Buddhism and Neuroscience: A problematic dialogue

Co-presented with the Department of Indian Subcontinental Studies and Buddhist Studies Program, University of Sydney

27 March, 2012
Professor Bernard Faure


Neuroscience has become the new dominant paradigm, and Buddhism has attempted to redefine itself in relation to that paradigm. A case in point is the ‘dialogue’ between Buddhism and neuroscience promoted by the Dalai Lama and his Western followers. While such efforts are important and necessary, their premises have not sufficiently been examined yet, and this has hindered their progress.

Apart from such technical questions as the neural correlates of meditative states, ‘really hard problems’ like the nature of reality, meaning, or awakening must be tackled if such a dialogue is to move forward. Before talking of a possible convergence between neuroscience and Buddhism, divergences must be acknowledged.

Professor Bernard Faure

Professor Bernard Faure holds the Kao Chair in Japanese Religion at Columbia University, where he is also Director of the Columbia Center for Japanese Religion. Educated at Kyoto University and the University of Paris, where he received his doctorate in 1984, taught at Cornell University and was for many years Professor of Chinese Religions at Stanford University He has lived for long periods in Japan and has travelled extensively in Asia, and is one of the few Asian studies scholars to have published groundbreaking work on both Chinese and Japanese topics, writing in English and French.

Selected publications include The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism (1994), Chan Insights and Oversights: An Epistemological Critique of the Chan Tradition (1996), The Red Thread: Buddhist Approaches to Sexuality (1998), Visions of Power: Imagining Medieval Japanese Buddhism (2000), The Power of Denial: Buddhism, Purity, and Gender (2003), Double Exposure: Cutting Across Western and Buddhist Discourses (2003), Bouddhismes et violence (2008), and Unmasking Buddhism (2009).

Bernard Faure is the University Buddhist Education Foundation (UBEF) visiting professor of Buddhist studies at the University of Sydney for 2012.