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The Generative Contemplation Symposium was hosted by the Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia in April 2023. The following is the video proceedings along with searchable transcripts of Session III: Dream and Illusion Practices which focused on the induction of perceptual and cognitive illusions. Video proceedings from other sessions will be posted in subsequent posts. We invite you to watch these creative interdisciplinary explorations between Buddhist Studies scholars, scientists, philosophers, and teacher-practitioners.

This symposium united specialists from diverse fields, including religious studies, philosophy, cognitive neuroscience, the arts, and Buddhism, at the Special Collections Library Auditorium at the University of Virginia. The event featured four thematic sessions over two days, fostering open discussions among attendees, which included UVA faculty, students, experts and contemplatives from other institutions as well as locally. These interdisciplinary dialogues formed the symposium’s core, enabling attendees to merge insights from different fields and forge new understandings of contemplation and the impact of these practices on human experience. Attendees, both participants and the audience, departed with fresh insights, connections, unanswered questions, and a shared determination to continue these dialogues and collaborations.

Session III: Dream and Illusion Practices: Practices of dreaming, and related methods for inducing perceptual and cognitive illusions, are key modes to epistemic inquiry and soteriological praxis in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist practices and literature. Buddhist practices of dream yoga – or alternatively, “sleeping meditation” – consist of well-formed practical methods to learn how to dream, train in the oneiric life, and recognize illusory qualities of waking experience. Recent neuroscience research has made headway identifying the neural correlates of dreaming states, and most recently, shown the ability for dreamers to communicate while dreaming, extending the horizons of empirical dream research. Discussing the discrete procedures of Tibetan dream yoga practices, as well as theoretical frameworks of lucid dreaming, this domain explores the science and philosophy of dreaming in the context of these contemplative practices.  

Contributors to this session of the Symposium were: 

  1. Michael Sheehy (Buddhist Studies), University of Virginia 
  2. Jake Dalton (Buddhist Studies), University of California-Berkley 
  3. Andrew Holocek (Practitioner), Edge of Mind 
  4. Ken Paller (Neuroscience), Northwestern University 
  5. Melanie Boly (Neuroscience), University of Wisconsin-Madison

Part 1

Part 2

Visit the Generative Contemplation Symposium Collection to watch or search the transcripts and related information.