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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 II: Nondual Awareness Practices which focused on the subject-object dichotomy in meditation. 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 II: Nondual Awareness Practices: Styles of nondual meditation deeply informed meditative traditions in Tibet, particularly Mahāmudrā and Dzokchen. For these traditions, awareness of the nature of consciousness is key to understanding the nature of reality, but the subject-object structure – known in Western philosophy as “intentionality” – obscures the true nature of consciousness. This domain addresses crucial questions that concern (a) mechanisms that underlie the techniques for achieving such states and the how effortlessness is alleged to play therein; (b) the very notion of remaining “conscious” without intentional structures, and the relationship between nondual awareness and minimal state of consciousness; and (c) the problem of knowing – how can nondual states tell us anything, if they are not “about” objects? and the key role of reflexive awareness (Skt., svasaṃvitti).  

Contributors to this session of the Symposium were: 

  1. John Dunne (Buddhist Studies), University of Wisconsin-Madison 
  2. Cat Prueitt (Buddhist Studies), University of British Columbia 
  3. Antoine Lutz (Neuroscience), University of Lyon, France 
  4. Willa Blythe Baker (Practitioner), Natural Dharma Fellowship
  5. Bryce Huebner (Philosophy), Georgetown University

Part 1

Part 2

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