|picture by David Fresco|
What made our study so unique is that--inspired by our work with Science for Monks last year, we wanted to make the research really a two-way street. We went to learn about debate, but also to teach our monastic collaborators about how to conduct science. To accomplish this, we had a meeting every evening with the monastics, and chatted about what debate brought them, showed our EEG equipment, while they showed us their debating practice. The first evening after our arrival we were still fairly hung-over from our flights, but nevertheless learnt a tremendous amount about debate while having a nice dinner with the monastics. They told us for example that debating is not just a dyadic practice, but involves a continuously changing group of people. As the debate heats up and interesting arguments are being made, more people may join in. Informal meetings such as this dinner turned out to be a well-spring of information for us curious scientists.
|our puppy team member (picture by Marcel Bonn-Miller)|
One of the interesting things we learned from the monks was that debate is not only a method to sharpen your intellect (they quoted a Tibetan saying that says "don't bang your head against the wall, and don't argue with a Geshe", which means that both are not a good idea, since a Geshe will always outwit you). Debate is also a way to train emotion regulation. When the monks start debating, they can be very angry with each other. In debate, they learn to quickly move into and out of the anger, and thereby the emotion loses its intensity. They also told us that debate can help create self-confidence, because they learn how to argue well (interestingly Daniel Perdue argued the same in a book he wrote on applying debate in the Western classroom).
|attending the Mind & Life meeting. Picture by David Vago|
|the dangerous bee nests|
|debate with EEG hyperscanning in course - picture by David Fresco|
While every day was an amazing adventure during this visit because we learnt so many new things (and we also got to attend the Mind & Life meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, doing research in India was not without challenges. Several times we wondered whether we were going to survive the auto-rickshaw ride. As a reminder of impermanence, we saw a little puppy being hit by one such autorickshaw on one of our first days in India. He was adopted by Marcel Bonn-Miller and slowly became a new member of the research team as he was nursed back to health. On one of the last days of our trip, one of the killer bee colonies that was hanging alongside the monastery broke out and preyed on several monks, as well as my colleague Marcel, who suffered 30 bee stings and had to be brought to the clinic. Thankfully he was able to get the appropriate treatment and survived, but it surely brought back the precariousness of life in India. Despite these less-pleasant adventures, I think this visit to India taught us a phenomenal amount, and I am already looking forward to the next trip!