Death: Neuroscience, Buddhism and Psychology in conversation

Sat, Mar. 30, 2019
10:00 am - 3:30 pm
Nalanda West (Seattle)

Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl   Dr. Christof Koch   Dr. Maxine Anderson

This will be our fourth in a series of conversations representing these three views, where we have explored and learned that natural science’s objective knowledge and the subjective understanding of inner science are not mutually exclusive. The program will also be available to view as an online webcast.

Christof Koch offers his thoughts: “I’ve always been fascinated by death for two reasons: the legal & medical definition of death is constantly evolving. Death used to be in the chest (i.e. when your heart stopped beating and your lungs stop breathing) but now has moved into the head (brain death) and continues to evolve. We don’t actually understand scientifically what death is at the organismal level and usually define it as the irreversible absence of life. Of course, we not sure about how to define life. Life and death are system level properties possess by the whole which is more than the union of the parts. How to make that precise is challenging.”

Maxine Anderson offers these thoughts: “From one point of view, growth and development of the personality involves coherence, differentiation, increasing complexity – all of which go against the arrow of time which trends towards de-differentiation, and decomposition.  As if the organizations involved in living are akin to swimming against the entropic currents.  At some point, however, that energy to swim against wanes and one submits to the sweep of the de-animation.  Giving in to the entropic forces may be a way to think about death, which may be responded to in various ways. To become part of the universe once again, dissolving into strands of thought, of beauty, of the melding of past, present, future — where the pains and passions of ‘now’ hold little meaning.”

Karl Brunnhölzl will “Give a summary of the process of dying from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition point of view, what of it is externally perceptible and what is only internal, even beyond the so-called ‘clinical death’ (that is, the dissolution of consciousness), as found in texts like the ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead.’

If there is enough time, I would also like to speak a bit about the Buddhist notion of actually dying in every moment, since everything in our body and mind is changing and passing moment by moment.”

Chief Scientist & President, Allen Institute for Brain Science
Christof Koch, PhD

Christof Koch has devoted much of his career to bridging the seemingly unbridgeable gap between the physics of the brain and phenomenal experience. His research interests include elucidating the biophysical mechanisms underlying neural computation, understanding the mechanisms and purpose of visual attention, and uncovering the neural basis of consciousness and the subjective mind. Koch’s research addresses scientific questions using a widely multidisciplinary approach.
Dr. Koch has published extensively, and his writings and interests integrate theoretical, computational and experimental neuroscience. His most recent book, Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist, blends science and memoir to explore topics in discovering the roots of consciousness

Maxine K. Anderson, MD

Maxine K. Anderson, MD, is a founding member of the Northwestern Psychoanalytic Society and a Training and Supervising Analyst at several psychoanalytic institutes in North America and Canada. In addition, she is a full member of the British Psychoanalytic Society.
Her current thinking and writing interests focus on the forces for and against thought and growth, the ongoing tension between symbolic and a-symbolic functioning, and more widely on the nature of reality. Her most recent explorations into the nature of reality attempt to bridge the disciplines of psychoanalysis, neuroscience and philosophy. She has written several articles publishing in the JAPA, and the Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis. Her most recent book is The Wisdom of Lived Experience: Views from Psychoanalysis, Neuroscience, Philosophy and Metaphysics.

Nalandabodhi Senior Teacher
mitra Karl Brunnhölzl

Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl was originally trained, and worked, as a physician in Germany. He received his Buddhist and Tibetan language training mainly at Marpa Institute For Translators in Kathmandu, Nepal (director: Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche) and also studied Tibetology, Buddhology, and Sanskrit at Hamburg University, Germany.
Mitra Karl is one of the senior translators and teachers at Nalandabodhi and Nitartha Institute (director: Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche) in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition, he regularly taught at Gampo Abbey’s Vidyadhara Institute from 2000–2007. He is the author of over a dozen books on Buddhism, such as The Center of the Sunlit Sky, Straight from the Heart, When the Clouds Part, and The Heart Attack Sutra. Karl lives in Seattle and mainly works as a translator of Tibetan and Sanskrit texts.


Date/Time Date(s) - Sat, Mar. 30, 2019
10:00 am - 3:30 pm

Location Nalanda West (Seattle)

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