mode of academic inquiry in the first annual Mary Interlandi '05 Lecture on Contemplative Studies on Monday night.

<< Alan Wallace, "Socially irresponsible to isolate the academic studies of science and religion"

Wallace's lecture, "Observing the Mind: A Buddhist Approach to Exploring Consciousness," focused on the interface between traditional Buddhist methods of introspection and conceptions of the mind, and the modern Western scientific approach to neuroscience and physics.

This unique interdisciplinary fusion reflects Wallace's diverse background. He spent 14 years training as a Tibetan Buddhist monk, ordained by H.H. the Dalai Lama, before studying physics at Amherst College and earning a doctorate in religious studies at Stanford.

Wallace called it "socially irresponsible" to isolate the academic studies of science and religion, which are often regarded as disparate disciplines.

Both deeply philosophical and profoundly pragmatic, Wallace's speech emphasized the fruitful implications of studying the contemplative mind, both from a third-person and from a critical first-person perspective.

The critical first-person perspective is typically neglected by science because the modern scientific paradigm reveres absolute objectivity and impersonality, rendering the subjective "taboo," Wallace said. This subjective method would include critically examining one's own experience during meditation as a form of academic study.

Wallace fervently argued that this type of subjective, introspective study of the contemplative mind is vital, when coupled with the more traditional third-person mode of scientific research. Furthermore, Wallace said this type of contemplative study should be worked into the formal American higher education system.

He cited his personal hero - 19th century American psychologist and philosopher William James, who said that an education that improved the individual's ability to maintain sustained, voluntary attention would be "the education par excellence."

Wallace spoke about a groundbreaking study he is currently leading, which he said will "scientifically prove meditation's fruitful effects" through assessing changes in the brain functioning and behavior of subjects who meditate intensively every day for an entire year. Wallace spoke with a high regard for this type of empirical scientific study, but simultaneously noted that this study would only be proving a fact that "Buddhist monks have known for 100 generations already."

Audience members reacted very positively to Wallace's lecture, and most stayed throughout the lengthy question and answer session.

"I really thought it was brilliant, his idea that you should train your introspective skills before you can study (the contemplative mind)," said Joshua Bocher '08.

Pablo Gaston '05 reacted similarly. "He raised some really interesting questions I had really never thought about before, in terms of using introspection as a tool," he said.

Interlandi, who died in 2003, showed a great passion for contemplative studies, and wanted to create a concentration in the field. She studied Buddhism, feminist theory and eastern philosophy while at Brown, according to the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life's Web site.

Professor of Religious Studies Hal Roth, who had Interlandi as a student in RS 88: "Great Mystical Traditions of Asia," said, "When the funds came up, (Wallace) was the first person I thought of." The lecture, in addition to a two-day meditative retreat led by Wallace last weekend, was made possible both by the Interlandi family and by the Francis Wayland Collegium for Liberal Learning, with support from the Chaplain's Office.

Roth, who has spearheaded a movement to establish contemplative studies as a concentration after Interlandi's death, said he would like to sponsor at least one such retreat and lecture in contemplative studies every year at Brown. Brown's contemplative studies program recently received a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, which will help make this goal possible.

Roth said he was moved by Wallace's lecture, particularly its emphasis on incorporating contemplative studies into the setting of the prestigious American university.

"I liked the way he phrased the dangers we face as a global society, and the importance of integrating the third person and first person critical modes of study," he said.

Wallace, for one, seemed equally excited by Roth and his mission to bring a contemplative studies program to the University. "I'm very impressed by what's happening here at Brown," he said.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv