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Special Issue "Science and Religion: Buddhist and Hindu Perspectives"

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A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 May 2014)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Geoffrey Samuel

School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University, Humanities Bldg, Colum Drive, Cardiff CF10 3EU, UK
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +442920641241
Interests: religion in Tibetan societies; Tibetan yogic health practices; Tibetan medicine; dialogue between Buddhism and science
Guest Editor
Mr. Rob Hogendoorn

Independent scholar, Koningin Julianaweg 27, 3155 AR Maasland, The Netherlands
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +311 0592 7220
Interests: dialogue between Buddhism and science; Western reception of (Tibetan) Buddhism; secularization of Buddhism; cross-cultural topical exchanges

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The intention of this special issue is to look critically at the dialogue so far between religion and contemporary science in the Asian context. One of us (Samuel) organised an international workshop on this theme at the University of Toronto in April 2013; the other (Hogendoorn) took part in the conference, which included seven papers on Buddhist and two on Hindu perspectives. We expect to include most of these papers in the special issue, but are also inviting further article submissions in the same general area.

The workshop was deliberately pluralist and interdisciplinary, involving scientists, social scientists and humanities scholars. Contributions from all these areas are invited. The central focus is on the possibilities for a mutual, non-reductionist translation between Western scientific, and Buddhist and other traditional Asian, modes of understanding of consciousness and its place within human society and the planetary ecology.

Submissions are particularly welcome in the following areas, though others are not excluded:

  1. To what extent do neuroscience and the cognitive science of religion give an adequate account of human consciousness? How can they contribute to a meaningful dialogue?
  2. Can mindfulness-based and comparable Asian-derived therapies be translated into Western terms? What might get lost in the process?
  3. What sense can be made of Tibetan medicine, particularly its religious aspects (e.g. Tantric healing, medicine empowerment), shamanic healing and spirit healing, and other similar Asian traditions in a scientific context?
  4. How might scientists make sense of Tibetan and other Buddhist views on consciousness and mind that do not depend on a material base (certain meditational and yogic processes, the subtle body, rebirth)?
  5. What is to be made of Tibetan and other Buddhist understandings of emotions (again including meditational and yogic processes) and neuroscience (including neuroendocrinology)?
Prof. Geoffrey Samuel
Mr. Rob Hogendoorn
Guest Editors

Submission

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed Open Access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 300 CHF (Swiss Francs). English correction and/or formatting fees of 250 CHF (Swiss Francs) will be charged in certain cases for those articles accepted for publication that require extensive additional formatting and/or English corrections.


Keywords

  • buddhism
  • hinduism
  • science
  • tantra
  • meditation
  • neuroscience
  • consciousness
  • subtle body
  • tantric healing

