Neuroscientist Christof Koch shares his impressions following a recent weeklong exchange between western scientists and the Tibetan Buddhist monastic community living in exile at Drepung Monastery in southern India:
"What passed between these representatives of two distinct intellectual modes of thinking about the world were facts, data—knowledge. That is, knowledge about the more than two-millennia-old Eastern tradition of investigating the mind from the inside, from an interior, subjective point of view, and the much more recent insights provided by empirical Western ways to probe the brain and its behavior using a third-person, reductionist framework. What the former brings to the table are scores of meditation techniques to develop mindfulness, concentration, insight, serenity, wisdom and, it is hoped, in the end, enlightenment. These revolve around a daily practice of quiet yet alert sitting and letting the mind settle before embarking on a specific program, such as “focused attention” or the objectless practice of generating a state of “unconditional loving-kindness and compassion.” After years of daily contemplative exercise—nothing comes easily in meditation—practitioners can achieve considerable control over their mind.
Twelve years of schooling, four years of college and an even longer time spent in advanced graduate training fail to familiarize our future doctors, soldiers, engineers, scientists, accountants and politicians with such techniques..And this is to our loss!"