International conference on Perception and Reality held in Sikyong Hall, T-building of CTA, Dharamshala from October 29 to 30, 2023. Photo: TPI

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Dharamshala — The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives organised two-day an international conference on Perception and Reality (Cosmology and Consciousness Conference VIII) in Dharamshala. Indian philosophers, Western scientists and senior Tibetan Buddhist scholars presented and discussed perception and reality from the perspectives of science, Indian philosophy and Buddhism.

International conference on Perception and Reality of Cosmology and Consciousness Conference VIII held in Sikyong Hall, T-building of Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), Dharamshala from October 29 to 30, 2023. The event is an initiative of the Science for Monks and Nuns program under the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, which has taught modern science to Buddhist monks and nuns for more than two decades, under the inspiration of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.

Former Kalon Tripa Sangdong Rinpoche, as chief guest, and Tharlam Dolma, the Kalon of Education Department of CTA, as special guest, attended the inauguration of the debate on Perception and Reality on October 29, 2023. Western, Indian and Tibetan speakers and over 300 participants, including Geshes, monks, nuns, students, educators and young people, attended the two-day dialogue.

During this two-day conference, Professor David Presti from UC Berkeley will speak on Neuroscience, Perception, and Consciousness, Geshe Lodoe Sangpo from Gaden Jangtse Monastery will speak on Disparity between our cognitive perception and the nature of reality from Buddhist perspective, Geshe Lhakdor will speak on The Four Seals of Buddhism, Kranti Saran from Ashoka University will speak on What's at stake in perceptually discerning reality?, Geshe Thabkhe Lodeo from Sera Je Monastery will speak on Can quantum view help reduce self grasping?, Tenzin Rabga from Seoul National University will talk on Quantum Mechanics and the Perception-reality dichotomy, Geshe Ngawang Samten from Sera Je Monastery will speak on Reduction of the gulf between reality and appearance: the foundation of Buddhist philosophy and spirituality, Harsha Tsering Nagaraju from Gaden Jangtse Monastery will speak on Perspectives on Pratyaksa and Pramana (means of knowledge) in Classical Indian Philosophical Thought, and Karma Thupten of Science for Monks and Nuns will speak on Kawa And Bhumpa.

According a statement of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA), "Perception and reality have long been a central theme in Buddhism, Science and many other philosophical traditions. This conference seeks to delve into the complex interplay between these concepts drawing insights from the fields of quantum physics, neuroscience and the profound wisdom of the Buddhist tradition, particularly the concept of interdependence and two truths. By bringing together experts and practitioners from these diverse backgrounds, we aim to foster an interdisciplinary dialogue that can shed light on the intricate nature of perception and reality."

"For more than two millennia, Buddhist scholars have been debating about the discrepancies between perception and reality and how this will lead to distorted views about self and others. More recently, quantum physics has fundamentally altered our understanding of reality by introducing concepts like superposition and Entanglement. Likewise, neuroscience also continues to unravel the mysteries of our mind and how it perceives the world. It has been our true belief that an integrated understanding of perception and reality will greatly contribute not only to the boundaries of our knowledge but also our personal development and the overall wellbeing as human beings," it continues.

"In addition to the presenters, we have 32 Tibetan religious and educational leaders from over 15 monasteries and nunneries, who will be guiding the development of the panel discussions and will be engaged in the dialogue with scientists for the first time. This conference is preceded by a three-week long introductory science course aimed at engaging these monastic scholars with modern science and preparing to take-on this dialogue," the statement explained.

While introducing the history of the conference, it states, “Perception and Reality” is the eight International conference in a series that convenes Buddhist scholars and western and Indian scientists in dialogue. The first conference, “Cosmology and Consciousness – a Dialogue between Buddhist Scholars and Scientists on Mind and Matter” was held in Upper TCV, Dharamshala, in December, 2011, and was inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Our second conference on “Knowing and Action” was held at the Songtsen Library in Dehradun in 2013, our third conference on “Harmony and Happiness” was held in Dharamshala in 2014, and our fourth “Quantum Mechanics and Emptiness” was held at Namdroling Monastery in Bylakuppe in 2015, our fifth conference on “Regulating and Transforming Emotions” was held in Sherabling Monastery in 2016, our sixth conference “Compassion, Virtue and Character” was held at the Norbulingka Institute in 2017 and the seventh conference on “Observation and Reality” was held at Chintan Bhawan, Gangtok Sikkim in 2018."

The conference was funded by a donation from the John Templeton Foundation and the generous support of the Sager Family Foundation through the Science for Monks and Nuns Foundation.