On October 22, the Dalai Lama participated in a closed symposium at the Multi-Faith Centre at the University of Toronto on “Cognitive Science, Mindfulness, and Consciousness”. The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, headed to the symposium straight from the airport to begin his fifth visit to Canada at the University of Toronto.
The university’s chancellor, David Peterson, greeted the famous guest and gave the opening remarks. He spoke of his interest in Tibetan affairs and the great honour bestowed upon the 70 guests who were afforded the opportunity to attend the gathering.
“It is an honour to have a world figure at this morning’s event,” said Peterson. “On these occasions that mark universities, the essence of our university, the free exchange of ideas, world leading experts from a variety of disciplines, and to have his holiness here today, this towering figure in the world, is indeed a pleasure.”
The panel was comprised of professors of psychology and psychiatry and focussed the discussion around the connections between science and humanism.
Professor Laura Ann Petitto presented her research on expanding the brain’s processing capacity of thought and language through bilingualism. Professor Adam Anderson discussed “The Mindful Brain” that concerns the role of mindfulness in perceiving the concept of self.
Zindel Segal, professor of psychiatry and psychology, explained the emotional benefits of mindfulness in clinical care when treating mood disorders. Finally, professor Tony Toneatto, practitioner of the Tibetan Buddhist Nyingma tradition, spoke of the impact of meditation and mindfulness on thought processes.
“This information is necessary if we are to determine how well mindfulness skills are being learned and whether we can make a link between mindfulness and the benefits we associate with mindfulness,” said Toneatto. “In the past 20 years, research on mindfulness meditation has found it to be effective in alleviating a wide range of mental and physical problems, as well as promoting overall well-being.”
The Dalai Lama congratulated the University of Toronto professors on their research. He expressed his thoughts on mindfulness and how it generates distress and happiness in the mind. He believes that a combination of modern external sciences and eastern traditional internal sciences is necessary to relieve distress and better approach individual, collective, and global issues.
“In the past, science used to look at objects; now, scientists are investigating themselves, scientists are also using consciousness of mind and mindfulness,” said the Dalai Lama. “This is wonderful. Now, modern science can be more complete by investigating external matters and internal matters.”
The Varsity was the only media permitted to cover the event.
Throughout his three-day stay in Toronto, the Dalai Lama presented “Human Approaches to World Peace” to 30,000 spectators at the Rogers Centre, guest-edited the Sunday issue of The Toronto Star, and attended the opening of the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre.
“I would also like to take this opportunity today to express my thanks to the Canadian government; federal, as well as provincial and local, have supported the cause of the Tibetan people over a long period of time,” said the Dalai Lama at the opening ceremony of the Cultural Centre.