Geshe-la is showing actual data slides with graphs from his papers. For example showing that comparing mindfulness training versus compassion training, mindfulness training reduced reactivity of both positive and negative emotion to negative images, while compassion training increased negative emotion reaction slightly. And yet mindfulness did not decrease clinical depression scores nearly as much as compassion. I highly recommend Lobsang Tenzin Negi’s papers, I will have to go back and re read them myself now.

Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi Ph.D. Is talking about Emory university’s cognitively based compassion training, which I guess is a competitor to Stanford’s program. Six key components to cultivate:
Attentional stability
Insight into thoughts and emotions
Self compassion
Affectionate love and empathy
Strengthening compassion

Geshe says that from his Buddhist perspective “self compassion” seemed strange, but he bases it on a Tibetan term for a deep motivation to emerge from the unhealthy patterns, transform them. I did not catch the Tibetan term.

Jim Doty seems like an interesting guy.
Epidemic of depression and isolation in the developed world. Our species was never meant to live in this modern world. Inundated with information far beyond what we were ever able to accept, this has become part of the problem. Cities only began 5000 years ago. Until 10000 YA we lived in hunter gather tribes of ten people. It was like that for 2 million years. But our DNA hast significantly changed in 200000 years.

Ultimately the fact our DNA hasn’t changed has implications for the idea of ingroup. Why is child and parental bonding even necessary? Humans evolve capacity for abstract memory, language, theory of mind, cost has been long gestation and small litter size and years of interaction with mother to survive. But little reward to mother for this. Because of is, to ensure survival of species, developed comes mechanisms to bond mother with child to ensure child survives. One mechanism is oxytocin, the nurturing or bonding hormone. Extended species beyond small family, bonding important to small tribes to have individuals cooperate and survive in hostile environment. Bonding also activates reward parts of brain.

Quoting Darwin on group selection for kindness. Evolved to care, this is our default mode to care for others. Neuro anatomy and brain function discussion, amygdala, associated with fear response or fight or flight response. Takes over in situation where threatened.

But many people are constantly in hyper vigilant state. This also results I many deleterious health effects: depression, sleep disorders, cardiac, pain conditions. But there is hope

OK, so he is starting by summarizing standard Sapolsky zebras don’t get ulcers.

Now he is talking about the eight-week course in compassion meditation from Stanford’s CCARE. This is really promising stuff. Sona was talking about mindfulness for depression, but I turned to the monk next to me (Dr. Barry) and confirmed that the tradition would say you should do compassion for depression, not mindfulness. Of course the limitation has been that there is a out of the box clinically recognized program in mindfulness, but not compassion. So we have been looking for our keys under the lamppost. But thanks to CCARE’s work maybe it will become a lot easier for the field to do well accepted research on compassion.

My own thoughts: this question of why do you, as an individual, think that you should think something or not, is a big one that I think is very fundamental to the mechanics of this dialogue (rather than the content, perhaps). As I mentioned, it is somewhat typical on one side that the motivation of all this philosophizing (etc.) is to find Truth (at least that is one of several positions that many of the westerners seem to fit into). And it is fairly well established in Buddhist principles that you should cultivate mental factors (thoughts, beliefs, habits, etc.) that are liberative from suffering for yourself and others, while eliminating those that cause suffering. This would be called ethics of mind, as was mentioned in one of the sessions.

A further implication of this is that in Buddhism, a belief is a practice. You don’t believe something because it’s “right”, you believe something because believing is an action or process which has consequences in your development and environment. The “emptiness of self” necessarily means that beliefs aren’t reified; I like to say that a belief just means there’s a thought that you repeat to yourself over and over until it becomes automatic and unquestioned. But it’s still just a thought. (Aside: this counts equally for the belief that “I will be reborn after death” and the belief that “I will not be reborn after death”, so “trimming unnecessary beliefs” does not logically lead to eliminating belief in rebirth; if anything, it just leads to eliminating your philosophizing and debating about it.)

The reason I think this is important to this dialogue is that now that I have spent some years studying and practicing some Buddhist systems, it now appears to me that many if the scientists have a painful, or perhaps endearing, fixation on making sure their minds (brains?) don’t get contaminated by getting tricked into thinking the wrong thoughts. There’s really not a lot of room for “for this discussion we will start with the philosophy that matter arises from mind; for the next discussion we will start with the philosophy that mind arises from matter”. One of those appears to be “wrong” in some kind of absolute sense, so how could any good come of it? Christof wouldn’t make the effort to go with the flow of the idea that mind doesn’t depend on a physical substrate, even just for the purpose of exploring the EXPERIENTIAL sequelae of inhabiting that belief system. Of course not, because the purpose of a belief system is to be True, not to have some experiential consequence.

But this really shuts a lot out of the dialogue. The Buddhists are trained diffently (and some of them get it, but probably not all) and you can see that many of them have no trouble at all playing along with mental materialism or whatever is on the table.

Someone said to me that he thinks it would be WORSE if the scientists learned more about the other side, because then there would be less productive tension in the dialogue. And yes, it is fun when the sparks fly. But it is asymmetrical, both in terms of effort and devotion, and also in terms of practicalities like stage time and who is accorded higher social status. And this too has consequences. I heard that at the last mind and life summer institute, there was a minor insurrection among the Tibetan monastics in attendance because they had an accumulating sense that the community wasn’t really listening to them but perhaps even keeping them around for show. One can protest all one wants that no of course that’s not true and the scientists all really do appreciate the monastics, but if they feel that way after all these years then that feeling alone means something is wrong.

HHDL: I want to share my concern about secular ethics.
Every religion teaches love and compassion, but most religious people don’t care. So religion is somewhat corrupted.

Education is very advanced now. Over 200 million people killed in war in 20th century. People are using the benefits if science and education wrongly too, so science has also contributed enormously to suffering.

I am Buddhist, so maybe I am biased. I think it is a valuable approach, but Buddhism will never be a universal religion. So education is the only hope.

If education in moral ethics linked to religious faith, then problems. So the only option is secular ethics.

Any moral ethics must come from intelligence, not faith. First explain as academic subject, what I call map of mind, emotions. Then some emotions a bad for health, family, community. Then how to deal with these. Then moral ethics comes. Some emotions are harmful, some are helpful. Hygiene of emotions, just like hygiene of physical.

Pointing at Sona: I’m jealous because you have already implemented this. Tibetan schools have not implemented this. So you are the pilots.

We are facing desperate situation, no choice. Making more money cannot solve this. More scientific technology can help, but cannot solve it. Problem starts from the heart.

Once we develop awareness through secular education, then all religions can become more stronger. So in my book ethics beyond religion, I mentioned the title isn’t my choice, I feared some people might get impression the subject is something more secret than religion. Subject I am presenting is basis of all religious traditions, but itself is not based on religion.

I couldn’t catch the last bit but I think it was summarizing. Now he says human right is lunch…