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Buddhism and Science: A Critical Introduction to the Encounter

John Dunne, Ana C.Lopes, James Gentry, Monastic professor | 29. June 2020 to 31. July

Academic summer course

course language: English

3 credits/ 6 ECTS
accredited with the Center of Buddhist Studies
at Rangjung Yeshe Institute,
Kathmandu University, Nepal,  (BSTD 312)

29 June to 24 July 2020 academic course
27 to 31 July 2020  optional meditation retreat

Study. Reflect. Meditate.

STUDY 

The combination of traditional Tibetan Buddhist doctrinal studies, guided by a Tibetan monk-scholar, in tandem with ‘Western’ academic studies, offers students an ample field of knowledge.

REFLECT 

Through daily discussion with professors and classmates, in person as well as online, students will be able to further reflect on the material and incorporate it on a personal level. 

MEDITATE

Daily guided meditation as well as personal time for practice and contemplation will allow students to gain personal experience of the methods of Buddhist mind training. 

GAIN KNOWLEDGE AND INSIGHT 

Engaging in daily traditional Buddhist contemplative practices and academic coursework, together with the focus on reflexive awareness as a tool to access knowledge as well as self-development, students will have a unique experience of studying and practicing Buddhism and science.

Faculty

(Distinguished Professor of Contemplative Humanities -Center for Healthy Minds and Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Wisconsin–Madison)

(researcher in residence at Stanford University’s Ho Center for Buddhist Studies)

(assistant professor at Stanford University’s Department of Religious Studies)

  • Monastic professor of Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling monastery, Kathmandu, Nepal
    translated by Chloe Cramer, MA 
     
  • and guest lectures to be announced

Course Content

Buddhism has figured in the Western imagination as a “rational religion,” a “philosophy” that is mostly compatible with science. While the notion of Buddhism as “scientific” is both controversial and open to exaggeration, in the last few decades, this positive image has helped to facilitate direct encounters between Buddhism and science in multiple settings—dialogues between scientists and Buddhist scholars on key topics such as mindfulness, collaborative presentations and workshops at academic conferences, scientific research on contemplative practices, and so forth. Neuroscientists in particular have taken a strong interest in Buddhism, and, as a result, numerous collaborative research agendas have emerged with significant and sometimes surprising results in areas ranging from fundamental questions about the nature of consciousness to more practical concerns about the treatment of anxiety and depression. Some prominent Buddhist scholars and practitioners have in turn incorporated scientific perspectives into more traditional contexts for teaching the Dharma.

The consequences of these mutual engagements for both Buddhism and science, broadly construed, are manifold. Perhaps the most evident outcome is the so-called “Mindful Revolution,” a movement that derives in part from scientific experiments conducted on meditation practitioners in laboratories, and their subsequent application in domains beyond traditional Buddhist contexts. While legitimate questions about the cultural complexities of this engagement have been raised, the mindfulness movement and other related developments have provided an opportunity to examine our notions of human potentiality and the good life in transformative ways. 

This course critically explores the many facets of the encounter between Buddhism and science by fostering in students a self-reflective awareness of their positions within its history and future aspirations. To this end, our program features an immersive contemplative “laboratory” for the exploration of key topics such as the nature of knowledge, emotions, and identity within the idyllic setting of a retreat center nestled in the Austrian pre-Alps and accredited through the Centre of Buddhist Studies at Rangjung Yeshe Institute, Kathmandu University, Nepal. 

Students will live this encounter for four weeks through engaging in a combination of three components: The first component consists of daily Buddhist contemplative practices and meditation; the second focuses on traditional scholarly studies. Both of these components will be guided by a traditionally trained Tibetan Buddhist monk-scholar. The third component is a course led by Profs. John Dunne, Ana Cristina Lopes, James Gentry, and guest lecturers Amy Cohen Varela and Antoine Lutz. This academic course will critically analyze the different expressions of the encounter between Buddhism and science, historically and in the contemporary period, through discussions of scientific papers, traditional Buddhist literature, science and technology studies (STS), and anthropological literature. No prior knowledge of Buddhism or science is required.

Venue

The course will be held at Rangjung Yeshe Gomde, an International Center for Buddhist Studies and Meditation situated in Scharnstein, Upper Austria in the Austrian pre-Alps. This large Center is situated on top of a hill surrounded by beautiful gardens, lush greenery, and vital woods, and was a former farmhouse that has been renovated into a beautiful seminar house. It offers a private natural pond for after-class refreshment. Gomde hosts an international group of people interested in spiritual development and personal growth, and attracts a lot of young people who come as volunteers from all over the world. Throughout the year, several workshops, seminars and retreats are offered at Gomde. A special highlight is the visit of Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, the Center’s abbot and founder, in the summer (early August) which usually follows the ‘legendary’ Gomde Summer Fest in late July (25-26 July 2020).

