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  • Hello.

  • Since early childhood,

  • I have been interested in the mind,

  • in consciousness,

  • in understanding reality,

  • and through that, help others.

  • I was wondering

  • if anybody of you

  • has not ask these questions to themselves:

  • What is consciousness?

  • What is reality?

  • Well, for me this has been my life long passion.

  • And, I've been inspired by that

  • and I have been having that motivation

  • to find out more.

  • In order to understand these fascinating topics,

  • I thought I had to decide between

  • either studying physics,

  • or medicine or maybe philosophy,

  • but that was not a hard science,

  • or psychology.

  • So, I decided to study pharmacology

  • because I knew that there was the whole

  • range of fascinating substances

  • that had an effect on the mind.

  • I thought that by studying these substances,

  • I will have a better understanding of

  • what is the mind

  • and how it works.

  • Little did I know.

  • After finishing my studies,

  • I worked many years with people

  • who had addictions, depressions,

  • anxieties, fears,

  • and other mental illnesses.

  • We were very skilled at defining

  • mental disorders and dysfunctions.

  • But what is a healthy mind?

  • A mind that flourishes

  • that is actually happy.

  • We had no clue.

  • We were giving these some

  • strong substances, but they rarely helped

  • with the mental causes that

  • triggered these dysfunctions in the first place.

  • Addictions, for example,

  • do not begin with a physiological dependency.

  • They are actually triggered

  • by other mental causes that lead to

  • that, such as craving and desire

  • for pleasures and happiness.

  • Following my work with people who

  • have these challenges with mental disorders,

  • I then signed up with an organization

  • called Pharmaciens sans Frontieres,

  • which is an organization like

  • decins Sans Frontières but for

  • pharmacist. And I worked in Asia

  • with people who had leprosy,

  • tuberculosis and parasites,

  • serious cases of parasites.

  • And it really struck me

  • and I was really surprised to see these people

  • that had actually physical disintegration.

  • But they were in many ways more happy

  • than the people I was working

  • back in Switzerland where it's clean.

  • These people in Switzerland had

  • physical well-being but

  • were actually disintegrating mentally.

  • These really confused me.

  • I was looking and I was trying to find

  • scientific explanation of what that cause was.

  • Why that happened?

  • With the tools that I had learned,

  • I was not able to describe

  • these actual experiences of these people

  • who were disintegrating mentally

  • or were different because

  • they were disintegrating physically too.

  • So even less could I understand them.

  • I was really confused and was looking for

  • a scientific explanation.

  • It's during that research

  • that I encountered the Buddhist teachings

  • and its systematic methodology

  • of analyzing reality through actual experience.

  • While in modern science,

  • we look at reality as if it were out there,

  • as if there is something out there

  • independent of our way of perceiving it.

  • Some schools in Buddhism,

  • they take mind as the center

  • of experienced reality.

  • In many ways,

  • when I discovered that,

  • this was the missing link between

  • these two worlds,

  • a science of the mind par excellence,

  • I was hooked and accordingly I spent

  • the next eleven years in Dharamsala

  • in India among the Tibetan community

  • in exile.

  • I first learned Tibetan,

  • and then in Tibetan,

  • I studied philosophy,

  • Buddhist dialectics,

  • practice, and also debate.

  • But it's there that I met

  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama

  • and met a group of scientists

  • who were coming up to Dharamsala

  • every two to three years

  • to hold dialogues with him around science.

  • These were the mind and life dialogues.

  • I had the privilege to join this group.

  • And after few years, I had the honor

  • also to moderate some of the proceedings.

  • These meetings have been going on since 1987.

  • At the beginning were behind close doors.

  • They were the private exploration of topics

  • such as sleeping, dreaming and dying

  • or destructive emotions

  • or quantum physics

  • as well as craving, desire, and addiction.

  • over the years, these gatherings have also

  • taken place in public.

  • And, many of these dialogues

  • in these proceedings have been

  • actually published as books

  • and have been translated into

  • many languages.

  • On the YouTube,

  • you can also even find some

  • of the dialogues directly as

  • they were filmed during the proceedings.

