What is Contemplative Science?


Contemplative Science, a term coined by Dr B Alan Wallace, is the bridge between the empirical study of the science of consciousness and the subjective, experiential study of consciousness through contemplation.

The science of consciousness introduces first-person methods of investigating the mind through Buddhist contemplative techniques, such as samatha, an organized, detailed system of training the attention. Just as scientists make observations and conduct experiments with the aid of technology, contemplatives have long tested their own theories with the help of highly developed meditative skills of observation and experimentation. Contemplative science allows for a deeper knowledge of mental phenomena, including a wide range of states of consciousness, and its emphasis on strict mental discipline counteracts the effects of conative (intention and desire), attentional, cognitive, and affective imbalances.

While psychology, and neuroscience have all shed light on the cognitive processes that enable us to survive and flourish, contemplative science offers a groundbreaking perspective for expanding our capacity to realize genuine well-being. It also forges a link between the material world and the realm of the subconscious that transcends the traditional science-based understanding of the self.

Meditation in its many forms provides the means to develop contemplative consciousness. These methods are mainly found in the wisdom traditions and today have become the subject of scientific research which has led to the development of secular forms of meditation.

Try it for yourself!

The simplest and most important form of meditation to start with is samatha, or basic attentional training. Without this basic yet profound training it can be difficult to fully benefit from other contemplative practices.  

See also Why Practice Shamatha by Alan Wallace.

Here below are several guided meditations in basic samatha meditation by Alan Wallace.

  1. Settling the Body in it’s Natural State
  2. Field of Tactile Sensations
  3. Resting in the Silent Domain of the Body
  4. Introspection Meditation
  5. Shamatha Without a Sign
  6. A Focus on Vividness
  7. Awareness of Awareness
  8. Balancing Earth & Sky
  9. Loving Kindness Meditation
MINDFULNESS IN SCIENCE: Contemplative Science & Objective Science.  Copenhagen, March 2015
In this lecture Alan explains how mindfulness can make a contribution to science.
In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, recorded live as a part of the Wisdom Academy course Introduction to Dzogchen, we hear an interview, lecture, and Q&A with Alan Wallace, renowned Tibetan Buddhist scholar and teacher. We hear how Alan’s spiritual path began and what drew him to Dzogchen.
To many people today, the "scientific method" appears to be the only successful means for acquiring consensual, accurate, and useful knowledge of the natural world; and science focuses solely on the objective, physical, quantifiable aspects of reality. That leads materialists to believe that reality consists solely of objective, physical, quantifiable phenomena, even though subjective experience fills none of those criteria. Since all mental processes and states of consciousness are undetectable with the methods of objective science, those methods cannot give us a complete understanding of nature as a whole. The radically empirical methods of contemplative inquiry found in Buddhism and other contemplative traditions can complement the third-person methods of modern science and lead to consensual, accurate, and useful knowledge of reality. Most importantly, such first-person methods have yielded profound insights into the nature and origins of consciousness and the role of mind in the natural world.