From Interiority to Inner Territory: Tibetan Buddhism, Neuroscience, and the Poltics of Representation
Lott, Dylan T.
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Scholars have noted the many ways in which colonial encounters have framed the contemporary portrayal of Buddhism as a “science,” as opposed to being merely a “religion.” Today, this representation of “Buddhism as Science” is most at work in the Western neuroscience of meditation and the introduction of science education into the curriculum of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Exile. This dissertation explores the Buddhism and Science dialogues through fieldwork conducted in Tibetan cultural, governmental, and educational institutions in India and meditation research facilities in the U.S. I focus on the situated negotiations of representations of Buddhism as a science as they play themselves out in neuroscience labs and among Tibetans in exile. I will discuss how global networks of neuroimaging research have helped shape and commodify the cultural identities of Tibetan Buddhists and how Tibetan Buddhists themselves have leveraged certain of those representations to yield a materially adventitious, though culturally risky (given the mandate of Tibetan institutions in exile to preserve traditional Tibetan culture), set of circumstances.