CREDOS : Mind over matter — I

Matthieu Ricard

A}t the Eighth Mind and Life Conference in 2000, the Dalai Lama and Western scientists debated the true nature of negative emotions. Mattheiu Ricard writes on the debate. Buddhism has never shied away from dialogue in its quest for deeper understanding. Over the centuries, Buddhist sages have waged metaphysical debates with Hindu philosophers and adepts of other traditions. And today, dharma teachers have an ongoing conversation with disparate religions and, most recently, with Western science, looking for both common ground and boundaries.

This dialogue has allowed Buddhism to refine, sharpen, and enlarge its philosophical outlook, its system of logic, and its understanding of the world. In particular, the encounters between Buddhism and science pose interesting questions for both "camps," especially around ethics, personal transformation, and the nature of mind. Do Buddhism, and spirituality in general, have anything useful to offer when science reaches its limits and falls silent? "Buddhist thinking relies more on investigation than on faith," the Dalai Lama has said. "Therefore, scientific findings are very helpful to Buddhist thinking. In my experience, Buddhist views may also give scientists a new way to look at their own field."

To explore these and other questions, a group of respected scientists and philosophers made their way on a local bus that wound through village market places and Himalayan roads en route to the village of Dharmsala, in northern India. They were gathering to take part in the Eighth Mind and Life Conference, 2000, a weeklong discussion with the Dalai Lama. —