Monday, June 15, 2020

Neuroscience meets Buddhism: Matt Ricard

(Action for Happiness) Matthieu Ricard and Wolf Singer join Mark Williamson for a discussion of Beyond the Self, sharing insights from Buddhism and neuroscience to help us live happier, more compassionate lives. Filmed in front of a large audience in London on Jan. 29, 2018.

There is no "self"
"Self" (atta=soul, ego) is illusory.
Let's do what the Buddha did and move BEYOND the self. But what is the "self," the ego, soul, personality, identity, consciousness? It is an illusion. We can think of it as our body and mind. But most of us will feel it's a lot more our mind (name, consciousness, awareness, memories) and hardly this ever-changing body. "Mind," the Buddha discerned, is what we cling to as self: feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. But none of this is enduring, identical, or able to provide fulfillment. It is something, but it is not a self. The gateless gate to enlightenment is the realization that all that we regard as "self" is actually impersonal. What if psychology knew that? What if neuroscience could test that? Former geneticist Matthieu Ricard and Professor Wolf Singer wrote a book merging neuroscience and Buddhism.

Beyond the Self: Conversations Between Buddhism and Neuroscience
Buddhism meet neuroscience
This book examines converging and diverging views on mind, self, consciousness, free will, unconscious, perception, meditation, and other topics.

Buddhism, on the one hand, shares with science the task of examining the mind empirically. It has pursued, for more than two millennia, direct investigation of the mind through penetrating introspection.

Neuroscience, on the other hand, relies on third-person knowledge in the form of observation. In this book, French Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, who trained as a molecular biologist, and Prof. Wolf Singer, a distinguished neuroscientist, offer their perspectives on mind, self, consciousness, subconscious, unconscious, free will, epistemology, meditation, and neuroplasticity.

Matthieu Ricard and his dad
Ricard and Singer's wide-ranging conversation is an enlightening and engaging encounter between Buddhism's wealth of experiential findings and neuroscience's abundance of experimental results.

Among many other things, these two good friends discuss
  • the difference between rumination and meditation (rumination is the scourge of meditation, whereas psychotherapy depends on it);
  • the distinction between the contents of awareness and pure awareness;
  • the Buddhist idea (or lack of one) of the unconscious and neuroscience's precise criteria for conscious and subconscious processes; and
  • the commonalities between cognitive behavioral therapy and meditation.
Their views diverge. (Ricard asserts that the third-person approach will never encounter consciousness as a primary experience). And they converge. (Singer points out that the neuroscientific understanding of perception as reconstruction is very like the Buddhist all-discriminating wisdom).

But both keep their vision trained on understanding fundamental aspects of human life. More

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