Harmony and Happiness: Buddhist Views on Interdependence and Compassion
In this dynamic and technologically advanced world, establishing a harmonious society is more crucial than ever. To address what Buddhist can contribute, in terms of building a harmonious society, two central concepts are need to be empirically utilized in our daily livelihoods: Interdependence and compassion. From the Buddhist perspective, these are the seeds of a harmonious society. In what ways we can germinate these seeds is the focus of the presentation. Interdependence is the fundamental view of Buddhism that states all things are connected and depended on each other, or non-existence of absoluteness and intrinsic nature. Compassion is an action that is motivated by the intention of helping other without expecting any reward. Without a sense of closeness, by nature, we do not tend to help others unless there is something to gain back. Deep understanding of interdependence will help us to generate sense of closeness, but without compassion, the practical action driven by intention will always be impeded.
Lodoe Songpo was born in the Kham province of Tibet, and escaped to India in 1992 and shortly after became a monk of Gaden Jangtse Monastery. He studied basic Tibetan literature, history, religion and English in the monastic school, and after graduating in 1999, began his formal monastic training. Lodoe started learning science in 2006, and graduated from the Sager Science Leadership program in 2010. Some of his memorable experiences throughout the science workshops were hands-on activities that convinced him of the concept of visual receptors distribution at the area of retina, and debate with his peers about the sizes and distances of the planets. During these science workshops, he not only learned science, but also developed skills in teaching science. The combination of his studies of science from various science workshops such as Sager Science Leadership, Science Meets Dharma, and the Emory Tibet Science Initiative summer program set him up to be one of the first six monks who were selected to study science at Emory University. Lodoe studied science at Emory University for three years, an eye-opening experience to different cultures and religions, and interaction with international students from various backgrounds. Currently, he is teaching biology in his monastery and continues his studies towards Geshe Lharampa – the highest degree awarded by his tradition.
Brain and the Interconnected Self: Science and Signs of Consciousness
Today, on one side life and physical sciences are increasingly excited about identifying the neural correlates of consciousness. And on the other, there is consensus that better integration at both neural and psychological levels lead to an individual’s psychological and physical health. Such a scenario inspires us to review the functionally interconnected nature of brain, and the interconnections between the brain and the self itself. This review will help us to get insights about the nuanced notions of meaning and purpose, and also critically approach the classical schism between affect and reason Towards this task we will discuss some key concepts in neuroscience neuropsychology, and the Vedantic traditions.
Professor Sangeetha Menon a philosopher-psychologist is a Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, in the campus of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. She joined NIAS in 1996, with particular interest in consciousness studies. Her latest books are: “Brain, Self and Consciousness: Explaining the conspiracy of experience; and the edited volume “Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Consciousness and the Self”. She has been responsible for organizing many interdisciplinary national and international meetings on consciousness, and to bring leading members from the scientific community and philosophical world for constructive dialogues. Dr Menon is a member of the National Task Force “Cognitive Science Research Initiative” set up by the Dept of Science and Technology, Govt. of India. She was nominated by Government of India in 2012 as a Council member of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research. Dr Menon is an Honorary Fellow of the School of Humanities of the University of Exeter. She is also a Board Member of the International Association for Transpersonal Psychology. In August 2007 she was invited to be a distinguished member of the International Society for Science and Religion. She was a Visiting Professor at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies (OCHS), Oxford University (Trinity Term, 2007), and at the Nanzan Institute of Religion and Culture, Nanzan University, Japan (Fall, 2007). She was invited to be a panelist at the World Parliament of Religions, Melbourne 2009, on three sessions that were sponsored by ISSR on Science, Spirituality and Environment. Dr Menon also works with non-profit educational and charity foundations and is a Trustee of Sambodh Foundation, India. Apart from her academic interests she writes poetry, fiction, and is an avid photographer, artist and web-designer.
The Importance of Human Connection, Kindness & Cooperation to Happiness
Psychological science has recently begun to focus on understanding the causes and contexts that predict human happiness. Through multiple study approaches, there is mounting evidence that people’s capacity for connecting with others, people’ tendency towards behaving kindly and compassionately towards others, and the degree to which people engage in cooperative activities with others – in sum – people’s ability to function harmoniously with other humans – is key to lasting happiness.
Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas, Ph.D, is the Science Director at the Greater Good Science Center. She earned her doctorate in Cognition Brain and Behavior at UC Berkeley studying how negative states like fear and aversion influence thinking and decision-making. During her postdoc, Emiliana transitioned to studying pro-social states like love of humanity, compassion, and awe. Today, Emiliana focuses on how these pro-social states like gratitude, mindfulness, compassion and generosity can fortify social affiliation, caregiving, and collaborative motivation and in turn, significantly benefit health and happiness.