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Hermeneutic Neurophenomenology in the Science-Religion Dialogue: Analysis of States of Consciousness in the Zohar
Religions 2015, 6(1), 146-171; doi:10.3390/rel6010146
Received: 30 January 2015 / Revised: 18 February 2015 / Accepted: 26 February 2015 / Published: 6 March 2015
PDF Full-text (708 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Many mystical texts convey insights into the nature of mind that have the potential to assist in the framing of scientific models in psychology and neuroscience. In many cases, however, the insights are concealed within complex, codified symbolic systems, meaning that the reader
[...] Read more.
Many mystical texts convey insights into the nature of mind that have the potential to assist in the framing of scientific models in psychology and neuroscience. In many cases, however, the insights are concealed within complex, codified symbolic systems, meaning that the reader must engage with the hermeneutic employed by the texts’ authors in order to access the insights. Combining such a hermeneutic approach with that of neurophenomenology can enrich the input from mysticism to science. I exemplify this hermeneutic neurophenomenology through an analysis of states of mystical consciousness as portrayed in the classic of Jewish mysticism, the Zohar. Three distinct mystical states are identified, each of which is understood as being dominated by a specific dimension of consciousness. The normal state of consciousness is dominated by the narrative construction of self. The first mystical state arises as this narrative is attenuated, allowing the intentionality of perception and emotion to become the dominating dimension. The second mystical state comes to the fore as the mystic increasingly identifies with an associational propensity at the core of memory processing. The final mystical state conveys the essential feature of consciousness—phenomenality—with little, if any, intentional content. I explore how the Zohar’s insights into these states can combine with neurocognitive data and thereby enrich our understanding of consciousness. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Science and Religion: Buddhist and Hindu Perspectives)
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Open AccessArticle From Retreat Center to Clinic to Boardroom? Perils and Promises of the Modern Mindfulness Movement
Religions 2014, 5(4), 1062-1086; doi:10.3390/rel5041062
Received: 24 July 2014 / Revised: 28 September 2014 / Accepted: 23 October 2014 / Published: 6 November 2014
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (174 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
From its venerable Buddhist roots, mindfulness training (MT) has spread rapidly across the globe in the past few decades due to its strong salutary claim, i.e., the notion that meditation practice is an efficacious means for self-improvement. However, concerns have arisen that
[...] Read more.
From its venerable Buddhist roots, mindfulness training (MT) has spread rapidly across the globe in the past few decades due to its strong salutary claim, i.e., the notion that meditation practice is an efficacious means for self-improvement. However, concerns have arisen that the appropriation of MT techniques from classical Buddhist tradition into modern secular practice has diluted the benefits of these practices. The “great danger” to the movement is that inadequately adapted MT techniques, combined with unreasonable inflation of expectations regarding MT’s benefits, may undermine MT’s true potential to effect positive change in the world. And yet, these concerns can be mitigated by consideration of the salutary claim as a persistent “quality check” on MT efficacy. It is argued that scientific investigation can take an important role in delineating the necessary characteristics for fulfilling mindfulness’ salutary claim, as well as identifying contraindicated techniques and risk factors for training. By accepting that we cannot control the spread of MT into commercial domains, researchers may still work to distinguish “right” from “wrong” mindfulness through empirical study. In this way, modern science may help to realize the salutary claim and even contribute to classical Buddhist conceptions of mindfulness, advancing our understanding of how best to promote well-being. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Science and Religion: Buddhist and Hindu Perspectives)
Open AccessArticle A Cognitive Science View of Abhinavagupta’s Understanding of Consciousness
Religions 2014, 5(3), 767-779; doi:10.3390/rel5030767
Received: 4 May 2014 / Revised: 21 July 2014 / Accepted: 30 July 2014 / Published: 13 August 2014
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Abstract
This paper offers a comparative analysis of the nature of consciousness correlating the insights of the 11th century Śaiva philosopher Abhinavagupta with the work of some contemporary philosophers of consciousness. Ultimately these comparisons especially bring to light possibilities for constructing a materialist paradigm
[...] Read more.
This paper offers a comparative analysis of the nature of consciousness correlating the insights of the 11th century Śaiva philosopher Abhinavagupta with the work of some contemporary philosophers of consciousness. Ultimately these comparisons especially bring to light possibilities for constructing a materialist paradigm that might operate from a prioritization of subjectivity rather than objectivity. I propose that the Hindu, nondual Śaivite system that Abhinavagupta lays out offers a framework that may be useful for contemporary cognitive science and philosophy of mind precisely because Abhinavagupta offers a theory for connecting the material with the phenomenal. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Science and Religion: Buddhist and Hindu Perspectives)
Open AccessArticle Possible Selves, Body Schemas, and Sādhana: Using Cognitive Science and Neuroscience in the Study of Medieval Vaiṣṇava Sahajiyā Hindu Tantric Texts
Religions 2014, 5(3), 684-699; doi:10.3390/rel5030684
Received: 27 June 2014 / Revised: 19 July 2014 / Accepted: 25 July 2014 / Published: 5 August 2014
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (260 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In recent decades, historians of religions have turned to, and developed, entirely new methodologies for the study of religion and human consciousness. Foremost among these are a collection of approaches often termed the “cognitive science of religion” (CSR), typically drawing on cognitive science,
[...] Read more.
In recent decades, historians of religions have turned to, and developed, entirely new methodologies for the study of religion and human consciousness. Foremost among these are a collection of approaches often termed the “cognitive science of religion” (CSR), typically drawing on cognitive science, neuroscience, linguistics, and contemporary metaphor theory. Although we are still “early” in this enterprise, I hope to show how a meaningful dialogue between religious studies and contemporary neuroscience and cognitive science can help us to better understand some intriguing mystical texts and practices from a tradition of medieval South Asian Hinduism. Known collectively as the Vaiṣṇava Sahajiyās, these followers of transgressive and antinomian Tantric Yoga provide excellent examples for exploring the nature of religion, ritual, consciousness, embodiment, identity, gender, emotions and sexuality. This paper will show how the study of these rich materials from 17th through 18th century Bengal in northeastern South Asia can be enhanced using insights from the philosopher, Shaun Gallagher, and the neurologist, Patrick McNamara. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Science and Religion: Buddhist and Hindu Perspectives)
