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Stimulated by a recent meeting between Western psychologists and the Dalai Lama on the topic of destructive emotions, we report on two issues: the achievement of enduring happiness, what Tibetan Buddhists call sukha, and the nature of afflictive and nonafflictive emotional states and traits. A Buddhist perspective on these issues is presented, along with discussion of the challenges the Buddhist view raises for empirical research and theory.
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Samatha is a Buddhist meditative technique for the refinement of attention. Here, expert in the study and practice of samatha, B. Alan Wallace, outlines the nature and purpose of samatha, the various techniques and approaches to the practice of samatha, a description of its progressive stages, and the alleged trait effects of the practice. He ends by offering comments on the future of contemplative practice for the study of consciousness. (Zach Rowinski 2005-03-05)

The ability to focus one's attention underlies success in many everyday tasks, but voluntary attention cannot be sustained for extended periods of time. In the laboratory, sustained-attention failure is manifest as a decline in perceptual sensitivity with increasing time on task, known as the vigilance decrement. We investigated improvements in sustained attention with training (~ 5 hr/day for 3 months), which consisted of meditation practice that involved sustained selective attention on a chosen stimulus (e.g., the participant's breath). Participants were randomly assigned either to receive training first (n = 30) or to serve as waiting-list controls and receive training second (n = 30). Training produced improvements in visual discrimination that were linked to increases in perceptual sensitivity and improved vigilance during sustained visual attention. Consistent with the resource model of vigilance, these results suggest that perceptual improvements can reduce the resource demand imposed by target discrimination and thus make it easier to sustain voluntary attention.
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The capacity to focus one's attention for an extended period of time can be increased through training in contemplative practices. However, the cognitive processes engaged during meditation that support trait changes in cognition are not well characterized. We conducted a longitudinal wait-list controlled study of intensive meditation training. Retreat participants practiced focused attention (FA) meditation techniques for three months during an initial retreat. Wait-list participants later undertook formally identical training during a second retreat. Dense-array scalp-recorded electroencephalogram (EEG) data were collected during 6 min of mindfulness of breathing meditation at three assessment points during each retreat. Second-order blind source separation, along with a novel semi-automatic artifact removal tool (SMART), was used for data preprocessing. We observed replicable reductions in meditative state-related beta-band power bilaterally over anteriocentral and posterior scalp regions. In addition, individual alpha frequency (IAF) decreased across both retreats and in direct relation to the amount of meditative practice. These findings provide evidence for replicable longitudinal changes in brain oscillatory activity during meditation and increase our understanding of the cortical processes engaged during meditation that may support long-term improvements in cognition.

This essay focuses on the theme of intersubjectivity, which is central to the entire Indo-Tibetan Buddhist tradition. It addresses the following five themes pertaining to Buddhist concepts of intersubjectivity: (1) the Buddhist practice of the cultivation of meditative quiescence challenges the hypothesis that individual human consciousness emerges solely from the dynamic interrelation of self and other; (2) the central Buddhist insight practice of the four applications of mindfulness is a means for gaining insight into the nature of oneself, others and the relation between oneself and the rest of the world, which provides a basis for cultivating a deep sense of empathy; (3) the Buddhist cultivation of the four immeasurables is expressly designed to arouse a rich sense of empathy with others; (4) the meditative practice of dream yoga, which illuminates the dream-like nature of waking reality is shown to have deep implications regarding the nature of intersubjectivity; (5) the theory and practice of Dzogchen, the 'great perfection' system of meditation, challenges the assertion of the existence of an inherently real, localized, ego-centred mind, as well as the dichotomy of objective space as opposed to perceptual space.

<p>This article outlines some of the potential problems and objections to an exchange between Buddhism and science and offers solutions by rethinking about the nature and practice of both disciplines. (Zach Rowinski 2004-05-17)</p>

Founder of the Santa Barbara Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Consciousness Alan Wallace outlines some of the impediments in both the history of science, as well as in modern cognitive science to developing a science of consciousness. While modern science has struggled to study consciousness directly, the Buddhist contemplative tradition has been formulating and practicing ways to investigate the nature and functions of consciousness for centuries. Specifically, Alan Wallace suggests the West has developed neither a <i>pure</i> science of consciousness in terms of a science of its origins, functions, and nature, nor has West developed an <i>applied</i> science of consciousness, or a science of how consciousness can be refined for cultivating eudaimonia, enhanced attention, a greater sense of empathy, and so forth. (Zach Rowinski 2004-06-08)

In this book Alan Wallace, a scholar and practitioner of Buddhism and with a background in science, argues for a new science of consciousness that takes subjectivity into account. He makes the point that consciousness is an unexplored and important domain of human existence and that current scientific paradigms systematically prevent its thorough investigation because of its own materialistic assumptions. The beginning of the book looks at the history and development of scientific materialism and its origins in Christian Europe during the scientific revolution. The author looks the history of scientific attempts at introspection, as well as modern criticisms of the possibility of observing the mind. Wallace proposes a new model for exploring consciousness guided by the insights of the world's contemplative traditions, focussing primarly on the Buddhist works attributed to Buddhaghosa, Asaṅga, and Padmasambhava. In the third section of the book, Wallace outlines the modern resistance to a science of observing the mind and documents the widespread influence of scientific materialism in the contemporary culture. (Zach Rowinski 2004-05-18)

<p>In this book Alan Wallace, a scholar and practitioner of Buddhism and with a background in science, argues for a new science of consciousness that takes subjectivity into account. He makes the point that consciousness is an unexplored and important domain of human existence and that current scientific paradigms systematically prevent its thorough investigation because of its own materialistic assumptions. The beginning of the book looks at the history and development of scientific materialism and its origins in Christian Europe during the scientific revolution. The author looks the history of scientific attempts at introspection, as well as modern criticisms of the possibility of observing the mind. Wallace proposes a new model for exploring consciousness guided by the insights of the world's contemplative traditions, focussing primarly on the Buddhist works attributed to Buddhaghosa, Asaṅga, and Padmasambhava. In the third section of the book, Wallace outlines the modern resistance to a science of observing the mind and documents the widespread influence of scientific materialism in the contemporary culture. (Zach Rowinski 2004-05-18)</p>

This book takes a bold new look at ways of exploring the nature, origins, and potentials of consciousness within the context of science and religion. It draws careful distinctions between four elements of the scientific tradition: science itself, scientific realism, scientific materialism, and scientism. Arguing that the metaphysical doctrine of scientific materialism has taken on the role of ersatz-religion for its adherents, it traces its development from its Greek and Judeo-Christian origins, focusing on the interrelation between the Protestant Reformation and the Scientific Revolution. It also looks at scientists' long term resistance to the firsthand study of consciousness and details the ways in which subjectivity has been deemed taboo within the scientific community. In conclusion, the book draws on William James's idea for a “science of religion” that would study the nature of religious and, in particular, contemplative experience.