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Lions Roar : January 2018
may train our mind in attention and learn to observe the rising and falling of perceptual processes on a moment-by-moment basis. This is an empirical process that results in firsthand knowledge of a certain aspect of how the mind works. We may use that knowledge to reduce the effects of emotions such as anger or resentment (indeed, meditation practitioners in search of overcoming mental affliction would wish to do this), but my point here is that this process offers a first-person empirical method with relation to the mind. What occurs during meditative contemplation in a tradition such as Buddhism and what occurs during introspection in the ordinary sense are two quite different things. In the context of Buddhism, introspection is employed with careful attention to the dangers of extreme subjectivism—such as fantasies and delu- sions—and with the cultivation of a disciplined state of mind. Refinement of attention, in terms of stability and vividness, is a crucial preparation for the utilization of rigorous introspec- tion, much as a telescope is crucial for the detailed examina- tion of celestial phenomena. Just as in science, there is a series of protocols and procedures that contemplative introspection must employ. Upon entering a laboratory, someone untrained in science would not know what to look at and would have no capacity to recognize when something is found; in the same way, an untrained mind will have no ability to apply the introspective focus on a chosen object and will fail to recognize when processes of the mind show themselves. Just like a trained scientist, a disci- plined mind will have the knowledge of what to look for and the ability to recognize when discoveries are made. It may well be that the question of whether consciousness can ultimately be reduced to physical processes, or whether our subjective experiences are nonmaterial features of the world, will remain a matter of philosophical choice. The key issue here is to bracket out the metaphysical questions about mind and matter, and to explore together how to understand scientifically the various modalities of the mind. I believe that it is possible for Buddhism and modern science to engage in collaborative research in the understanding of consciousness while leaving aside the philosophical question of whether consciousness is ultimately physical. By bringing together these two modes of inquiry, both disciplines may be enriched. Such collaborative study will contribute not only greater human understanding of consciousness but a better understanding of the dynamics of the human mind and its relation to suffering. This is a precious gateway into the alleviation of suffering, which I believe to be our principal task on this earth. ♦ From The Universe in a Single Atom, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, published by Morgan Road Books, a division of Random House, Inc. PHOTOBYGAVINSMITH/MILLENNIUMIMAGES,UK LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2018 61