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Dalai Lama meets scientists for Mind and Life Dialogues
By Phurbu Thinley, Phayul, April 6, 2009
Dharamsala, India -- Leading western scientists and noted academics are once again in the Northern Indian town of Dharamsala, home to the exiled 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, for five days of presentation and dialogues as part of a “Mind and Life” conference series.
The conference themed: “Attention, Memory and Mind: A synergy of Psychological, Neuroscientific and Contemplative Perspectives” kick-started with an inaugural talk by the Dalai Lama.
This is the 18th Mind and Life Meet. The first meeting took place in 1987.
The Mind and Life Dialogues, more generally termed “Dialogues between Buddhism and the sciences”, were initially started to experiment whether a rigorous exchange could occur between leading modern scientists and the Dalai Lama. Series of regular successful experimental exchanges over the ensuing years lead to the formation of the Louisville based Mind and Life Institute (MLI).
Mind and Life XVIII aims to primarily focus on the subjective phenomenology, information-processing operations, and neural mechanisms of attention, memory and conscious awareness from both scientific and Buddhist perspectives.
“While the relation between attention, memory, and mind is a fascinating area of research in psychological science and neuroscience, it is also of particular interest and investigation in Buddhism, because it is through the contemplative refinement of attention and mindfulness that one explores the distinctive characteristics, origins, and potentials of human awareness, of suffering, and of genuine happiness,” the MLI noted in its overview note on the conference.
Calling the conference as a “reunion” of long time friends for over the last 20 years, the Dalai Lama said: “I think out of our serious discussion, I think at least make some contribution- firstly for our knowledge about reality, external matters, particles, and our inner world, particularly the more sensitive inner world that is emotions.”
“I think our discussion created some interest on people who normally are not much concerned about our inner world,” the Dalai Lama said, adding “Not necessarily as a religious matter, but simply because we are living being with mind, with consciousness, with experience, emotions. So naturally we cannot neglect these things.”
“We want happiness, (and) happiness is a kind of mind. So the very meaning of joyfulness is somehow related to emotions and mind. So we must have better awareness about that,” the Dalai Lama said.
In addition to fundamental scientific questions; the dialogue meeting will deal with the larger philosophical, ethical and spiritual issues prompted by each field of science that need to be effectively addressed.
The MLI now has a number of scientific research programmes collaborated with contemplatives to conduct scientific investigation. One of the primary pursuits of Mind and Life scientists is to study the effects of contemplative practices like meditation and mental training have on brain and behaviour, and the translation of this data into effective tools to benefit people in all walks of life.
Of these, the Mind and Life Dialogues with the Dalai Lama is the foremost programme of the institute.
His Eminence the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Hollywood Buddhist star, Richard Gere and, Robert Thurman, Buddhist scholar and author, and father of Hollywood actress Uma Thurman, are among others taking part in the ongoing conference in Dharamsala.
For more on the Mind and Life Dialogues and, range of topics MLI has explored, visit www.mindandlife.org.