2002 Indic Colloquium
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Alan Wallace

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5052 Birchwood Road
Santa Barbara, CA 93111



(805) 681-9591




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Background Information

B. Alan Wallace has devoted himself to the study and practice of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, psychology, and meditation since 1970, and he has integrated these studies with his research in the philosophy of science and the philosophy of the mind. After training for more than ten years in Buddhist monasteries in India and Switzerland, he studied physics at Amherst College, then earned his doctorate in religious studies at Stanford University. He is presently a research scholar and contemplative associated with the Mind and Life Institute.


Why the West Has No Science of Consciousness: A Buddhist View

In his classic work Science and Civilization in China Joseph Needham explored the historical reasons why China, for all its long civilization, never developed science as we understand it in the modern West, namely a quantitative, technologically driven science of the outer, physical world. In this paper I shall first outline some of the reasons why Western civilization has never developed a science of consciousness. I shall then argue that the Indic tradition has made major strides in developing such a science, and that the contemplative refinement of attention, and the subsequent utilization of such attention in exploring the mind firsthand plays a crucial role in such an endeavor. Such training of the mind is vital for investigating the nature of consciousness, and it is also an important prerequisite to transforming consciousness in the pursuit of mental health and genuine well-being. While India has a rich contemplative tradition for the first-person exploration of states of consciousness, it never developed the sciences of the brain and behavior that we have in the modern West. So the integration of the first-person methodologies of India with the third-person methodologies of the cognitive sciences may lead to a richer understanding of consciousness than either Indian or Western civilization has discovered on its own.

Read the entire paper in PDF format (68K, 24 pp.).