2010 – XXII

Contemplative Science:
The Scientific Study of the Effect of Contemplative Practice on Human Biology and Behaviour

with His Holiness The Dalai Lama

New Delhi, India  •   India Habitat Centre •  November 20–23, 2010

The Mind and Life XXII conference in New Delhi, November 2010, was requested by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and it was dedicated to the topic: “Contemplative Science – The Scientific Study of the Effect of Contemplative Practice on Human Biology and Behaviour.”

The meeting was an opportunity for the investigation of the philosophical heritage underlying the practices. It was designed to speak to the scientific and contemplative communities in India, as well as the mainstream media, about the emerging field of contemplative science and its deeper implications.

Co-sponsored by

National Institute of Advanced Studies
The Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Central University of Higher Tibetan Studies
Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, New Delhi

Planning Committee

Full Conference Videos

The following links contain each session in its entirety.

Conference Participants

Schedule of Proceedings

Opening DialogueSession 1Session 2Session 3Session 4Session 5

November 20, 2010

SATURDAY EVENING
6:30pm – 8:00pm

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Dr. Abdul Kalam and Prof. Wolf Singer, represent the pinnacle of their respective fields, the “inner sciences” of Buddhism and the “outer sciences” of the West. In recent years, these fields have converged in a domain now known as “Contemplative Science,” through which the insights and effects of contemplative practices are studied using the rigorous methods of modern medicine, psychology and neuroscience. HH the Dalai Lama, former Indian President Dr. Abdul Kalam, and Prof. Wolf Singer will discuss the importance of scientific findings on the secular benefits of contemplative practices, especially those practices that have originated and developed in India. They will examine what these findings might suggest about the relationship between body and mind, and they will likewise explore how such findings are made possible by a clear and rigorous dialogue between science and contemplative traditions. Discussing the value of this research in the framework of secular ethics, they will reflect on how the mental and physical benefits of such practices might be extended to a wider circle of humanity.

Participants

  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
  • Former President Dr. Abdul Kalam
  • Wolf Singer
  • Rajiv Mehrotra (Moderator)
  • Thupten Jinpa (Interpreter)
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    November 21, 2010

    MORNING SESSION 1
    9:00am – 11:00am

    Overview and Framework
    Philosophical Perspectives from Hinduism and Buddhism

    Numerous contemplative traditions originated in India, and they continue to be practiced through various forms of yoga, meditation and other contemplative techniques. A clear understanding of these traditions and their practices involves an inquiry into their rich philosophical heritage. HH the Dalai Lama will open this session with his reflections on the role that philosophy plays in contemplative practice. Next, two distinguished scholars—one from Hinduism and one from Buddhism—will discuss the ways that their traditions articulate the wider understanding of reality that is the context for contemplative practice. Emphasizing common roots as well as important points of divergence, they will address such questions as the nature of the mind and body, the ways that contemplative practices lead to personal transformation, the role that philosophy plays in guiding practice, and the centrality of ethics.

    Presenters and Panelists

  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
  • Adam Engle
  • Thupten Jinpa (Presenter and Interpreter)
  • Swammi Atmapriyananda
  • Richard J. Davidson
  • Geshe Ngawang Samten
  • PN Tandon
  • Chakravarti Ram-Prasad
  • Daniel Goleman (Moderator)
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    AFTERNOON SESSION 2
    2:00pm – 4:00pm

    Foundation for Scientific Understanding of Contemplative Practices
    State of Research; Buddhism and Science

    Despite its youth, the emerging field of Contemplative Science has advanced considerably in the last decade, and many of these advancements are linked to progress in neuroscience as a whole. In this session, prominent scientists in various fields will present and discuss specific findings on the nature of contemplative practices, and they will likewise discuss larger issues within neuroscience that have been critical to understanding such practices. The main focus of this session will be at the intersection of Buddhist practices and science. Questions about neuroplasticity and the effects of mental training will be considered, and implications concerning the relationship between mind and body will be explored. As discussants, contemplative scholars will seek to clarify how scientific researchers can collaborate fruitfully with contemplative traditions, and the best methodological approaches for studying contemplative practices will likewise be discussed.

    Presenters and Panelists

  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
  • Matthieu Ricard
  • Richard J. Davidson
  • Wolf Singer
  • John Dunne
  • Rajesh Kasturirangan
  • Daniel Goleman (Moderator)
  • Thupten Jinpa (Interpreter)
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    November 22, 2010

    MORNING SESSION 3
    9:00am – 11:00am

    Understanding Contemplative Practices: Vedanta
    Review of Vedanta Practices and the intersection with Science

    Within both Hinduism and Buddhism, numerous lineages (parampara) of contemplative practice employ a wide range of techniques to realize their spiritual goals. This session, focusing on the Advaita Vedanta tradition, will elucidate some of the tradition’s most important practices, including especially those practices that are the best candidates for scientific research. Emphasizing contemporary styles of practice, these contemplative scholars will also discuss the basic techniques employed, the expected outcomes of specific practices, their theoretical foundations, and the issues involved in understanding those practices in scientific terms. Serving as discussants, a panel of scientists will pose questions that seek to clarify the nature of these practices and the way that they might be explored scientifically.

    Presenters and Panelists

  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
  • Swami Atmapriyananda
  • Chakravarti Ram-Prasad
  • Wolf Singer
  • Matthieu Ricard
  • Aditya Murthy
  • John Dunne (Moderator)
  • Thupten Jinpa (Interpreter)
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    AFTERNOON SESSION 4
    2:00pm – 4:00pm

    Understanding Contemplative Practices: Yoga and Jain
    Review of Jain and Yoga Practices, and the Intersection with Science

    In continuation of the morning session, this session will be dedicated to the exploration of the central practices in the Yoga and Jain traditions. Here as well, the main features of the most prominent practices will be explored, and in terms of scientific research, panelists will be examining the question of applying such practices in clinical contexts for mental and physical health. Indeed, in recent years, clinicians have cooperated with contemplative practitioners to develop therapies that, while largely secular, still draw on the insights and techniques found in various forms of yoga, meditation, breath control and so on. It is especially with this research in mind that the panelists will inquire into the practices presented.

    Presenters and Panelists

  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
  • Muni Mahendra Kumar
  • BN Gangadhar
  • Shirley Telles
  • HR Nagendra
  • Richard J. Davidson
  • Wolf Singer (Moderator)
  • Thupten Jinpa (Interpreter)
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    November 23, 2010

    Morning Session
    9:00am – 11:00am

    Reflections, Integration and Future Directions

    Previous sessions have shown the great benefit that can arise from a clear and rigorous dialogue between modern science and the contemplative traditions of India. This final session concentrates on the future avenues of research in contemplative science that have become evident over the preceding days. Central questions to be addressed include: How can fruitful dialogues between scientists and contemplatives be encouraged, and what are the promises and pitfalls of such a dialogue? What methods and research protocols are best employed in the scientific study of contemplative practices? How, in practical terms, can this form of research on Contemplative Science be supported and encouraged? Going forward, what are the most promising avenues of research, and what obstacles must we face? An exploration of these and other issues will lead to a lively dialog to close the conference.

    Presenters and Panelists

  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
  • VS Ramamurthy
  • Kapila Vatsyayan
  • Richard J. Davidson
  • Wolf Singer
  • Viji Ravindranath (Moderator)
  • Thupten Jinpa (Interpreter)
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