*Why do seemingly rational, intelligent people commit acts of cruelty and violence?
*What are the root causes of destructive behavior?
*How can we control the emotions that drive these impulses?
*Can we learn to live at peace with ourselves and others?
Imagine sitting with the Dalai Lama in his private meeting room with a small group of world-class scientists and philosophers. The talk is lively and fascinating as these leading minds grapple with age-old questions of compelling contemporary urgency. Daniel Goleman, the internationally bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence, provides the illuminating commentary--and reports on the breakthrough research this historic gathering inspired.
Buddhist philosophy tells us that all personal unhappiness and interpersonal conflict lie in the "three poisons": craving, anger, and delusion. It also provides antidotes of astonishing psychological sophistication--which are now being confirmed by modern neuroscience. With new high-tech devices, scientists can peer inside the brain centers that calm the inner storms of rage and fear. They also can demonstrate that awareness-training strategies such as meditation strengthen emotional stability--and greatly enhance our positive moods.
The distinguished panel members report these recent findings and debate an exhilarating range of other topics: What role do destructive emotions play in human evolution? Are they "hardwired" in our bodies? Are they universal, or does culture determine how we feel? How can we nurture the compassion that is also our birthright? We learn how practices that reduce negativity have also been shown to bolster the immune system. Here, too, is an enlightened proposal for a school-based program of social and emotional learning that can help our children increase self-awareness, manage their anger, and become more empathetic.
Throughout, these provocative ideas are brought to life by the play of personalities, by the Dalai Lama's probing questions, and by his surprising sense of humor. Although there are no easy answers, the dialogues, which are part of a series sponsored by the Mind and Life Institute, chart an ultimately hopeful course. They are sure to spark discussion among educators, religious and political leaders, parents--and all people who seek peace for themselves and the world.
The Mind and Life Institute sponsors cross-cultural dialogues that bring together the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist scholars with Western scientists and philosophers. Mind and Life VIII, on which this book is based, took place in Dharamsala, India, in March 2000.
In May 2001, in a laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, a Tibetan Buddhist monk donned a cap studded with hundreds of sensors that were connected to a state-of-the-art EEG, a brain-scanning device capable of recording changes in his brain with speed and precision. When the monk began meditating in a way that was designed to generate compassion, the sensors registered a dramatic shift to a state of great joy. "The very act of concern for others' well-being, it seems, creates a greater state of well-being within oneself," writes bestselling author Goleman (Emotional Intelligence) in his extraordinary new work. Goleman offers this breakthrough as an appetizer to a feast. Readers will discover that it is just one of a myriad of creative and positive results that are continuing to flow from the Mind and Life dialogue that took place over five days in March 2000 between a group of leading Western scientists and philosophers and the Dalai Lama in his private quarters in Dharamsala, India. This eighth Mind and Life meeting is the seventh to be recorded in book form; Goleman's account is the most detailed and user-friendly to date. The timely theme of the dialogue was suggested by the Dalai Lama to Goleman, who took on the role of organizer and brought together some world-class researchers and thinkers, including psychologist Paul Ekman, philosopher Owen Flanagan, the late Francisco Varela and Buddhist photographer Matthieu Riccard. In a sense, the many extraordinary insights and findings that arise from the presentations and subsequent discussions are embodied by the Dalai Lama himself as he appears here. Far from the cuddly teddy bear the popular media sometimes makes him out to be, he emerges as a brilliant and exacting interrogator, a natural scientist, as well as a leader committed to finding a practical means to help society. Yet he also personally embodies the possibility of overcoming destructive emotions, of becoming resilient, compassionate and happy no matter what life brings. Covering the nature of destructive emotions, the neuroscience of emotion, the scientific study of consciousness and more, this essential volume offers a fascinating account of what can emerge when two profound systems for studying the mind and emotions, Western science and Buddhism, join forces. Goleman travels beyond the edge of the known, and the report he sends back is encouraging.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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March 29, 2004
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Excerpt from Destructive Emotions by Daniel Goleman
The Lama in the Lab Lama Oser strikes most anyone who meets him as resplendent—not because of his maroon and gold Tibetan monk's robes, but because of his radiant smile. Oser, a European-born convert to Buddhism, has trained as a Tibetan monk in the Himalayas for more than three decades, including many years at the side of one of Tibet's greatest spiritual masters. But today Oser (whose name has been changed here to protect his privacy) is about to take a revolutionary step in the history of the spiritual lineages he has become a part of: He will engage in meditation while having his brain scanned by state-of-the-art brain imaging devices. To be sure, there have been sporadic attempts to study brain activity in meditators, and decades of tests with monks and yogis in Western labs, some revealing remarkable abilities to control respiration, brain waves, or core body temperature. But this—the first experiment with someone at Oser's level of training, using such sophisticated measures--will take that research to an entirely new level, deeper than ever in charting the specific links between highly disciplined mental strategies and their impact on brain function. And this research agenda has a pragmatic focus: to assess meditation as mind training, a practical answer to the perennial human conundrum of how we can better handle our destructive emotions. While modern science has focused on formulating ingenious chemical compounds to help us overcome toxic emotions, Buddhism offers a different, albeit far more labor-intensive, route: methods for training the mind, largely through meditation practice. Indeed, Buddhism explicitly explains the training Oser has undergone as an antidote to the mind's vulnerability to toxic emotions. If destructive emotions mark one extreme in human proclivities, this research seeks to map their antipode, the extent to which the brain can be trained to dwell in a constructive range: contentment instead of craving, calm rather than agitation, compassion in place of hatred. Medicines are the leading modality in the West for addressing disturbing emotions, and for better or for worse, there is no doubt that mood-altering pills have brought solace to millions. But one compelling question the research with Oser raises is whether a person, through his or her own efforts, can bring about lasting positive changes in brain function that are even more far-reaching than medication in their impact on emotions. And that question, in turn, raises others: For instance, if in fact people can train their minds to overcome destructive emotions, could practical, nonreligious aspects of such training be part of every child's education? Or could such training in emotional self-management be offered to adults, whether or not they were spiritual seekers? These very questions had been raised over the course of a remarkable five-day dialogue held the year before between the Dalai Lama and a small group of scientists and a philosopher of mind at his private quarters in Dharamsala, India. The research with Oser marked one culmination of several lines of scientific inquiry set in motion during the dialogue. There the Dalai Lama had been a prime mover in inspiring this research; in a real sense, he was an active collaborator in turning the lens of science on the practices of his own spiritual tradition. But the experiments in Madison were merely one manifestation of that deep collective inquiry into the nature of emotions, how they become destructive, and possible effective antidotes. This book renders my account of the conversations that inspired the Madison research, of the larger questions behind the research, and of the greater implications for us all of this sweeping exploration into how humanity might counter the centrifugal drag of our destructive emotions. Assaying the Transcendent It was at the invitation of Richard Dav