Compassion Cultivation Training for Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Initial Efficacy from Two Preliminary Studies
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is widely prevalent among military populations and other groups who are regularly exposed to traumatic experiences. Existing treatments for PTSD are very effective, but many people find these treatments to be overwhelming and drop out. Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) is a structured 9-week intervention that could serve as an alternative or adjunct to help treat PTSD among people who do not respond well to existing treatment options. Data from two small preliminary studies will be presented to show early evidence for the efficacy of CCT among military veterans with PTSD.
Dr. Marcel O. Bonn-Miller is a Research Health Science Specialist at the Center of Excellence in Substance Abuse Treatment and Education at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center as well as the National Center for PTSD and Center for Innovation to Implementation at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. He also holds an academic appointment as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Bonn-Miller’s work primarily centers on the co-occurrence between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use, including the identification of malleable mechanisms that both drive this comorbidity and can be targeted within prevention and intervention efforts. Dr. Bonn-Miller has published approximately 100 peer-reviewed papers related to PTSD and/or substance use. He also has a number of active and recently completed grants exploring the functional relation between these two disorders as well as interventions that can be used to reduce suffering among veterans and other populations plagued by this comorbidity. One area of focus within this line of work has been the identification of mindfulness- and compassion-based practices that could be used to improve psychosocial functioning and quality of life among individuals with co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorders. This work recently culminated in grant for which Dr. Bonn-Miller is investigating the impact of Compassion Cultivation Training for veterans with PTSD, as well as some pilot investigations of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for veterans with cannabis use disorders. Indeed, Dr. Bonn-Miller is exploring both standalone and adjunct treatments that integrate mindfulness- and compassion-based techniques into existing treatment paradigms.
Emotion Regulation Therapy: A Psychotherapy for Anxious Depression Enriched with Contemplative Practices
Despite the availability of efficacious treatments for emotional disorders, a sizable subgroup of patients fails to evidence adequate treatment response. This situation is especially true for patients with anxious depression (a combination of apprehensive anxiety and depression symptoms) who often feel their emotions very intensely resulting in trouble resolving the simultaneous motivational cues for avoiding threat and pursuing reward. These individuals also perseverate (i.e., worry, ruminate) in response to this emotionally and motivationally intense distress, which interferes with responding to-, and learning from cues in the environment. Emotion Regulation Therapy (ERT) is a theoretically-derived, evidence based, treatment that integrates principles from cognitive behavioural treatments, Buddhist mental training exercises, and findings from affect science to offer a blueprint for improving intervention by focusing on the motivational responses and corresponding regulatory characteristics of individuals with distress disorders. The goals of this talk are to describe the profile of anxious depression and to show how cultivating mental training exercises may help to resolve the hypothesized emotional and cognitive deficits they experience. Ideally this characterization of anxious depression and ERT will generate questions and discussion on how best to match contemplative practices to the hypothesized deficits observed in anxious depression.
David M. Fresco is Professor of psychological sciences at Kent State University and Adjunct Associate Professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He directs the Psychopathology and Emotion Regulation Laboratory (PERL) and is a Co-Director of the Kent Electrophysiological Neuroimaging Laboratory (KENL). His program of research adopts an affective science perspective to the nature and treatment of anxiety and mood disorders. Specifically, he conducts survey, experimental, and treatment research to examine factors associated with major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) including metacognitive factors, peripheral psychophysiology, neuroimaging and electrophysiological techniques. Another focus of the PERL lab is the development of treatments informed by affective and contemplative neuroscience findings that incorporate mindfulness meditation and other practices derived from Buddhist mental training exercises. Much of Dr. Fresco’s NIH-funded treatment research has focused on the infusion of mindfulness into Western psychosocial treatments. He is Associate Editor for the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology and is also a frequent reviewer for the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Decentering from Distress: Regulating Negative Emotion by Increasing Psychological Distance
The capacity to “decenter,” or adopt a self-distanced, objective perspective on internal experiences (e.g., thoughts, emotions), is cultivated by mindfulness meditation practice. Increasingly, research supports decentering as an important component of healthy emotion regulation, mental health and well-being; however, the nature and mechanisms of the process are poorly understood. Here we explore one potential piece of the puzzle: the process of getting psychological distance, or “taking a step back,” from emotional stress. Using a novel experimental paradigm, we examined the salutary effects of increasing psychological distance from distressing visual stimuli, and whether the benefits of distancing varied as a function of individual differences in mindfulness and decentering. Results and implications will be discussed.
