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Illuminating the Mind: New Online Course to Explore the Nature of Mind and Consciousness

A new online course produced by the Mind & Life Institute, in partnership with Wisdom Publications, will explore inquiries into the nature of mind that have been taking place between scientists, philosophers, contemplatives, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama in recent decades. Drawing on Buddhist and Western perspectives and insights, the program will focus on our evolving understanding of three fundamental aspects of mind: attention, perception, and self.

“The 35-year history of the Mind & Life Dialogues captures a unique ongoing encounter between researchers, scholars, and contemplatives. While their perspectives and training vary, their respective inquiries share a common interest in the workings of the mind,” The Mind & Life instituted said in a statement shared with Buddhistdoor Global. “Our new eight-week online course . . . includes a curated selection of these dialogues that explore the mind in three aspects where there is both common ground and generative tension between different ways of knowing.”

The eight-week course, which begins on 5 November, will include a selection of conversations with Thupten Jinpa, Buddhist scholar and translator for the Dalai Lama; B. Alan Wallace, leading scholar, author, and teacher of Tibetan Buddhism; Amishi Jha, professor of psychology at the University of Miami and director of Contemplative Neuroscience for the Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative; cognitive psychologist Anne Treisman; pioneering neuroscientist Catherine Kerr; Jay Garfield, professor of philosophy specializing in Tibetan Buddhism, cognitive science, epistemology, metaphysics, and hermeneutics; Buddhist monk, author, and scientist Matthieu Ricard; and the Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama.


Running from 5 November to 24 December, the course will include a live Q&A session with Thupten Jinpa on 1 December at 7pm EST, however participants will have ongoing online access to all content to enable them to study according to their own schedule. The program is composed of eight teaching units:

Lesson 1: Introduction with Thupten Jinpa
Lesson 2: The Meditative Technology of Introspection with B. Alan Wallace
Lesson 3: The Neuroscience of Attention with Amishi Jha
Lesson 4: Modes of Attention with Anne Treisman
Lesson 5: Perception: A Buddhist Perspective with Thupten Jinpa
Lesson 6: The Neuroscience of Perception with Catherine Kerr
Lesson 7: Western and Buddhist Philosophies of Self with Jay Garfield
Lesson 8: Self, Ethics, and the Science of Altruism with Matthieu Ricard and His Holiness Dalai Lama

The course will examine the three-part framework of Buddhist practice: ethics, meditation, and wisdom; the science of attention and mindfulness training; Western psychological perspectives on attention; Buddhist philosophical perspectives on attention; scientific findings on the interface of mind and body; Western and Buddhist philosophical positions on self and the person; and the connection between understanding self and creating a better world.


“In this journey from attention, to perception, to self, we’ve included new meditations that begin with the breath and then expand to include all sentient beings,” said the Mind & Life Institute. “These meditations are ably guided by Jack Kornfield, Lama Willa Blythe Baker, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche.”

Proceeds from the course will go toward funding the nonprofit activities of the Mind & Life Institute and Wisdom Publications.

For full details and registration, click here

Based in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Mind & Life Institute was formed following a 1987 meeting between the Dalai Lama, lawyer and entrepreneur Adam Engle, and neuroscientist Francisco Varela, with the aim of bridging the divide between the empirical, materialist approach of modern science in investigating the nature of reality and improving the lives of human beings and the planet, and the advantages and insights offered by ancient contemplative and wisdom practices refined over centuries. Its mission, the institute states, is to “bring science and contemplative wisdom together to better understand the mind and create positive change in the world . . . to alleviate suffering and promote human flourishing worldwide as part of the vision of founders His Holiness the Dalai Lama, neuroscientist Francisco Varela, and businessman Adam Engle.” (Mind & Life Institute)

See more

Mind & Life Institute
Illuminating the Mind (Wisdom Publications)

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