Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text
Title: MindScience : an east-west dialogue
Language of title: English
Editor: Robert A. F. Thurman 1941-
Daniel Goleman


MindScience is a record of a conference that took place between the Dalai Lama and psychologists, psychiatrists, neuroscientists, and psychobiologists at Harvard Medical School in March 24, 1991. The purpose of the conference, in part, was to share with the Dalai Lama and the medical community some of the scientific studies performed by Herbert Benson with Tibetan monks practicing "Tummo" (gtum mo) or the meditative generation of inner heat. The conference also included a general discussion on Buddhist and neuroscientific perspectives on mind-body issues, such as how the mind can affect physiology and behavior, and alternatively, how we can look at behavior and experience as the result of neuronal activity.

Buddhist teachings assert the existence of subtle states of mind which are free from emotional disturbances and ordinary cognitive activity. The Buddhist assertion of the existence of the "clear light" and subtle-most state of consciousness, as well as a basic introduction to tantric physiology, is presented to the medical scientists and others by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman of Columbia University. The Dalai Lama specifically discusses the Buddhist emphasis on individually investigating the nature of reality, the Buddhist concepts of interdependent origination, karma, internal and external causality, and Buddhist exoteric (sūtric) and esoteric (tantric) explanations of the mind.

Herbert Benson gives an account of his experiences and the scientific findings from studying the physiological effects of meditation, starting in 1967 with practitioners of transcendental meditation and then eventually working with Tibetan monks with an expertise in the practice of "inner heat" (gtum mo). He specifically discusses how these types of meditative practices can significantly increase or decrease metabolism. Dr. Benson describes the nature of the studies performed with Tibetan monks, including the specific physiological changes he measured such as skin temperature and oxygen consumption. He also gives a general overview of the medical understanding of temperature regulation, looking specifically at the how warm-blooded animals regulate temperature through (1) heat production and (2) heat conservation.

Heat production can result through muscle activity and through chemical changes, such as chemical changes effected by the hormones epinephrine and thyroxin. Heat conservation is achieved in a variety of ways such as reducing the amount of skin exposure to the cold, piloerection (raising of hair, humans replace this by wearing clothing), and reducing blood flow to the extremities (where it will cool more rapidly). When put in a cold environment, the body naturally reduces blood flow to the extremities. However, practitioners of inner heat do the opposite: they increase the surface temperature of the skin. They also increase their metabolism.

Dr. Benson also discusses how his studies on meditators relate to what he calls the "relaxation response." This is the opposite of the "stress response" which is involved with physiological reactions of "fight-or-flight." Research on the relaxation response has opened the door for its use in clinical settings for treatment of hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, chronic pain, insomnia, the side of effects of cancer and AIDS therapies, anxiety disorders, depression, menstrual tension and infertility, and is also being applied as a preparation for surgery.

Finally, Dr. Benson answers questions from the audience on how his work relates to hypnosis, the treatment of cancer, the effect of the meditation on blood carbon dioxide levels and blood pH, as well as other issues involved in study of meditation.

In a following section, Harvard education expert, Howard Gardner, gives an overview of Western perspectives on cognition, reasoning, and intelligence. He discusses the "cognitive revolution" that took place in psychology in the latter half of the twentieth century and his theory of multiple intelligences

Lastly, psychologist Daniel Goleman outlines Western psychological and Buddhist models of mental health, including a discussion of the early history of the interaction between Buddhism and psychology. He suggests the therapeutic approaches found in psychology focus on the content of consciousness, while the Buddhist approach to mental health focuses more on processes of changing conscious experience.

In addition to formal presentations, the book provides a record of questions and responses that took place amongst the scientists, the Dalai Lama, and the audience.

(Zach Rowinski 2005-01-03)

Contributor: Bstan-'dzin-rgya-mtsho, Dalai Lama XIV, 1935-
Herbert Benson 1935-
Howard Gardner
Diana L. Eck
David Bear
Steven Matthysse
Joseph J. Schildkraut 1934-
Carl E. Schwartz
Publisher Place: Boston
Publisher: Wisdom Publications
Normalized publisher place: Boston, MA
Publisher country: United States
Publisher URL: http://www.wisdompubs.org/
Published Date: 1991
URL: http://www.wisdompubs.org/productsZoom/0861710665.cfm?&userID=04F33E24-7ED3-4830-88347360BC673734
Extent: xi, 137 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
Subject: Dalai Lama
Meditation research
Science of mind
Cross-cultural dialogue
Cognitive science
Harvard University
Stress reduction
Buddhist psychology
Vajrayāna Buddhism
Dependent origination
Subtle energies
Abhidharma (chos mngon pa)
Cognitive psychology
Tummo (gtum mo)
Temperature regulation
Theory of multiple intelligences
Relaxation response
Subtle-body physiology
Classification: Buddhism and Science -- Buddhism -- Tibetan Buddhism
Buddhism and Science -- Buddhism -- Vajrayāna Buddhism
Buddhism and Science -- International Science -- Cognitive Science
Buddhism and Science -- International Science -- Psychology
Buddhism and Science -- International Science -- Psychology -- Clinical Psychology
Cultural Coverage: Tibet
United States
Temporal coverage: 20th century CE
Language: English

Table of Contents: Foreword / His Holiness the Dalai Lama -- Preface / Dr. Herbert Benson -- Introduction: A Western perspective / Daniel Goleman -- Introduction: A Tibetan perspective -- Pt.1 Buddhism, neuroscience, & the medical sciences : 1. The Buddhist concept of mind / Dalai Lama ; 2. Dialogue ; 3. Mind/Body interactions including Tibetan studies ; pt 2. Buddhism, psychology, & the cognitive sciences : 4. Tibetan psychology: sophisticated software for the human brain / Robert Thurman ; 5. Cognition / Howard E. Gardner ; 6. Tibetan and Western models of mental health / Daniel Goleman ; 7. Dialogue ; Conclusion: Looking ahead / Daniel Goleman and Robert Thurman -- Contributors -- Notes -- Glossary -- Selected bibliography -- Index

ISBN/ISSN: 0861710665
LOC: 91030288
Format: Print media (print or manuscript, including PDFs)
Release Flag: OK for viewing
Date Of Record Creation: 2005-01-03 16:52:30
Date Record Checked: 2005-01-03
Date Last Modified: 2006-04-05 16:41:29
Cumulative Rating: this resource has a 1 star rating
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