Why Dialogue? Buddhist and Scientific Perspectives Part I

Why Dialogue? Buddhist and Scientific Perspectives Part I


For many years, physicist Arthur Zajonc and neuroscientist Richard Davidson have worked with the Dalai Lama at the intersection of contemporary science and Buddhist thought. They offered their views on the power of this dialogue, and its significance for themselves and their work. This leads to larger questions of wider importance. Why are Western scientists interested in a dialogue with Buddhism or the contemplative traditions more generally? What are the areas of science where this dialogue has been felt to be most fruitful, and why? What can Buddhist scholars and monastics potentially contribute to the work of Western science, why should they be motivated to do so, and what has been accomplished so far? In addition, Zajonc and Davidson explored some elementary perceptual puzzles that demonstrate the methods, insights, and also the limits, of physics, neuroscience and consciousness studies. In particular, what can one learn about the significance of context and relationship for observation and cognition generally? Where does physics leave off and the science of the mind begin? What is the difference between them, and how are they related?

  • Dialogue 26
    27 sessions
  • January 17, 2013
    Drepung Monastery, Mundgod, India
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Arthur Zajonc

Arthur Zajonc, PhD, was professor of physics at Amherst College from 1978 to 2012, when he became President of the Mind & Life Institute. His research has included studies in electron-atom physics, parity violation in atoms, quantum optics, the experimental foundations of quantum physics, and the relationship between science, the humanities and the contemplative traditions. He has also written extensively on Goethe’s science work. He is author of the book: Catching the Light, co-author of The Quantum Challenge, and co-editor of Goethe’s Way of Science. In 1997, he served as scientific coordinator for the Mind and Life dialogue published as The New Physics and Cosmology: Dialogues with the Dalai Lama. He organized the 2002 dialogue with the Dalai Lama, “The Nature of Matter, the Nature of Life,” and acted as moderator at MIT for the “Investigating the Mind” Mind and Life dialogue in 2003, the proceedings of which were published under the title The Dalai Lama at MIT. While directing the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, Arthur fostered the use of contemplative practice in college and university classrooms, and he continues to speak around the world on the importance of contemplative pedagogy. Out of this work and his long-standing meditative practice, Zajonc has most recently authored Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry: When Knowing Becomes Love. He has also been General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in America, a co-founder of the Kira Institute, president of the Lindisfarne Association, and a senior program director at the Fetzer Institute.