Thursday, September 4, 2008
Book Review: Contemplative Science
Where Buddhism and Neuroscience Converge
(Columbia University Series on Science and Religion)
"Contemplative Science is a must read for anyone interested in consciousness. Alan Wallace challenges neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, and Buddhists, with lucid, provocative scholar-ship" (Paul Ekman, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of California, San Francisco, and author of Emotions Revealed).
Science has long treated religion as a set of personal beliefs that have little to do with a rational understanding of the mind and the uni-verse. However, B. Alan Wallace--former monk, assistant to the Dalai Lama, and respected Buddhist scholar--proposes that the contemplative methodologies of Buddhism and of Western science are capable of being integrated into a single disci-pline: "contemplative science."
The science of consciousness introduces first-person methods of investigating the mind through Buddhist contemplative techniques, such as shamatha [serenity meditation], an organized, detailed system of training the attention. Just as scientists make observations and conduct experiments with the aid of technology, contemplatives have long tested their own theories with the help of highly developed meditative skills of observation and experimentation.
Contemplative science allows for a deeper knowledge of mental phenomena, including a wide range of states of consciousness, and its emphasis on strict mental discipline counteracts the effects of conative (intention and desire), attentional, cognitive, and affective imbalances.
Just as Behaviorism, psychology, and neuroscience have all shed light on the cognitive processes that enable us to survive and flourish, contemplative science offers a groundbreaking perspective for expanding our capacity to realize genuine well-being. It also forges a link between the material world and the realm of the subconscious that transcends the traditional science-based understanding of the self.
AUTHOR: B. Alan Wallace (alanwallace.org) spent fourteen years as a Buddhist monk, ordained by H. H. the Dalai Lama. The founder and president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies (sbinstitute.com), he has trans-lated Tibetan Buddhist texts and is the author of several books, including The Taboo of Subjectivity, and editor of Buddhism and Science (Columbia).
B. Alan Wallace (Shamatha Project) talk on "Optimal Mental Health"