It was Wednesday evening at 9pm and I received an email to inform me of a lecture being held at the University of Cape Town’s Medical School the following Thursday at 9 o’clock in the morning. Alright, I would miss my usual Thursday morning game of tennis, because to hear a PhD student talking about her research into the neuroscience of meditation together with a visiting expert to relate the Buddhist side of the story – this was too good an opportunity to miss.
It would mean I would be involved in the rush hour traffic of office workers making their way into the centre of the city of Cape Town. I decided I would need to leave home at 8 o’clock in the morning to do the trip which would usually take 10 minutes without the morning rush hour congestion The Medical School has a large rambling spread out campus so I needed to consult Google Maps to ascertain my route to the designated lecture theatre.
I was lucky. The traffic was not too heavy and I arrived at the campus at 8.30. Just as well I was early because by the time I had found out where the visitors were allowed to park, had registered my car with the security staff, and reported the location of my car with the official on duty, a considerable amount of time had elapsed.
“Now where exactly is the building?” I enquired of the official in charge of security. “Oh,” he casually responded, “normally you would have to walk around those buildings over there, but I will show you a short cut. Just walk down those steps, turn left and you will see the building.” Thinking it would be plain sailing from here, I jauntily prepare myself to follow his directions. But, I land up on a roof top with an iron bar surrounding it on all sides. No pathway to be seen!
5 minutes later finds me returning to the helpful security officer. “No,” he responded to my query, “you took the wrong steps.” This time he escorts me to the correct steps and tells me that I need to go into the revolving door ahead from where I will be directed to the Fuller Barnard Building
Having negotiated the UCT Medical Campus for the past 30 minutes, I finally arrive at the Moerat Room – the lecture theatre which was my ultimate destination. Seated around a large table are about 30 students. I take my seat somewhat self-consciously as the only senior person in the room, and am surprised by the announcement – first class freshly brewed coffee is available in the foyer together with beautifully decorated and iced cupcakes.
Having enjoyed this generous repast, I am ready to listen to a lecture on Buddhism and Neuroscience. I was not disappointed. Geshe Lobsang Tenzin was a worthy ambassador of the Dalia Lama. He has participated in a programmes developed by Emory University in conjunction with Tibetan institutions of higher learning in India. His interest is in the role of meditation and its impact on positive health. He outlined the work of the Mind and Life institute, referring to the annual dialogues initiated by the Dalai Lama with Western Scientists which started in 1987. Since then there have been regular interactions both in the West and in Dharamsala addressing different topics at the intersection of science and contemplative understanding. Wisdom at its very best!
The PhD student who hosted this event plans to form a group for students who are interested in meeting regularly to study the manner in which neuroscience informs the practice of Buddhism. That is great – I have opened an opportunity to join like-minded people on a regular basis to gain further insight into the manner in which eastern and western thought enhance each other. How satisfied I felt at having made the effort and ultimately successfully negotiated the challenge of changing my personal program and fulfilling the hazards of finding this elusive venue at such short notice!