As a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Kent State University, I have a broad interest in understanding the factors that predict adaptive responding to emotional challenges. In my research, I am particularly interested in the metacognitive process of “decentering,” or relating to internal experiences (e.g., thoughts and emotions) from a self-distanced, objective perspective, rather than identifying with them personally. My research aims to elucidate the therapeutic effects and mechanisms of decentering, and the relationship of decentering capacity to individual differences in mindfulness, meditation training experience, emotion regulation, and mental health. I am also broadly interested in the neural mechanisms of automatic, or “incidental,” emotion regulation. Currently, I am working to elucidate the relationship of individual differences in emotional functioning and meditation experience to the spontaneous recruitment of emotion regulatory brain regions during negative emotional provocation and decentering.
Clearing the Mind: Dissecting the Effects of Meditation on Cognition by Means of Computational Models
Meditation practice has been claimed to lead to greater mental and physical well-being. But how does it do so? I use computational models of the mind to explore exactly what mental mechanisms are being affected by meditation. I will show how meditation seems to improve people’s mental clarity. In a different study, depressed patients appear to be less stuck in patterns of negative thinking. These results emphasize the usefulness of precise models of cognition in the study of mental training through meditation.
Merieke Van Vugt, Department of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Engineering, University of Groningen, Netherlands
Marieke van Vugt is an assistant professor at the Department of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Engineering (ALICE) at the University of Groningen. She obtained her PhD in neuroscience focusing on the role of brain oscillations in recognition memory with Dr. Michael Kahana at the University of Pennsylvania in 2008. She then went on to do postdoctoral research on the neural correlates of decision making with Dr. Jonathan Cohen at Princeton University before starting her own group in Groningen in 2010. Her research focuses on dissecting the fundamental cognitive operations and neural processes involved in making decisions. For example, using computational modeling in combination with neuroscience, she showed how 4-9 Hz theta oscillations recorded with EEG are associated with the accumulation of evidence for making a decision. She also studies how our decisions are affected by meditation practice. She was the first to study meditation by using computational models of cognition. She is also a serious practitioner of meditation herself.
Reciprocal Interactions between Emotions and Attention
Recent research in cognitive and neuroscience has indicated reciprocal links between emotions and attention. We have investigated the reciprocal links between scope of attention and emotions in the context of a putative link between distributed attention (broad scope) and happy emotions as well as focused attention (narrow scope) and sad emotions. I will discuss results based on multiple experimental paradigms focusing on both emotion identification as well as moods. The results clearly indicate a bidirectional link between emotions and attention that is dependent on the scope of attention and also point to the potential ways in which training attention might be linked to emotions.
Dr. Narayanan Srinivasan is currently Professor and Head at the Centre of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (CBCS), University of Allahabad. He has a Master degree in Electrical Engineering from Indian Institute of Science and subsequently earned his PhD in Psychology from the University of Georgia, USA in 1996. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Louisville and worked at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore for two years before joining one of the first centers for Cognitive Science in India. He has been working at CBCS for the past ten years. He is interested in understanding mental processes especially attention, emotions, consciousness and self, using multiple methodologies. Dr. Srinivasan has edited six books and two special issues. He is currently editing two special issues and a book. He has published more than hundred journal articles, book chapters and conference proceedings papers.
In the Quest of Harmony & Happiness: The Largest Eye on the Sky
Since the dawn of the civilization, we have been exploring the universe in the search of answers of fundamental questions about the cosmos including our own existence & purpose in it. This presentation will explore a connection of harmony and advancement in the field of astronomical knowledge, and mainly highlight the role of bigger telescopes in providing crystal-clear views of stars and galaxies billions of light years farther away than anything Galileo ever saw, each breakthrough in size bringing a new and deeper understanding of the cosmos.
Saket Singh Kaurav did M.Sc. in physics from Rani Durgavati University, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, India in 2007 and after that he worked as research fellow in the field of infrared & optical astronomy and astronomical instrumentation at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai and as an intern in the Max Plank Institute for Extra-terrestrial Physics, Munich, Germany. Informally, He has been involved in science popularization for the last 10 years. He was also involved in the science based Radio programmes at the All India Radio Station, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh during 2004-2008. In 2010, Mr. Kaurav has joined the National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), Kolkata, India, which is a scientific autonomous institution under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, as curator. In February 2013, he was transferred to the Nehru Science Centre, Mumbai, a constituent unit of the NCSM from NCSM (Hqrs.), Kolkata. As a curator of the centre, he curates science exhibitions, design and develop exhibits based on STEM. He is also responsible for conceptualizing, designing and organising new educational programmes, activities and events for dissemination of STEM among students and general public at the centre. He writes popular science articles in leading science magazines.
