Understanding the World

In early May, Mind & Life Europe Board and Association members Elena Antonova, Amy Cohen Varela and Charles-Antoine Janssen attended as observers the second in a series of dialogues entitled ‘Fundamental knowledge: Dialogue between Russian and Buddhist Scholars’ in Dharamsala, India, at the behest of the Dalai Lama. This meeting gathered Russian philosophers and scientists from the fields of neuroscience, genetics and physics with Buddhist scholars under the title “Understanding the World”.

The first meeting in this budding series was held last August in New Delhi, on the theme of mind, brain and consciousness, and, like the second, was organized by the Center of Tibetan Culture and Information (Moscow), the Save Tibet Foundation (Moscow) and the Dalai Lama Trust. It was supported by the Center for Consciousness Studies at the Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The Russian scholars describe their mission as follows:
“This series of meetings is intended to bring together Buddhist and Russian scholars to explore jointly the fundamental questions of physics and cosmology, evolution and biology, brain and consciousness, nature of knowledge and human values – issues of deepest importance for contemporary world.

Russia occupies a peculiar position between the East and West. It was among the first countries with an Eastern holistic mentality to assimilate the spread of a rigorous scientific methodology born in the Western Europe in the 17th-18th centuries. Because of this unusual amalgam of Western and Eastern modes of thinking amplified by a tradition of pursuing difficult questions in a framework of “scientific schools”, a variety of distinctive approaches has developed in Russian science.

The aim of these dialogues between the Russian and Buddhist scholars is to investigate the perspectives of these conceptual bridges between Western science and Buddhist contemplative studies towards a deeper knowledge of reality and a better humanity.”

The Dalai Lama’s book, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality, set the framework of the May dialogue which focused on developing the conversation with the Buddhist scholars present concerning points of contact-and resistance- between Buddhist thought and scientific research.

The Mind & Life Europe group was grateful to be invited to the pre-meeting for this conference, a ranging and lively dialogue between the Russian delegation and Buddhist scholars from the major Tibetan monasteries and educational institutions.  We appreciate the Dalai Lama’s initiative in bringing us together with our Eastern neighbors, and are developing ways to expand our interactions with them in the future.

For more details on the precise content of “Understanding the world”, view the videos of the 2-day conference.

Photo credit: Tenzin Choejor