Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text
Title: Investigating the mind [videorecording] : session 1 : attention & cognitive control
Language of title: English
Author/Creator: Mind and Life Institute


On a September weekend in 2003 at M.I.T., psychologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers met with the Dalai Lama and Buddhists scholars to discuss Buddhist and scientific perspectives on attention, cognitive control, mental imagery, emotion, and how the Buddhist and scientific traditions may work together in collaboration on the study of the mind. This was the 11th such conference hosted by the Mind and Life Institute and was the first meeting that was open to the public.

The weekend was divided into four sessions with each session covering theme for which scientists and Buddhists could share their findings and opinions. This is the first of a set of four DVDs set which covers the entire proceedings.

The first session began with introductory remarks by the Dalai Lama in which he outlined his reasons and motivation for participating in the dialogue. This was followed by a talk by philosopher of mind Evan Thompson who outlined some of the theoretical and methodological issues that would frame the weekend's discussion. Toward the beginning of the twentieth century, William James proposed that a full study of the mind should entail the use of experimental psychology paired with brain science and first-person, phenomenological inquiry. While experimental psychology and neuroscientific approaches were pursued by scientists during the twentieth century, the phenomenological approach to the study of the mind was discontinued and has been considered taboo by most of psychology and science until recent years. A full science of the mind, Thompson suggests (following Francisco Varela), can not only look at the neural and behavioral correlates of mental events, but also needs to include a rigourous first-person science of subjectivity. The Buddhist tradition, with a long tradition of phenomenological inquiry, makes for a natural partner in this full and integrative study of the mind and consciousness.

Following Thompson's introductory comments, the panel turned its focus to the topic of attention, with cognitive psychologist Jonathan Cohen of Princeton University presenting the scientific point of view of attention and B. Alan Wallace presenting the Buddhist view. While there are many views of attention within Western psychology, in general, modern experimental psychological studies have looked at how attention is related to cognitive control, how it is selective, what is the breadth and focussedness of attention, and what are its limitations, mechanisms, and neural correlates.

The Buddhist perspective, by contrast, is interested in the training of attention (Sanskrit: manaskāra; Tibetan: yid la byed pa) for the purpose of using it to investigate, and thereby gain insight into, inner subjective phenomenon, the external world, and the relation between inner and outer phenomenon. Attention is also considered to have the function of directing awareness to an object and the actual apprehension of objects.

Both speakers outline the respective understanding of attention from the Buddhist and scientific perspective in rich detail and suggest avenues for discussion and collaborative inquiry. This is followed a panel discussion amongst the Dalai Lama and experts from both sides on attention and cognitve control. (Zach Rowinski 2005-01-06)

Contributor: B. Alan Wallace
Evan Thompson
Anne Harrington, 1960-
Bstan-'dzin-rgya-mtsho, Dalai Lama XIV, 1935-
Geshé Tupten Jinpa (dge bshes thub bstan sbyin pa)
Jonathan D. Cohen
Nancy Kanwisher
Anne Treisman
Arthur Zajonc
Ajahn Amaro
David E. Meyer
Publisher Place: Boulder, Colorado
Publisher: Conference Recording Service Inc.
Normalized publisher place: Boulder, CO
Publisher country: United States
Publisher URL: https://www.readysecure2.com/users/conferencerecordingcom/mli23.asp
Published Date: 2003
URL: http://www.investigatingthemind.org/schedule.sessions.html#attention
Extent: 161 min.
Subject: Dalai Lama
Francisco Varela
B. Alan Wallace
Meditation research
Science of mind
Cognitive science
Emotional balance
Buddhist psychology
Brain activity
William James
Subtle energies
Cognitive neuroscience
Cognitive psychology
Cognitive control
Classification: Buddhism and Science -- Buddhism -- Tibetan Buddhism
Buddhism and Science -- Buddhism -- Contemplative Practices -- Calm Abiding (zhi gnas, śamatha)
Buddhism and Science -- International Science -- Cognitive Science
Buddhism and Science -- International Science -- Cognitive Science -- Consciousness Studies
Buddhism and Science -- Related Humanities -- Philosophy -- Modern Philosophy -- Phenomenology
Buddhism and Science -- International Science -- Psychology
Cultural Coverage: United States
Temporal coverage: 21st century CE
Language: English
Format: Non-print media (tape, CD, local database,,etc.)
Media type: Video
Resource Type: Conference Proceedings
Digital Encoding: mpeg-2
Release Flag: OK for viewing
Date Of Record Creation: 2005-01-06 02:23:48
Date Record Checked: 2005-01-06
Date Last Modified: 2005-03-26 10:59:59
Cumulative Rating: this resource has a 1 star rating
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