Progress and Challenge in Contemplative Studies

October 31, 2014 5:42 PM

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As most everyone is aware, meditation is increasingly popular in the West. There has also been a marked increase in clinical, neuroscience, psychological and social science investigations of meditation, focusing on long-term practitioners and those participating in short-term mindfulness and related training programs. Comparing the first to the second five years of this century, there has been a more than 300 percent increase in the publication of basic and applied studies in this area that is now known as "contemplative science." Added to this is the burgeoning work in the humanities, critically examining both contemplative science and the ancient traditions from which modern meditation practices have been derived. This broader collective enterprise of science and critical scholarship is being referred to as "contemplative studies," and we appear to be in its golden age. The vigor of this field of study is reflected in the many talks and poster presentations being given at the second biennial International Symposium for Contemplative Studies (ISCS), from October 30 to November 2 in Boston. Presenters include several of the most distinguished scientists, scholars, and contemplative teachers in the world, including His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. Over 1,500 attendees are anticipated, a number that is more than double those who attended the inaugural 2012 ISCS held in Denver.

Progress in scientific and other academic investigations of meditation practices has been remarkable. However, as many of the presentations at the ISCS address, there is much we still do not understand about meditation, and considerably more careful and rigorous research is needed. There are concept...

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