Tibetan Buddhist monastic debate: Psychological and neuroscientific analysis of a reasoning-based analytical meditation practice

van Vugt, M. K., Moye, A., Pollock, J., Johnson, B., Bonn-Miller, M. O., Gyatso, K., Thakchoe, J., Phuntsok, L., Norbu, N., Tenzin, L., Lodroe, T., Lobsang, J., Gyaltsen, J., Khechok, J., Gyaltsen, T. & Fresco, D. M., 3-Jan-2019, Imagining the Brain: Episodes in the History of Brain Research. Elsevier, Vol. 244. p. 233-253 (Progress in brain research).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

  • Marieke K. van Vugt
  • Amir Moye
  • Joshua Pollock
  • Bryce Johnson
  • Marcel O. Bonn-Miller
  • Kalden Gyatso
  • Jampa Thakchoe
  • Lobsang Phuntsok
  • Ngawang Norbu
  • Lobsang Tenzin
  • Thabkhe Lodroe
  • Jampa Lobsang
  • Jampa Gyaltsen
  • Jampa Khechok
  • Thupten Gyaltsen
  • David M. Fresco
Analytical meditation and monastic debate are contemplative practices engaged in by Tibetan Buddhist monastics that have up to now been largely unexplored in Western contemplative science. The highly physical form of contemplative debating plays an important role in the monastic curriculum. Based on discussions and recorded interviews Tibetan monastic teachers and senior students at Sera Jey Monastic University and preliminary experiments, we outline an initial theory that elucidates the psychological mechanisms underlying this practice. We then make predictions about the potential effects of this form of debating on cognition and emotion. On the basis of initial observations, we propose that successful debating requires skills that include reasoning and critical thinking, attentional focus, working memory, emotion regulation, confidence in your own reasoning skills, and social connectedness. It is therefore likely that the many cumulative hours of debate practice over 20 + years of monastic training helps to cultivate these very skills. Scientific research is needed to examine these hypotheses and determine the role that monastic debate may play in terms of both psychological wellbeing and educational achievement.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImagining the Brain
Subtitle of host publicationEpisodes in the History of Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - 3-Jan-2019

Publication series

NameProgress in brain research
ISSN (Print)0079-6123


  • Contemplative practice, Emotion regulation, Meditation, Monastic debate, contemplative education, Buddhist, critical thinking, MINDFULNESS, EXPERIENCE, MECHANISMS, MOMENT, SYSTEM, MIND

ID: 73979084