Mind Science: An East-West Dialogue

Mind Science: An East-West Dialogue

By The Dalai Lama et al. Ed. Daniel Goleman and Robert A. F. Thurman
Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991. Paperback, xi + 137pages.

This slender bur comprehensive volume, covering the proceedings of a symposium sponsored by the Mind/Body Medical Institute of Harvard Medical School and Tibet House, presents a dialogue between knowledgeable Eastern and Western experts seeking to understand each other's point of view. Although published in 1991, it is still new because it cuts right to the core issues of its compelling topic.

Perhaps because Herbert: Benson, a neuroscientist and medical doctor, for some twenty years has been studying the Tibetan gTum-mo meditative practice (the ability of meditating monks to use their own body heat to dry the wet sheets covering them in freezing weather), and Daniel Goleman, a renowned psychologist, has been studying eastern meditative practices for some thirty years, their long experience with Eastern mysticism has left them with a deeper understanding of Eastern mind-science than Christopher deCharms was able to garner in his brief year at Dharmsala (Two Views of Mindreviewed in the July-August 2000 Quest).

Robert Thurman contributes an extraordinary chapter on Tibetan psychology, which he subtitles "Sophisticated Software for the Human Brain." Howard Gardner, an esteemed researcher of human intelligence, provides a thoughtful response to Thurman in the following chapter, "Cognition: A Western Perspective."

The Dalai Lama in his opening chapter, "The Buddhist Concept of Mind," offers insight into the nature of mind as understood by his tradition. I-Ie suggests that Buddhism could serve as a bridge between radical materialism and religion, because Buddhism belongs to neither camp. From the radical materialists' viewpoint, Buddhism is an ideology that accepts the existence of mind and is thus a faith-oriented system like other religions. However, since Buddhism does not accept the concept of a creator God but emphasizes instead self-reliance and the individual's own power and potential, other religions regard Buddhism as a kind of atheism. Since neither side accepts Buddhism as belonging to its camp, Buddhists have an opportunity to build a bridge between the two.

-Alayne O’Reilly

May/June 2001