Classes will take place in the Center’s 200 m2 Meditation Hall, an ideal setting for focused studies and inspiring discussion. The Lhakang, as it is called, is very bright and airy and offers a unique contemplative atmosphere, as it is also used for daily meditation practice. 

Students will also have access to a study room, equipped with a printer and fast internet, and a library, as well as the Center’s own Café Lounge. 

Gomde Germany-Austria is located in the heart of Europe, about 3 hours drive from Munich, Germany, 2 hours drive from Vienna, Austria, and is a great starting point to explore Europe. The nearest airport is the local airport of Linz, Vienna; Salzburg and Munich International Airports can be accessed with public transportation.

Is this course for me?

This course is for you if you are...

… interested in Buddhism and its relationship with science 

…want to learn and practice meditation

…are serious about knowing more

… have a critical, investigative mind that wants to explore personal growth and development

Admissions Process

The following items are required:

  • Personal Details

  • Application Essay (Please describe in no more than 500 words your background and your motivation for taking this course)

  • Academic transcripts and diplomas, with English translations where applicable

  • Proof of English language proficiency (min. Level B2)

Daily schedule

Monday - Friday

7:30 - 8:30 Guided Morning Meditation

9:45 - 11:00 Classic Buddhist lecture by monastic teacher

11:15 - 12:30 Contemporary academic class 
Afternoon: Time for self-study, reading and online discussion

Weekends and special events (optional)

Occasionally, classes will also be offered on weekends and students will have the opportunity to join additional instructions or meditation practices offered by the Center on a donation base. 

The daily schedule is subject to change and may be adapted.

Room and Board

There are several housing options and students can choose to either stay at the Center or arrange for their own housing off-site. Either way, students have the option to have all their meals at Gomde.

Off-site

There are various, simple, low-cost guest houses and homestays in close distance to Gomde. Students who prefer more privacy and like to stay at a distance from their place of study can rent a room there. Breakfast, lunch and dinner can be served at Gomde. 

On-site

Live like a Buddhist! 

Those who would like to take this course as an opportunity to immerse themselves in the “Buddhist way of life” can choose to stay at the Center. This gives students the chance to participate in daily evening meditations and interact with the volunteers as well as take part in spontaneous group activities. This is the best way to gain first-hand experience of living in a Buddhist community. 

Through being surrounded by people who attempt to apply Buddhist teachings in their daily lives, students can become aware of their meaning in the day-to-day context, test them in their personal interactions and thereby find deeper insight into the meaning of this philosophy and ethics for themselves. 

Accommodation will be offered in simple, single rooms with or without attached bathroom, as well as comfortable 2-4 person dormitories. 

„Yogi Job“

In order to stay at Gomde, one will be kindly asked to help with household chores such as washing dishes or simple cleaning tasks, for about 30 to 45 minutes daily. This ensures the smooth running of the Center, which is fully run by volunteers. Contributing to a place of practice is considered a virtuous deed, a form of applied meditation. This engagement helps to deepen one’s understanding of and sense of being part of a like-minded community. It also makes it possible for Gomde to offer board and accommodation affordable for everyone. Should you not be able or want to contribute in this manner, there is no obligation.

Costs

Course Costs: 1200€  (1000€ early bird offer until April 22nd)

Registration fee at Kathmandu University: 500€


Living Costs

The Buddhist center Gomde invites participants to stay on-site in exchange for a donation. 

The donation guide value for staying…

… in a single room with bathroom is: price upon request

… in a single room without bathroom attached: price upon request

… in a dormitory with 3- 4 beds: 15€ per night

 

Board 

The Buddhist center Gomde invites participants to have their meals at the center, in exchange for a donation. Gomde will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

The donation guide value for board during all 4 weeks of the course and weekends in between is: 10€ per day

If you should not be able to give according to the guide value, please let us know in advance. We hope to find a suitable solution for everyone. 

Should you be able to give more, you enable Gomde to offer food and accommodation to students who have fewer resources. 

Off-site: 

There are various, simple, low-cost guest houses and homestays within close distance to Gomde. Students who prefer more privacy and like to stay at a distance from their place of study can rent a room there. Breakfast, lunch and dinner can be served at Gomde. 

The costs for off-site accommodation vary, between 40€ and 90+€ per day.

Please get in contact with Gomde in order to find the right place for you.