Professor Richard Davidson’s talk at Men-Tsee-Khang

World-renowned Professor Dr. Richard Davidson accepted the invitation tossed by our honorable director, Mr. Thupten Tsering-la, to speak at our institute, and the topic chosen for the occasion was ‘Overview of CHM’s work on Well-being and Tukdam project’. The day was a typical autumn in Dharamshala and the sky was clear and beautiful. At around 1:20 p.m., our college hall started to glitter in enthusiasm and excitement, as attendees took their seats for the talk. We were also virtually joined by our college in South India, and also from many branch clinics throughout India.

Centre for Healthy Minds (CHM) is the brainchild of Professor Richard ‘Richie’ Davidson. He is the founder and director of this esteemed centre. The program for the day began with the short-biography of professor, and in the introduction, the host shared that everyone joining today must have either seen the professor with His Holiness, most likely at the Mind and Life dialogues, or/and also heard about him from his mentions in the best-selling books of His Holiness like The Universe In A Single Atom and Beyond Religion.

Professor Richie began his talk by throwing light upon why they chose the very word ‘Well-being’. He stated, “Everyone cannot stay happy always. I have even seen His Holiness cry in seeing/visualizing the pain of others, but this can be all towards Well-being.” He mentioned that another substitute word is ‘Flourishing’. He then makes an important statement: “Well-being is a skill, it can be trained.” For the next 15 minutes, he elucidated their famed ‘Four Pillars of Well-being’. In explaining the Four Pillars — Awareness, Connection, Insight, and Purpose — he wonderfully articulated relevant Buddhist notions and philosophies in expounding each pillar. Speaking on Awareness, he shared, “47% of our waking hours is spent by not being in attention and we are significantly less happy in those times.” He then shared to the audience an important research article published over a decade ago titled, ‘A Wandering Mind Is An Unhappy Mind.’ In explaining the second pillar, Connection, he related a research done to 6-month-old children showing preference to compassion with the Buddhist notion of Buddha nature, the basic human goodness.

Following the Overview CHM’s work on Well-being, Professor switched over to tukdam project. Since the inception of tukdam research in 1995, CHM has been playing the pioneering and pivotal role in its research. Professor remarked, “it began with the request of His Holiness to investigate tukdam (during the 5th Mind and Life dialogue)”. He continues, “tukdam represents a real challenge to modern science. The Buddhist talks about subtle levels of awareness.”

Over the years of research, nearly four dozens (till date) of tukdam cases have come under as a subject in the research. Professor reminded, “The western world sees death as a binary”. He then remarked that this slowed rate of decomposition in the cases of tukdam is a proven thing now. He highlighted the recent developments in the workings of tukdam research, and also touched upon the longitudinal study with research beginning on the elderly practitioners whilst alive.

Following the talk, the floor was opened for questions. There were some interesting questions on the topic with attempts to score commonality between the four pillars and subjects discussed in the Tibetan Medicine, and also about understanding subjects like mind in the light of neuroscience, and also on decode tukdam under the lenses of modern scientific equipments. Professor was kind enough to entertain all.

This momentous and wonderful event came to closure with a souvenir presented by the honorable director. Professor was toured around our pharmaceutical department after the event before resting his visit to the Institute.