August 26, 2006

Brainstorming at Nainital

International Seminar cum Workshop on Science and Spirituality in Yoga, Consciousness Studies, and Indian Psychology Van Niwas Nainital (UP, India). October 27 - 30, 2006
Dear Colleague:
After the large response and great success of the two conferences held at Vishakapatnam (January, 2003; January, 2005) relating to Indian Psychology, Yoga and Consciousness; and the two large conferences held at Pondicherry on "Yoga, Consciousness, and Indian Psychology" (September, 2002; December 2004), a great many requests have poured in to organize a follow-up to these events. Against this backdrop, the Department of Psychology, University of Delhi, is organizing an International Seminar cum Workshop on "Science and Spirituality in Yoga, Consciousness Studies, and Indian Psychology", during October 27-30, 2006, at Nainital (Van Niwas, an extension of Sri Aurobindo Ashram - Delhi Branch).
In contemporary times, two major sources of knowledge, viz. science and spirituality, continue to guide and inspire humanity in so many ways. Yet, these two endeavours are often perceived/portrayed as antithetical to one another, despite the truth of the matter being quite the contrary, with the two major means of knowledge acquisition being rather complementary. As Cornelissen (forthcoming paper) notes:
"At the end of his wonderfully detailed history of spiritual movements in the U.S.A., Eugene Taylor comes to the conclusion that we can expect over the coming years a growing influence of Indian ideas on the developing global civilization, and especially a major shift in its basic epistemological assumptions, away from materialism and in the direction of Indian spirituality. Taylor considers it an open question whether this growing reliance on spiritual knowledge will develop as part of science, or as an independent, parallel knowledge system that will gradually gain in prominence, as people begin to realize how much it can contribute to our understanding of human nature. To what extent spirituality and science can and should merge or collaborate is a complicated issue, but there seems very little inherent reason why they should not join hands at least in some key areas. The almost complete separation of the knowledge systems of spirituality and science that we see at present seems to be little more than a highly unfortunate outcome of the peculiarities of European history. In individuals, the independent co-existence of incompatible knowledge systems is a sign of schizophrenia, and it is hard to conceive how this could be different for society at large. Even if a true integration of spirituality with the presently dominant knowledge system of science will be hard to achieve, the least we should strive for is some form of active cooperation.

Within the field of psychology, but potentially elsewhere as well, science and spirituality are complimentary quests for knowledge in need of each other. Science is by its very nature down-to-earth, progressive and self-critical, and without these three qualities, spirituality tends to become too otherworldly, it gets stifled in the encrustations of religion, or it floats off in some new-age vagueness. On the other hand, science also needs spirituality to complement itself. Till now science has occupied itself mainly with the objective, outer half of reality, but this outer half has no independent existence. Reality-as-we-know-it is a relationship: a relationship between what we see as ourselves and what we see as the world in which we live. To fully understand what happens in this relationship, we need to know both sides of it, the inside as well as the outside. If we concentrate too exclusively on the outside we lose out on the deeper meaning of life, on the treasures of the spirit, and if we concentrate too much inside we get an otherworldly spirituality that doesn't do justice to the love that sustains this beautiful creation".
We are thus organizing the seminar cum workshop, to further the dialogue between science and spirituality, within the disciplines of yoga, consciousness studies and psychology. Typical sub-themes will include Knowledge and Cognition, Methodology, Personality and Self, Emotion and Motivation, Development; as well as applied areas like Optimal Functioning, Counselling and Psychotherapy, HRD, Education, Spirituality as Engaged Social Action, etc. An effort will also be made, through invited workshops (which will be conducted by experts from different fields) to demonstrate the applications of some of the emergent themes, within different areas of psychology (e.g. education, counselling and psychotherapy, etc.). With the idea of having an intensive dialogue and sustained sharing, it is proposed to have not more than 100 participants (50 senior and 50 younger ones). The aim will be to have the participation of scholars in India who are making serious and sustained contributions to the concerned areas (senior core group), as well as younger researchers, and students who are keen to work in this area, show promise, and seek guidance. A few individuals will be invited to speak on key themes and/or conduct workshops (experiential/applied orientation). The remaining participants will be selected on the basis of invited abstracts or their keen interest in the key areas (e.g. yoga, consciousness studies and Indian psychology).
At this juncture, we extend a warm invitation to you, to send an abstract of the paper that you would like to present at the conference. Abstracts may be sent by e-mail to If you wish to conduct a workshop, please send us an outline of the same. The deadline for both is July 15, 2006 (for complete papers it is August 31, 2006). We will confirm acceptance of your abstract for presentation at the conference, after review of all the abstracts, by July 31, 2006. At this stage we cannot promise funds for travel for selected participants, but if the budget allows, we will try our level best to meet the same (as per UGC rules).
Prof. Ashum Gupta Seminar Director Head, Dept. of Psychology Delhi University
Dr. Suneet Varma Seminar Co-ordinator Reader, Dept. of Psychology Delhi University
INDIAN PSYCHOLOGY INSTITUTE: The aim of the Indian Psychology Institute is to explore and develop what the Indian traditions can contribute to modern psychology in terms of theoretical models, specific insights, reliable methods, practical applications, and avenues for future research.

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