Views of “Within”? Science, Buddhism and the Ineffable in Representations of Meditation by Prof Brian Rappert & Dr Catelijne Coopmans
Publication Date : Aug / 2015

Chairperson introduction and speakers’ presentation only

This presentation elaborates the challenges and possibilities associated with the neuroscientific study of Buddhist meditation (and semi-secular, Buddhist-inspired practices), through attending to a specific concern: namely, notions of what is not, cannot, and should not be recounted about meditative experience. Among figures within Buddhism and those engaged in the academic study of contemplative experience, the question of what exceeds description has been a recurring topic of commentary. In stark contrast, mainstream approaches in cognitive neuroscience pay little attention to descriptions of meditation by those who practice it, let alone to the limits performed and grappled with in self-reports. Even when first-person accounts are drawn upon, scant consideration is given to what can or should not be described. We consider the implications of various treatments of the ineffable across traditions for claims to credibility and expertise. We also speculate on what experimental research could look like if participants did engage not only first-person accounts but also what is absent from these accounts. Learn more