Open AccessArticle Between Buddhism and Science, Between Mind and Body
Religions 2014, 5(3), 560-579; doi:10.3390/rel5030560
Received: 4 May 2014 / Revised: 2 July 2014 / Accepted: 7 July 2014 / Published: 16 July 2014
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (227 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Buddhism has been seen, at least since the Theravāda reform movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as particularly compatible with Western science. The recent explosion of Mindfulness therapies have strengthened this perception. However, the 'Buddhism' which is being brought into
[...] Read more.
Buddhism has been seen, at least since the Theravāda reform movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as particularly compatible with Western science. The recent explosion of Mindfulness therapies have strengthened this perception. However, the 'Buddhism' which is being brought into relation with science in the context of the Mindfulness movement has already undergone extensive rewriting under modernist influences, and many of the more critical aspects of Buddhist thought and practice are dismissed or ignored. The Mind and Life Institute encounters, under the patronage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, present a different kind of dialogue, in which a Tibetan Buddhism which is only beginning to undergo modernist rewriting confronts Western scientists and scholars on more equal terms. However, is the highly sophisticated but radically other world of Tantric thought really compatible with contemporary science? In this article I look at problem areas within the dialogue, and suggest that genuine progress is most likely to come if we recognise the differences between Buddhist thought and contemporary science, and take them as an opportunity to rethink scientific assumptions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Science and Religion: Buddhist and Hindu Perspectives)
Open AccessArticle Caveat Emptor: The Dalai Lama’s Proviso and the Burden of (Scientific) Proof
Religions 2014, 5(3), 522-559; doi:10.3390/rel5030522
Received: 19 May 2014 / Revised: 16 June 2014 / Accepted: 19 June 2014 / Published: 30 June 2014
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (163 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
A more complete understanding of the Dalai Lama’s intellectual milieu and mental framework serves to contextualize and appraise his contributions to the discourse on Buddhism and Science in general, and the so-called Mind and Life Dialogues in particular. In addition to providing indispensable
[...] Read more.
A more complete understanding of the Dalai Lama’s intellectual milieu and mental framework serves to contextualize and appraise his contributions to the discourse on Buddhism and Science in general, and the so-called Mind and Life Dialogues in particular. In addition to providing indispensable background information, a fuller expression of his foundational views and motives sheds light upon the idiosyncratic way the Dalai Lama engages new fields of knowledge. Thanks to the Dialogues’ format and the transparency of the Dalai Lama’s scholastic mentality, the way in which Mind and Life participants meet various challenges in practice offers enough traction to retrieve and critically appraise real-time patterns of engagement and innovation. This should prove to be instrumental in determining the Dialogues’ measure of success, at least by its own standards and stated purpose. Following this approach, the Dalai Lama’s long-time use of a proviso derived from Tsongkhapa’s reading of Middle Way philosophy as a methodological distinction that delineates the scope of Science warrants specific attention. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Science and Religion: Buddhist and Hindu Perspectives)
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Open AccessArticle From Sadness to Madness: Tibetan Perspectives on the Causation and Treatment of Psychiatric Illness
Religions 2014, 5(2), 444-458; doi:10.3390/rel5020444
Received: 9 April 2014 / Revised: 7 May 2014 / Accepted: 8 May 2014 / Published: 15 May 2014
PDF Full-text (138 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Buddhist-derived “mindfulness” practices are currently enjoying popularity amongst both the lay population and health professionals in the West, especially in the treatment of psychiatric conditions such as depression. This popularity leads to questions regarding how people in diverse Buddhist communities might conceptualise psychiatric
[...] Read more.
Buddhist-derived “mindfulness” practices are currently enjoying popularity amongst both the lay population and health professionals in the West, especially in the treatment of psychiatric conditions such as depression. This popularity leads to questions regarding how people in diverse Buddhist communities might conceptualise psychiatric illness and healing. This paper explores perspectives on psychiatric illness within a Tibetan Buddhist community in North India, focusing on the role of “emotions” in causation and treatment which was frequently discussed by informants. Comparisons between biomedical perspectives on emotional “disturbance” as a symptom of psychiatric illness and Tibetan conceptions of emotions as causal or contributory factors in a number of psychiatric illnesses are discussed. Three case studies are described to illustrate some of these common perspectives, examine how they are reflected in health-seeking behavior, and consider comparisons between the two systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Science and Religion: Buddhist and Hindu Perspectives)
Open AccessArticle Buddhist Mind and Matter
Religions 2014, 5(2), 422-434; doi:10.3390/rel5020422
Received: 3 March 2014 / Revised: 2 April 2014 / Accepted: 10 April 2014 / Published: 16 April 2014
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (192 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Classic Buddhist thought understands the mind as arising in dependence on the body. This causal dependence may be fashioned as a kind of “Buddhist materialism”. However, this should not be confused with any variety of scientific materialism, in which ontological and/or causal reductions
[...] Read more.
Classic Buddhist thought understands the mind as arising in dependence on the body. This causal dependence may be fashioned as a kind of “Buddhist materialism”. However, this should not be confused with any variety of scientific materialism, in which ontological and/or causal reductions of mind to brain affirm matter as the fundamental entity or property. Buddhist materialism, in contrast, is a purely phenomenological description that rejects both “mind” and “matter” as entities possessing substance or essential natures. This view questions the presumption that matter is external, real, and scientifically accessible, whereas mind is internal, subjective, and harder to empirically observe. Instead, perceptions of mind and matter are understood to be different kinds of experiences of equal phenomenological reality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Science and Religion: Buddhist and Hindu Perspectives)

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