An International Seminar on 'Philosophy and Science: an Explanatory Approach to Consciousness' and another International Seminar on 'Life, Mind and Consciousness were held under the aegis of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture in February 2002 and January 2004, respectively. The published reports of the proceedings of these two Seminars study of Consciousness. Consequent to these, an International Workshop-cum-Seminar was organized on the topic 'Consciousness: A Deeper Scientific Search' here from the 13th to the 15th January 2006. A special session was held on the 8th January 2006 with Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, Kalon Tripa, Chairman o the Cabinet, Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Learned specialists in science and philosophy and veteran practitioners of religion representing different schools actively participated.
The greatest problem facing perhaps all of sciences is to solve the long-intractable brain-mind conundrum: How does material brain produce our immaterial but vital sense of awareness? How the brain's systems work together to create the subjective experiences of the mind the self-reflective thoughts? For a long time the topic was left to philosophers and religious practitioners, but of late scientists of several disciplines, particularly the neuroscientists have taken it up in right earnest. Recent advances in imaging techniques have enabled neuroscientists to make some remarkable progress, but these achievements too have not enabled them to understand the higher reaches of consciousness upheld by the Indian Yogis of yore. The Workshop-cum-Seminar have made it possible to have some worthwhile exchange of views which I hope, will provoke scholars to proceed further in understanding Consciousness.
We are grateful to the Ministry of Higher Education, Govt. of West Bengal for their active support and financial assistance for the Seminar. Also, we are grateful to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi and to M/s. East India Pharmaceutical Works Ltd., Kolkata for their financial help to party meet the expenses.
The entire proceedings of the Workshop-cum-Seminar have been edited by Prof Jonathan Shear and Prof S.P. Mukherjee, and I am grateful to both of them. We also extend our thanks to Smt. Monica Sengutpa for her help to bring out this volume.
I hope this brief study on Consciousness will be well received by scholars as well as others interested in this subject.
Even though the topic 'Consciousness' was discovered and nurtured by the Indian seers for several thousands of years, it remained almost untouchable with the Western philosophers till the other day. However, physicists, mathematicians and other scholars belonging to different scientific disciplines started investigating seriously about the nature of consciousness. Western philosophers who had given up the earlier inhibition have come forward. We too have joined in this. Many of you know that earlier in 2002, we organized an International Seminar on Philosophy and Science An Exploratory Approach to Consciousness. It was held on 8th and 9th of February 2002. It was followed by another International Seminar on the theme: Life, Mind and Consciousness, held from 17 to 18 January 2004. The proceedings of both the Seminars were published.
We know that consciousness has three dimensions: (a) ordinary consciousness, (b) damaged or deficient consciousness, and (c) higher reaches of consciousness. Appreciating these dimensions, we have invited this time experts who have specialized through spiritual practices in understanding and realizing consciousness, fully or partly.
People belonging to different traditions from different parts of the world are going to join. Also, we have invited expert neuroscientists who will present their experimental accounts and also invited philosophers and scientists. Each will present a paper. All these presentations will be followed by discussions.
We are fortunate to have among us Prof Samdhong Rinpoche, Kalon Tripa, Chairman of the Cabinet, Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I would request our Co-ordinator to introduce him elaborately. Prof Rinpoche will remain busy during the period of 13 to 15 January, 2006 when we are going to have the Seminar. We have arranged a special session, almost a prologue to the International Workshop-cum-Seminar on Consciousness to be held here from 13 to 15 January 2006. Prof Rinpoche will also deliver a popular lecture on meditation according to the Tibetan tradition tomorrow at 6 pm. I invite all of you to attend the same.
Prof. Jonathan Shear, Department of Philosophy, Virginia Commonwealth University, has taken keen interest in our project and joined in the last International Seminar held in 2004. At our request, he is going to serve as the Co-ordinator of this Special Session. We are grateful to him. I heartily welcome all of you, particularly Prof. Rinpoche, once again. I now request Prof. Shear to conduct this important session.
The objective of this Workshop-cum-Seminar is to bring together the scholars belonging to different disciplines on the fascinating subject of the nature of consciousness. The essential thrust of the Workshop-cum-Seminar is to move beyond the exploratory stage of the two Seminars held earlier on art analogous theme and try to arrive at a clearer configuration of the nature of human consciousness. This is a subject, which has challenged as well as fascinated the intellectual community across the disciplines. It calls for a concerted application of minds of philosophers, scientists and the experientialists. As such it involves a truly cross-cultural venture, a meeting of minds representing the major cultural tradition.
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