White is a writer and editor who specializes in Buddhist and South Asian materials. Her writing explores cross-cultural conceptions of religion, health, and family. Wendy Hasenkamp , Janna R. This eye-opening book presents a record of those spirited and wide-ranging dialogues, featuring contributions from prominent scholars like Richard Davidson, Matthieu Ricard, Tania Singer, and Arthur Zajonc as they address such questions as: Does nature have a nature? Do you need a brain to be conscious? We Buddhists can make use of the findings of science to clarify our understanding of the world we live in.
But scientists may also be able to utilize some insights from Buddhism. I have often said that if science proves facts that conflict with Buddhist understanding, Buddhism must change accordingly. We should always adopt a view that accords with the facts. What science finds to be nonexistent we should all accept as nonexistent, but what science merely does not find is a completely different matter.
An example is consciousness itself.
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Although sentient beings, including humans, have experienced consciousness for centuries, we still do not know what consciousness actually is: its complete nature and how it functions. With the ever-growing impact of science on our lives, religion and spirituality have a greater role to play in reminding us of our humanity.
What we must do is balance scientific and material progress with the sense of responsibility that comes of inner development. That is why I believe this dialogue between religion and science is important, for from it may come developments that can be of great benefit to mankind. Dalai Lama: One can envision a process of scientific analysis to which you carry no value judgments; you are interested in uncovering the real nature of what is being examined, and make no evaluative judgments.
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In the study of mind or consciousness, you can envision a similar process; you just keep on probing and probing and probing. At the same time, there must be some consideration of the implications of the findings — a sense of moral responsibility. I have heard that there were some physicists who worked on the atomic bomb and recognized the tremendously destructive implications of the work if it were to be used wrongly, and, in some instances, they shied away from the research.
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The challenge is how to ensure real objectivity in your scientific research. If someone is inquiring into the physiology of the brain and is motivated predominantly by the wish to somehow prove that an emotion is valuable, then that is not really objective.
To ensure that it is a scientific process, one has to suspend the judgment and just pursue whatever you observe. We have to find a balance so that the actual scientific process is not diluted. Objectivity is the strength of science. But once the science is revealed, then we should not ignore the question of its implications — whether positive or negative. Dalai Lama: Compassion, or loving kindness, is experienced by individuals in many different ways. Some Christian sects call it faith in god, and they experience it with a deep intensity.
Buddhists use different methods to produce this same strong state of mind. Mobley: One way to have a real dialogue is for neuroscientists using the best methods and the best tools to begin to understand the brain basis of compassion — to be able to measure that and publish that and really captivate a larger body of neuroscientists. Right now, neuroscientists are excited about watching brain circuits function and, to some extent, decoding what the neurons say to each other. Understanding the brain basis of compassion would be an experiment that would allow us, if done very well, to essentially map meaning onto the circuits, which no one has done yet.
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If we can map the meaning onto the circuits that are operative, we could distinguish between different states of compassion. It might then be possible to teach people to become compassionate — that would be the application. Dalai Lama: One thing I would be interested in is mapping the various types of mental states.
For example, Buddhists have a typology of the different types of perceptions: Those that are analytical are distinct from those that are sensory.
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