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…

Transformative stages of reduction and elimination of destructive mental factors, cultivation of constructive, and understanding of reality:
1. Understanding derived from hearing
2. Reflection or contemplation
3. Meditative practice.

HHDL says something about As a result of hearing something that resonates with you, it eventually becomes part of your life. View of emptiness becomes your personal view, rather than just something you read about.

Cultivation of the view of impermanence has an immense impact on life.

Geshe Ngawang Samten on secular ethics. In the west, ethics primarily refers to behavior. But in Buddhism, there is ethics of body (behavior), ethics of speech (your communication of information with others), and ethics of mind, based on as I mentioned earlier, the consequences generated by the thoughts and beliefs one holds.

Seems like mind ethics is most important, next slide:
Buddhist approaches to the modes of encountering affliction emotions (Klesha)
-Avoiding the object (at an initial stage, not always)
-Application of regulation of emotions through training and practice (antidotes?)
-Subjugation through non-transcendental path: training of mental stability through concentration
-elimination by the transcendental path: by perception of ultimate reality, affliction emotions (kleshas) are eliminated.

HHDL suggests that secular ethics go up through the second level here. I think it could also include the third.

Seeking a secular ethics: “what we need today is an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without” -HHDL. (It’s amusing when they show slides to HHDL that are just his own quotes.) But how can you expect to get everyone to agree on an ethics without taking into account the different reasons people might have for valuing various outcomes? Conversations with Michael Glasgow have made it clear to me that you can’t simply expect everyone to agree on a utilitarian foundation, or any kind of argument based on the expected outcomes of the ethics. Deontological ethics are alive and well. And for that matter, whatever foundation you try to build your “secular” ethics on, how can you say that the foundation itself does not require faith? I might be a utilitarian, and I might assert that the greatest good for the greatest number is a foundation that is objective and requires no faith, but what do I say to someone who simply doesn’t believe that?

Arthur’s topic is the value of contemplative pedagogy:
Supports and develops attention, emotional balance.
Can become a mode of inquiry leading to insight.
Cultivation of empathy, altruism and compassion. Right now that is not a part of education in our society, but it could be. I always get annoyed when the scientists in this community say things like that without acknowledging how we got here: namely, secularism and the separation of church and state is the thing that removed ethics and morality from education. Not that religion was doing a good job of it; but in general, if you’re saying “things should be more like this” and you want to actually change society, it’s counterproductive to ignore the societal factors that got us away from your goal in the first place. Oops my commentary made me miss the rest of the slide.