  • All of these meetings were arranged by

  • the Mind and Life Institute

  • and hosted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama,

  • who is also the Mind and Life honorary chairman

  • and co-founder of this institute.

  • Mind and Life Institute seeks to

  • bridge and integrate contemplative wisdom

  • and practices with modern research capabilities,

  • and then, use the resulting knowledge

  • to catalyze and initiate programs

  • to alleviate suffering and

  • promote human flourishing.

  • And here it's important to differentiate that

  • we are not talking about pain,

  • we are talking about mental suffering.

  • During a meeting in the year 2000,

  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama

  • challenged the scientist present and said,

  • "All these dialogues are very interesting,

  • but what can we do for society?

  • Can you with your tools,

  • prove that what we think is beneficial

  • to really be of benefit?

  • And if it's beneficial,

  • then we should make it available to everybody."

  • This unleashed the whole new range

  • of basic research

  • what we nowadays call contemplative science.

  • One question that I was having is,

  • "how can such dialogue unfold

  • when you have world views that are so different?"

  • It was helpful for me

  • to hear His Holiness the Dalai Lama

  • defining three parts of Buddhism.

  • Buddhist science,

  • Buddhist philosophy,

  • and Buddhist religion.

  • These dialogues focus on the first two:

  • Buddhist science and Buddhist philosophy,

  • which His Holiness encourage us to take out religion

  • because after all,

  • this is one's individual choice.

  • So, when we talk about science,

  • it might be important and helpful

  • to understand the English word science

  • comes from the Latin word 'scientia'

  • meaning knowledge.

  • So science is defined as a systematic

  • enterprise that builds and organizes

  • knowledge in the form of testable explanations

  • and predictions about the world.

  • It is important here to note that

  • it doesn't say how this knowledge is acquired,

  • only that it needs to be testable,

  • it needs to make explanations,

  • and that it needs to make predictions about the world.

  • So accordingly one method to gain knowledge

  • is by looking inside

  • and explore the inner world.

  • This is something that contemplative practitioners,

  • psychologists, and psychoanalysts

  • have been doing.

  • This is what we call the first person exploration

  • of the inner world.

  • On the other side,

  • by looking outside,

  • and explore the outer world,

  • you can also gaining knowledge.

  • This is what science has been doing

  • since let's say Galileo Galilei.

  • It's an observational of the external world

  • and is therefore called the third person

  • perspective of the world.

  • It is my conviction that

  • these two ways of acquiring knowledge

  • do not need to be mutually exclusive.

  • There are many aspects that speak to that

  • combination such as the exploration

  • of actual experience,

  • such as what are you experiencing right now?

  • This is something only you can

  • actually access.

  • I can't.

  • Nobody else can.

  • And also the effect of mental training.

  • To me, this combination

  • can be seen in this iconic image

  • of the Yogi in the lab.

  • The Yogi is the long-term practitioner

  • that has dedicated his life

  • to really understand the inside

  • of his mental world.

  • There several ways how this image

  • can be interpreted.

  • And this image has also been featured on

  • National Geographic and on

  • Time Magazine by the way.

  • On the one side,

  • there is the science of meditation

  • where meditation become the object of investigation.

  • We call this the science of meditation.

  • On the other side,

  • meditation itself can be a method

  • to explore and gain knowledge.

  • So meditation as science.

  • Through this, one gains insight

  • into the mental process

  • and to actual experience.

  • Research in consciousness therefore require

  • an integrated research method,

  • a method that includes multiple disciplines,

  • and scientists from neuroscience,

  • from clinical science,

  • from philosophy,

  • and most important from contemplative traditions.

  • So over the last twenty years,

  • a lot has changed

  • in regard to the scientific study of consciousness.

  • New tools, new methods, and

  • new insights were combined

  • and have led to much

  • ground-breaking understanding.

  • First steps were taken in that direction

  • in 1992 when a group of scientists came

  • to Dharamsala in India,

  • and visited several hermits

  • high up in the Himalayas.

  • But the rest research methods as you can see here

  • were very limited and basic.

  • Adding to the limited tools was the challenge

  • of a clash of cultures.

  • I remember when this group of scientists