Sarnath: Gracing the second day of CIHTS’s Conference on Mind in Indian Philosophical Schools of Thought and Modern Science on 31 December, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave comments and expressed opinions on the presentations by the esteemed panelists. His Holiness also spoke about the Sanskrit tradition and Pali tradition of Buddhism, and the general acknowledgement of Tibetan Buddhism as the heir to the Nalanda Tradition of ancient India.
Buddhist scholars, neuroscientists, sociologists, and researchers attended the second day of the conference including Prof Jay Garfield, a Professor of Philosophy, Logic and Buddhist studies at Smith College; Michel Bitbol, Directeur de Recherche at CNRS, Paris; Dr Thupten Jinpa, adjunct professor at the School of Religious Studies at McGill University; Dr Renuka Singh, a sociologist from Jawarhalal Nehru University; Ceon Ramon, a retired Neuroscientist, etc.
In his comments during the presentations, His Holiness remarked that the term Theravada is a division of the Vinaya. He said he prefers to talk about the Pali tradition, which refers to the Buddhist traditions of Burma, Sri Lanka and so on, and the Sanskrit tradition, which by and large refers to the Indian tradition. He added that he prefers not to use the terms Hinayana and Mahayana because there is a tendency for those following the Mahayana to look down on those belonging to the Hinayana, and for the latter to question whether the Mahayana is actually the teaching of the Buddha.
“In the Sanskrit tradition there is talk of the three turnings of the wheel of dharma, among which the first represents the Pali tradition—including the Vinaya, shamatha, vipassana and the 37 factors of enlightenment—while the two other turnings refer to the Sanskrit tradition,” His Holiness said.
His Holiness further clarified the misconception of some about Tibetan Buddhism as simply Lamaism and not pure Buddhism. “In the past some writers referred to Tibetan Buddhism as Lamaism as if it was not an authentic Buddhist tradition, but today it is universally acknowledged as the heir to the Nalanda Tradition,” His Holiness said.
In his final remarks of the conference, His Holiness spoke about his admiration for the potential of ancient India’s knowledge in tackling modern problems, and how a confluence of Buddhism and science can contribute towards creating a more peaceful world.
“There is much to be learned from ancient Indian thought that can be relevant today in terms of learning to tackle destructive emotions. As a result, India is the only country that could combine the benefits of modern education with ancient Indian knowledge to enable more people to achieve peace of mind,” His Holiness said, explaining that Tibetan monasteries in South India are already teaching science with Buddhism to hundreds of monks, who after 20 years rigorous study, would be well-qualified to teach about this.
Prof Asanga Tilakratne spoke about the Theravada analysis of the mind—one of the most sophisticated analyses of the mind in any Indian philosophical system. Michel Bitbol spoke about the duality of mind and matter, a belief that there are inherently existing objects with inherent properties is just naïve. He drew attention to Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger, who was instrumental in the development of quantum physics and who took inspiration from Advaita Vedanta and Madhyamaka Buddhism. Dr Thupten Jinpa spoke about the three core features of consciousness in Buddhist philosophy of the mind. Neuroscientist Ceon Ramon spoke about the nature of the mind from the perspective of neuroscience and physics.
Following the conference, His Holiness met a group of blind and partially sighted women and girls from the nearby Jeevan Jyoti school. His Holiness greeted them warmly as old friends, telling them he remembers them and thinks of them often.
Tomorrow, His Holiness will grace the 50th founding anniversary of CIHTS.