B1 Intermediate 13351 Folder Collection
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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
Médecins 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
came to my school,
the Buddhist dialectic school,
and were showing how the research
is being done.
They put the cap with many electrodes
on one of those scientists,
in this case, Francisco Varela.
And when my schoolmates saw him sitting
there with his blue cap,
they all burst out laughing.
And asked,
"Why would you research the mind up here,
when everybody understands that
the mind is here?"
In the meantime,
the tools have become more
sophisticated and powerful.
It is only with the essence of MRI technology,
technology that is Magnetic Resonance Imagery,
that looks at the body
without actually destroying it.
And you can now look at the brain
and different parts of body like
the heart or anything
without actually destroying
or disturbing it too much.
So over the last two decades,
two fundamentally new insights have emerged.
The first is brain network functions.
While it was thought that
certain areas of the brain
are specific to a particular function,
it is now understood that brain functions
are networked all over the brain.
So you don't have just one function
in one part of the brain,
but they are highly correlated.
So we speak about distributed brain functions.
The second insight was that brains are
not solid after reaching adulthood.
Because the brain continues to produce
new cells until we die.
And this is called brain plasticity.
This has huge implications
for what is possible for
how learning occurs
and how the effects of training and meditation
affect the brain structure
and our behavior.
So, when we talk about meditation,
meditation is the intentional practice
to familiarize oneself with
mental processes and then
cultivate positive qualities of the mind
such as attention, compassion,
loving kindness, clarity,
it is critical as well as wisdom.
So with this combined new understanding
that brain functions are networked,
throughout the brain and
that the brain has plasticity,
new tools together were then,
with these tools at hand,
the long-term practitioners were invited
into the lab and use...
and were serving as guinea pigs.
You saw before one guinea pig,
you see here another guinea pig.
While these were like the Olympic
athletes that have many years,
and many ten thousand of hours of practice.
Now more and more longitudinal research
is being done that accompanies people
before they learn these practices
and after the practices.
And several changes can be observed.
I have chosen two concrete seminal findings
among the several,
now hundreds of publications that
are emerging and are being published
in one year.
The first one showed that
compare to untrained individuals,
long-term practitioners are much more
capable of making self report
that actually correspond to brain waves
and brain activity.
The second insight is around
brain plasticity.
As I mentioned,
this is the proof that mental training
actually causes changes in your brain structure.
While it was thought that this is an ongoing
debate between is consciousness
an emerging property of the brain,
or is consciousness something else
than just the brain.
In many ways,
this is the proof that
the mind can actually affect the brain.
So when we talk about the benefits of meditation,
there are many,
but science now has sort of come to terms
with several benefits of meditation.
It reduces anxiety.
It has reduction on anxiety,
depression, and stress.
It can reduce blood pressure,
pain response as well as
stress hormone levels.
It improves social skills and
has affect on eating disorders and attention.
And it can increase immune response
as well as cellular health.
As with much of scientific research,
science is by nature very reductionist,
and there is a danger that
we are only actually looking through
the scientific methodology
at one small part of what is actually
a human experience.
So there are many caveats such as
what are the role of ethics?
what is the role of the measurement for intentions?
what is the role of the teacher?
and what kind of techniques?
But in principle,
one can say that
this positive disruption that I have been
asked to talk to,
has led to much new insights.
This ongoing conversation between
scientists and the Buddhist continue
to shape and change the way how one
understands the brain and the mind.
This is why I've being involved the Mind and Life.
Because I believe that this interdisciplinary
work with scientists, with humanists,
social scientists, and contemplative experts
is the only way to understand
how the mind works.
And through that, of learning how
suffering arises and
how to overcome suffering and
to promote human flourishing.
So working with this group,
is a dream come true for me
because I work with people
whose motivation is to be of benefit
to people as well as to society.
Through my work and my involvement,
I have seen minds that are clear,
stable and shining.
And I have experienced hearts that
wrap you in pure compassion
and loving kindness.
I have come to know that
to develop these positive qualities of the minds,
such as attention of loving kindness,
of joy, of happiness,
is something that each and every one of us here
can actually learn.
It's not only for experts, we can.
Now you may ask, how this benefit people
and society?
This is exactly the Mind and Life's mission.
So, when we talk about these positive
qualities of the mind,
they are trainable.
You just have to do it.
Let me close with the quote of
His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
"Not so long ago many people viewed
science's objective knowledge
and the subjective understanding of
The Buddhist inner science as mutually exclusive.
But a combination of these two can provide
the complete conditions for
obtaining real human happiness."
Thank you.
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【TEDx】找尋內心的真理:Diego Hangartner at TEDxTaipei 2013

13351 Folder Collection
阿多賓 published on February 23, 2014
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