The Scientific Search for Equilibrium
Scientists study equilibrium in its many forms: stable, unstable, and metastable. They begin by looking at forces in balance and out of balance. Then they make topographic maps of potential energy where the mountains, valleys, saddle-like ridges and plains illustrate the different forms of equilibrium. Scientists apply these fundamental concepts of equilibrium to the universe at all scales ranging from nuclei and atoms, to solar systems and beyond. When scientists apply their concepts of equilibrium to the real world they see new things for the first time. As an example, recently, scientists discovered a new stable shape named the gomboc that led them to understanding how a tortoise shell with that shape allows the tortoise to escape the death-trap of being caught in the wrong equilibrium position, upside-down. Even quantum mechanics applies to the scientific understanding of equilibrium showing how even in a stable equilibrium a particle is never at rest, it always “explores” its local environment. At the human scale, ideas from the scientific understanding of equilibrium can inspire the essential search for equilibrium in everyday life.
Paul Doherty is a senior scientist at the Exploratorium and an experimental physicist with a PhD from M.I.T. He worked as a tenured physics professor for 12 years at Oakland University in Michigan. He was the founding director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the Exploratorium. Currently his main job is helping high school science teachers make science relevant, interesting, correct and fun. He also helps make new exhibits at the museum. Paul is the author of the “Exploratorium Science Snackbook” which gives instructions on how teachers can have their students build simple, inexpensive versions of Exploratorium exhibits. He is also the author of the “Explorabook” which has sold over a million copies. He is the winner of the Faraday Award for Excellence in Science Teaching from the National Science Teachers. He loves the joy of finding things out and the joy of sharing these things with others.
Five Steps in Developing a Science for the Monk
Five steps in developing a Science for the Monk are identified. At the outset, one has to understand what is science, and what limits the present science. The next step is to deliberate on consequences of already opened-up cosmology, cosmology of multiple universe(s). The third step is on the one of its essential requirements, a supracortically “open” brain. The fourth step is how to do ‘sciencing’ of nature, which is beyond Planck’s scale. The final step, actually the first step, is to examine what really the “information” is and what could be its science.
Since 1985 Dr. A.K. Mukhopadhyay M.D. has been engaged in developing a Science for Consciousness. He coined the term and concept of Supracortical Consciousness in 1985 within the Akhanda Worldview encompassing a system of multiple universe(s), the Multiversity. He has authored four important books, Frontiers of Research for Human Biologists (1985), Dynamic Web of Supracortical Consciousness (1987), Conquering the Brain (1995) and The Millennium Bridge (2000). In 1999, he was invited as an observer from India by Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Science. Following 2000, he contributed several lengthy papers on science for consciousness in Philosophical Volumes, Scientific Journals, Science and Spiritual Quest books. His latest endeavor is on developing (i) Science of Information, with its mechanics, its travel from Beyond Planck’s scale of nature, geometry, information-split phenomenon with delivery of information-based energy, and (ii) Science of Life and the way it connects Mind and Consciousness, published (2014) in the Polish Academy Journal Dialogue and Universalism. Dr. Mukhopadhyay is currently the Department Head of Laboratory Medicine, at the All India Institute of Sciences, New Delhi.
From a tiny primitive insect to a sophisticated human, we are all looking for it, and in the pursuit of that phenomena familiar to us as happiness, we dedicate wealths that we possess. We also endure many hardships now to ensure multitude of happiness later, many a times by trading our own lives with it. So what is this thing called happiness? Is it about being happy the whole time or is happiness merely a process of the consciousness believing that one’s at peace irrespective of the reality? Is there a ‘real’ happiness out there? If so then why does everyone experience it so differently?
Siling Rinpoche was born in 1986 at Bodhgaya and enthroned as the 14th Siling Tongkhor at Sera Mey Monastery in 1990. Siling received ordination from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in 1994. He got the Rabjamba degree, marking completion of studies on the Perfection of Wisdom in 2004, and was a guest participant at the XIV Mind and Life Conference – 2007. Currently, he is pursuing a PhD in Buddhist Philosophy at Sera Mey University.