TALK: “Contemplation and the Sciences in Dialogue”

Dr. Sheehy presented at the Science and Spirituality Conference. The Medicine of Mind: Healing Physical and Emotional Pain. Ligmincha International. Serenity Ridge, VA. October 2017.

Contemplation and the Sciences in Dialogue: On the Horizon of New Ways of Knowing

With an understanding that pain is perhaps the most salient and undeniable indicator of consciousness, this talk provides a framework for Buddhist responses to physical and existential pain, and explores the interface of contemplative and scientific perspectives on the nature of knowing experience. We discuss contemplative practice and the science of contemplation as methods for understanding the mind so that we can discern the sources of pain, their patterns of emergence and re-occurrence, and means for the amelioration of pain. In so doing, we discuss the nature of the dialogue between first-person modes of inquiry and science, particularly neurophenomenology. We conclude with reflections from the Tibetan contemplative traditions about how the shared ethos of being human recognizes multiple modes of knowing.



TALK: Summer Institute on Buddhism & Science

Dr. Sheehy presented at the Summer Institute on Buddhism & Science: Putting the Buddhism / Science Dialogue on New Footing. Mangalam Research Center for Buddhist Languages. Berkeley, CA. July 2017.

Inner Knowing and the Way of Humans: Epistemologies on the Horizon of the Buddhism / Science Dialogue

Considering the interface of Buddhism / science, we begin with historical and semantic reflections on Tibetan Buddhist understandings of science (tshan rig) and inner knowing (nang rig) in contrast to “the way of being human” (mi chos), i.e. the humanities. Within this broad frame, we focus on the Tibetan cultural cognition of science through the looking glass of a recently compiled Tibetan language anthology of Indian and Tibetan canonical sources on Buddhist Science, and the introduction by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Having introduced Buddhist paradigms of science and being human, the discussion examines the possibility of science as a transcultural language that situates its users within a shared lifeworld. This introduces the concept of “dialogue zones,” discrete regulated spaces wherein a shared lifeworld of alternative modes of knowing probe and enact, and a discussion about what the operating principles of redaction in such zones might compose. It is here that we pause to consider the Mind & Life Dialogues as such zones for dynamic transcultural and transdisciplinary interaction between contemplatives and scientists. We conclude with thoughts about the horizon of cross-cultural enaction between indigenous and first-person epistemologies with science, and such necessities within the broader field of the contemplative sciences.


TRANSLATION: “Traversing the Path of Meditation”

Dr. Sheehy published a translation and introduction to two Tibetan texts, “Traversing the Path of Meditation” on Bamda Thupten Gelek Gyatso’s (1844-1904) concise meditation instructions. Published in the book collection, A Gathering of Brilliant Moons: Practice Advice from the Rimé Masters of TibetWisdom Publications, 2017.

Bamda  Thupten Gelek Gyatso  (1844-1904)  was  born  in  the  hamlet  of  Bamda  in  Amdo,  a  short horse ride through the barley fields to the monastic complex at Dzamthang, headquarters of  the  Jonang  tradition.  At  an  early  age  he  was  recognized  as  a  re-embodiment  of  the famed  Jonangpa  scholar  Tāranātha  (1575-1634)  and  was  raised  in  the  formal  monastic curriculum  at  Dzamthang  Tsangwa  Monastery.  When  he  was  nineteen,  Bamda  Gelek traveled  to  live  in  Degé  district  where  he  became  integrally  involved  in  the  Kham intellectual  scene  throughout  his  twenties,  studying  closely  with  many  of  the  Rimè luminaries  of  that  period.  In  particular,  Bamda  Gelek  studied with  Jamgon  Kongtrul Lodro  Taye  (1813-1890),  Dza  Patrul  (1808-1887),  the  Fourth  Jamyang  Zhepa Kelzang Tubtan  Wangchuk  (1856-1916),  and  the  eighth  throne-holder  of  Dzogchen  Monastery, Pema  Badzra  (1867-1934).  With  such  diverse  influences, trained  within  the  Jonang, Shangpa,  Dzokchen  and  Geluk  traditions, Bamda  Gelek’s twenty-two  volumes  of collected  writings  span  a  wide  range  of  subjects.  Among  his extensive  treatises  are preserved  two  short  sweet  texts  that  record  instructions  spoken  by  Bamda  Gelek: these two texts are introduced and translated here, “Extracting the Essence of Freedoms and Fortunes: Advice on the Precious Mind, Vajrayāna, and Dzokchen,” and his “Concise Personal Advice: Listening, Reflecting, and Meditating on the Path.” Taught  aloud  in  real-time  to  spur  his  disciples  along  their path  of  spiritual  transformation,  these  texts  assume  a heightened  degree  of  receptivity from  the  audience  due  to  their  personal  nature  while  stylistically  each  reflect  the intimacy,  directness,  and  idiosyncrasy  that  is  so often  attributed to this  Tibetan  genre  of personal advice (zhal gdams).


TALK: International Chöd / Zhije Conference

Dr. Sheehy presented at the First International Chöd / Zhije Conference. Tara Mandala. Pagosa Springs, CO.  July 2017

“Severing the Body as Object: Contemplative Dynamics of the Simulated Self and Altered Embodiment in Tibetan Chöd Practice”

In “Severing the Source of Fear: Contemplative Dynamics of the Tibetan Buddhist gCod Tradition” (2005) Dr. Sheehy describes the first-person meditative processes that transform the self within the active imagination of a Chöd (gcod) practitioner. Extending this work more specifically to the Chöd view of the bodily self, this presentation will discuss (a) the sense of self as subject and the sense of self as object, (b) the powa (’pho ba) process of disassociating the body and mind that is integral to Chöd practice in dialogue with neurophysiological research on out-of-body experiences, and (c) how Chöd contemplative techniques simulate the self and alter embodiment to reorient the baseline operations that are in error. We explore Tibetan Chöd liturgical literature in conversation with Buddhist and contemporary philosophy of mind and neuroscience to describe a phenomenology of embodiment and understand Chöd contemplative contributions to the body-world dance.


BLOG: “The PhenoTank” – Microphenomenology of Contemplative Experience

Blog article about a Mind & Life Think Tank on the microphenomenology of contemplative practice, and the language of experience:

“What happens when an experience is described?  Does the very effort to find words deepen practice, sharpen awareness, clarify an experience? Imagining a lens through which to deepen access to contemplative experience, these were among the questions that drove the conversation at Mind & Life’s first funded Think Tank, the ‘PhenoTank …”

The PhenoTank: A Mind & Life Think Tank on the Microphenomenology of Contemplative Experience

The PhenoTank: A Mind & Life Think Tank on the Microphenomenology of Contemplative Experience


REVIEW: “Investigating the Rainbow Body”

Review of the book, “Rainbow Body and Resurrection” by Francis V. Tiso. From the Winter 2016 issue of Buddhadharma.

If we look across spiritual traditions, we find the human body is broadly envisioned to be a vessel that contains the essence of existence and transformation—a container, likened to clothes that are to be stripped off or a boat that is to be abandoned once one has reached the breaking shore at death. Similarly, there are modern philosophical and scientific models that conceive the body to exist separately from the mind, the kind of mind/body dualism that Gilbert Ryle described as a “ghost in the machine.” Read the full review … 

Rainbow Body. Art by Mary Devincentis Herzog.