Center for Contemplative Research

One of the central concerns of the Foundation for Buddhist Studies is the promotion of scholarship and research, in particular the promotion of research on the Buddhist religion worldwide. For this reason, since February 2019, it has been supporting the Center for Contemplative Research (CCR), for whose activities two sites are currently under development: Crestone, Colorado (USA) and Castellina Marittima in Tuscany.

The goal of the Center is the contemplative and scientific exploration of two closely related questions of human existence:
(1) What is the nature of genuine, sustainable well-being and
(2) What is the nature of human consciousness?

Shamatha, literally meaning “quiescence” is the specific meditative discipline that will be the primary, initial focus of such research. Shamatha includes a range of methods for cultivating exceptionally refined states of attention, concentration, mindfulness, and introspection, which can then be used for exploring the inner space of the human mind, much as a telescope is used for exploring outer space. In this endeavor, the CCR will be exploring the mind as a natural phenomenon, observing it directly with the greatest possible rigor, sophistication, and thoroughness in accordance with the principle of radical empiricism that characterizes scientific and contemplative inquiry at their best.

This research is an extension of the scientific study known as the Shamatha Projekt conducted in 2007 by a team of cognitive scientists led by Dr. Clifford Saron, with sixty participants meditating full-time for three months under the guidance of Dr. B. Alan Wallace. This study proved to be a resounding success, resulting in the publication of research papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

The Center for Contemplative Research (CCR) will be a unique facility, offering an optimal setting for highly qualified individuals to devote months or years to full meditative practice under the guidance of Dr. Wallace and other qualified instructors. Such sustained, professional meditation practice culminates in the complete attainment of Shamatha, where the mind is single-pointedly focused inward, withdrawn from the physical senses, and immersed in a state of bliss, illuminating clarity, and inner stillness. This state can be maintained for hours. By accessing this subtle dimension of consciousness, one taps into an inner source of genuine well-being and discovers the essential nature of consciousness, which is characterized by illuminating clarity and insight.

While the achievement of shamatha is not unique to the Buddhist tradition and does not require acceptance of any religious belief system, Buddhism does provide an exceptionally clear presentation of the stages of attentional and emotional development that lead to this state. CCR is committed to training people in the practice of Shamatha, working with cognitive scientists who map these stages using the objective measurement methods of modern science, while the contemplators themselves capture them in terms of their own first-person experience. The impact of such unprecedented contemplative and scientific collaboration could trigger a paradigm-shift in humanity’s understanding of the nature of genuine well-being, the potentials of the mind, and the role of consciousness in the natural world.

The CCR is intended to provide professional education in contemplative inquiry, requiring years of full-time training in conjunction with scientists and philosophers, so that when contemplatives have completed their training, they can share the benefits of their experience in the fields of mental health, education, business, athletics and other fields. Thus, rather than focusing on research in which scientists investigate the effects of meditation on the physiology and the behavior of meditators, the CCR will provide a unique and unprecedented forum for truly collaborative, cross-cultural, interdisciplinary research by contemplatives and scientists to gain insights that will be of benefit to society as a whole.

Governing Institute

The Santa Barbara Institute (SBI) for Consciousness Studies, founded by Dr. Wallace in 2003, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to research and teaching in the field of cross-cultural and interdisciplinary inquiry into the nature and potential of the mind. SBI will raise funds to build and operate the sites and will own the centers.

Education and Scientific Partners

SBI has previously conducted similar research with multiple campuses of the University of California, Emory University, the University of Arizona, and the University of Vienna, and has collaborated with scientists around the world. A close relationship presently exists with Lama Tsong Khapa Institute, particularly in relation to its development of an academy of mind science which will focus on the interface between Buddhism and science. Researchers from the University of Pisa, the Sant’Anna Institute, the University of Trento, as well as other international scientific institutions have already agreed to participate in this collaborative research.

The sites

The former Nada Carmelite Hermitage retreat center in Crestone, Colorado is a 110-acre property under spectacular mountain peaks, with 11 retreat cabins in excellent condition, plus 6 older cabins that can be rebuilt on essentially the same floor plans, and several large buildings that could suffice Dharma teachings for an audience of at least 50 people. An additional 20-25 cabins can easily be built on the Nada Carmelite Hermitage property, in addition to the 17 properties that already have cabins.

Castellina Marittima is located in the heart of Tuscany, the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci, the epitome of the Renaissance, and Galileo Galilei, the founder of the scientific revolution. This is the optimal region to catalyze a renaissance in contemplative research and a scientific revolution in the humanities, combining the strengths of the humanities and sciences in an unprecedented way.

If you would like to support the Center for Contemplative Research, you can either donate directly through or indirectly through the Foundation for Buddhist Studies. Since donations coming from Germany are tax deductible, you will receive an appropriate donation receipt from us.

Read more: "Rationale for the Establishment of a Network of Contemplative Observatories" by B. Alan Wallace.