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BUDDHISM AND SCIENCE: HOW FAR CAN THE DIALOGUE PROCEED?

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Abstract

On the stage of the religion-and-science dialogue, Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism, is a late arrival. However, thanks primarily to the long-standing personal interest of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan tradition he represents has come to engage deeply with various disciplines of modern science. This essay follows the active engagement that has occurred particularly in the form of the biannual Mind and Life dialogues between the Dalai Lama and scientists. From the perspective of an active participant, I present the careful deliberations that ensure constructive parameters for these dialogues so that no one side can exert a hegemonic voice. I explore the challenges that are likely to confront the Buddhist side from its encounter with science, particularly with respect to its worldview. I identify specific areas where the two sides can and do engage in concrete collaboration, especially with respect to investigating healthy qualities of the mind and the effects of conscious mental training for attention and emotion regulation. Finally, I explore the question of the possible impact of this dialogue on modern science.
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Keywords: Abhidharma psychology; Dharmakirtian epistemology; Gendün Chöphel; Mind and Life dialogues; Nagarjuna; Tibetan Buddhism; contemplative science; dependent origination; nonessentialist ontology; philosophy of emptiness; principles of nature; science of meditation; the Dalai Lama

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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