From August 16 to August 21 a distinguished group of scientists and philosophers, and religious thinkers met with Buddhist monastics at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, in a symposium titled "Science and Contemplative Wisdom." Organized by Dr. George Weissmann, a physicist from the University of California at Berkeley, and faculty members of Dharma Realm Buddhist University, the symposium brought together such leaders of the scientific and religious communities as Huston Smith, professor of Religious Studies at Berkeley, and Henry Stapp, quantum physicist from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories, Stephen Tainer, philosopher and coauthor of
Time, Space, and Knowledge, Jim Johnston, physicist and brain-wave researcher, and Roger Corless, Professor of Buddhist Studies at Duke University, Durham, South Carolina. The participants contributed broad experience in their respective fields.
Father John Rogers, Catholic priest and chaplain of the Newman Community at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Mary Bockover, Philosophy Professor at Humboldt, Valerie Hope, therapist and spiritual practitioner, Lucy Lewis, anthropologist and artist; and John Wilkinson, British chemist and meditator, among others, exchanged their points of view.
Representing the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas were Bhikshus Heng Sure, Heng Syau, and Heng Sheng, Dr. Ron Epstein, professor of Buddhism at San Francisco State Univ., and Dr. Snjezana Akpinar, professor of Islam and Turkish, Chancellor pro tem of the Dharma Realm Buddhist University, among others.
Subtitled "Developing Other Ways of Knowing," the symposium focused first on a establishing a "learning community" that explored the discovery of a group mind. The "learning community" is a shared process that determines its own evolution from moment to moment. Instead of individuals reading papers in the formal style of traditional academic conferences, participants are encouraged to share communication from the heart, embodying the principles he/she considers valid and important.
Participants used a process of free exchange of ideas within the space of the learning community, to investigate the matter of consciousness on the parts of scientists and spiritual adepts. The talk expanded into roundtable discussion and sharing of new paradigms of thought and methods of practice. The monks and nuns offered insights from their practice and study of the Buddhist scriptures, to shed light on the physicists' description of science's current state of enlightenment on quantum reality.
Most stimulating were the lively exchanges on the similarities and differences in structures of reality as explored by scientific research, and the contemplative, intuitive approach of Buddhist, yogic, Sufi, and Native American meditative disciplines.
Topics discussed included how to overcome limitations to the way we approach understanding and knowledge and how to develop more appropriate methodologies of knowing.
As a complement to discussions, Valerie Hope and Lucy Lewis led the group in exercises exploring nonlinear, holistic knowing, involving movement, sound, and artistic expression, which generated insights about an authentic voice for women in a spiritual community.
An important aspect of the experience came from the opportunity for the participants to take part in meditation, taste the vegetarian cuisine, and join the daily liturgies and practices at the monastic campus.
The symposium lasted for six days and the group agreed to continue the exploration with further meetings next year.