Secular Ethics, Embodied Cognitive Logics, and Education


  • Brendan R. Ozawa-de Silva Life University


compassion, contemplative practice, education, embodiment, grounded cognition, meditation, psychology, secular ethics


The Dalai Lama’s model of secular ethics not only makes possible an understanding of contemplative practices within a wider ethical framework, but also helps to illuminate the important question of the relationship between contemplative practices and the religions within which they developed. This article explores that question and proposes an approach to the study of contemplative practices that examines the diachronic and synchronic relationships among embodied cognitive states and the “embodied cognitive logics” inherent in the theories and practices of contemplative traditions. Since secular ethics looks to common experience, common sense, and scientific findings, rather than metaphysics or religion, to ground ethical virtues and decision-making, recognizing that such virtues and prosocial emotions correspond to common embodied psychological realities can help us to understand how we can implement practices that enhance such virtues in secular educational settings.

Author Biography

Brendan R. Ozawa-de Silva, Life University

BRENDAN OZAWA-DE SILVA is Associate Professor of Psychology at Life University in Marietta, Georgia, Associate Director for Buddhist Studies and Practice at Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta, Georgia, and a Research Fellow for the Emory-Tibet Partnership, Emory University. He received his M.Phil. and doctorate (D.Phil.) from Oxford University, a Master of Theological Studies from Boston University, and is scheduled to complete a second doctorate in Religious Studies at Emory University in 2014. As one of the lead meditation instructors for the Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) research program at Emory, he has worked to bring compassion training into elementary schools, foster care, and the prison system in Georgia. He has published recent articles on the mind/body relationship in Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan medicine, the secularization and scientific study of contemplative practices, the evaluation of compassion meditation in school settings, and suicide and mental health in Japan.


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