“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
SCIENCE of INTERBEING
The term "interbeing" was first coined by the Zen Buddhist monk, and Nobel Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh(1), “to express the reality of mutual interdependence in human relationship, both in the sense of relating one to another and in the wider sense of humanity’s relationship to the natural world as a whole.”(2)
Towards a science of Interbeing
In 2000, Francisco Varela, eminent biologist, philosopher, and neuroscientist, published an article entitled “Steps to a Science of Inter-being: Unfolding the Dharma Implicit in Modern Cognitive Science”(3). In this article, Varela presents “the possibility of a future cognitive science of interbeing, a further stage in the history of the development of the field”.(4) He affirmed this development, would come not from looking for “an interface or an encounter” between science and spirituality, but by “rediscovering some fundamental insights of Buddhism from within.”(5)
According to Varela, the last stage of this development would come through the already emergent field of “neurophenomenology”, an approach which combines the study of experience from within and neuroscience.
The Dalai Lama and the Mind and Life Institute
Varela’s vision continues to be manifested today by the Mind and Life Institute, which he co-founded in 1987, together with Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama and Adam Engle. As explained in the declaration of the Institute’s mission: “Whereas science relies on empiricism, technology, “objective” observation, and analysis, the Dalai Lama, Engle, and Varela were convinced that well-refined contemplative practices and introspective methods could, and should, be used as equal instruments of investigation — instruments that would not only make science itself more humane but also ensure its conclusions were far-reaching. Mind and Life was formed to bridge this divide and advance progress in human well-being.”(6).
Academy of Inner Science
In 2008, the mystic and systems thinker Thomas Hübl founded the Academy of Inner Science. This Academy serves as an arena for scientific and practical research of modern mysticism. It offers a platform for trainings, workshops, study groups, and for non-profit events. Since 2017 the Academy offers a graduate program in collaboration with five Universities. The program is a multidisciplinary host for PhD-candidates whose scientific questions are inspired by studies of inner science, and provides supervision for PhD-candidates on both scientific/discipline-specific and personal/spiritual levels. The following research areas are covered by the program: social science, psychology, communication science, culture study, management science, and engineering science. For more information click here.
Nowadays, there are many research institutions exploring the experience of our mutual interdependence. Below are two quotes from Daniel Siegel M. D., director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center, and pioneer in the new field of interpersonal neurobiology:
“While many scientists state something to the effect that “the mind is what the brain does”, I myself, trained as a scientist, as well as a clinician and educator, find this an incomplete stance...
...I believe (and cannot find any science to disprove) that an important aspect of the mind can be defined as an embodied and relational, emergent self-organizing process that regulates the flow of energy and information both within us and between and among us....
If this proposed definition of the mind is true, then the mind is certainly not simply “enskulled” and coming only from the activity of the brain, but it is at least embodied, and likely relational as well. And then the self, as an aspect of the mind, is not only embodied, it is also relational...”(7)
“Part of the reflective practice, ironically, is that it makes our senses stronger and bodily well-being clearer, and increases empathy towards others, which then strengthens our connections to people in our lives. We become more open in a loving and wonderfully exciting new way. In fact, the real definition of self becomes we, and all of a sudden we begin to think that there is hope fo the planet. We begin to realize this is our collective home. There is real hope to turn things around.
I am incredibly optimistic that with reflective practices there is hope for our species. We have to understand the brain so that we can grasp how non-integrated thinking puts us at risk for planetary destruction, but also harness the power of our creativity to turn it all around and turn this into a much more integrated home in which we live.” (8)
The above is a very succinct review about institutions doing scientific research around the concept of interbeing. We periodically post related news on our Facebook page Science of Interbeing. If you know of any important publication or breakthrough research on this line, we would like to hear from it. Contributions and comments are welcome below:
1.- Thich Nhat Hanh, is a renowned Zen master, and one of the best known Buddhist teachers in the world today. He is also a poet and a peace activist whose teachings are widely offered in a practical, nonreligious way, for practitioners from all over the world. In 1967 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr. He is author of more than one hundred books.
3.- The article is a chapter of the book "The Psychology Of Awakening" by Gay Watson, Stephen Batchelor, Guy Claxton, 2012
4.- F. Varela - "The Psychology Of Awakening" by Gay Watson, Stephen Batchelor, Guy Claxton, 2012
5.- F. Varela - "The Psychology Of Awakening" by Gay Watson, Stephen Batchelor, Guy Claxton, 2012
7.- D. Siegel -
8.- D. Siegel -