It would be difficult to point to a more central goal of Buddhist meditation practice than the cultivation of one’s moral capacity. Buddhist texts, especially those from the Pāḷi cannon, emphasize the cultivation of mindfulness as leading to unwavering moral motivation to avoid acts that are “unskillful.” The cultivation of compassion is a hallmark of Mahāyāna Buddhist meditation. The psychological and physiological changes involved in such meditative practices are the subject of a growing number of empirical studies. Recent studies of long-term practitioners of mindfulness meditation have begun to make significant contributions to our current understanding of neural plasticity, attention, and consciousness. This panel will examine the cognitive science of meditation and moral motivation. Can meditation affect the short-term psychological states or long-term character traits that motivate pro-social actions? How have various Buddhist traditions explained the relation between attention, emotion, and virtuous action, and what light can be shed by modern science?
Willoughby Britton (Brown University)
Jake Davis (CUNY Graduate Center)
Andrew Olendzki (Barre Center for Buddhist Studies)
Jesse Prinz (CUNY Graduate Center)
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Duke University)