Neuroscience of Compassion: Challenges and Opportunities
Diego Hangartner

     Most recent scientific research has been focusing on mindfulness, compassion and even the social benefits of meditation. While the tools of modern science are by nature reductionist, the findings have had a major impact on the definitions of, to name a few: focused attention, altruism, compassion, and kindness. This has far reaching consequences for training and application, and has implications for the understanding of these concepts so central to Buddhism.
     This presentation will explore how modern research and the natural sciences are shaping these concepts, how they instrumentalize such important topics, and how experience risks being reduced to mere baseline "well-being". This paper will look at the consequences of the findings by the brain sciences, clinical sciences, as well as other investigations on the understanding and implementations of practice, and how neuroscientific research per se is looking at mental states. It will also present the experiences of an active participant in scientific studies of meditation, and how this participation has informed the presenter's understanding of meditation practice.
     One of the most critical insights in the scientific exploration of mental states is the emerging shift from an exclusively objective, third-person perspective to the inclusion of the subjective, first-person perspective. This has far-reaching and important consequences in relation to the foundations of scientific methodology. Using the Brahmavihāra of Compassion, it will be argued that any study of mental states, be that scientific or Buddhist, needs to consider the insights that have emerged from most recent research data: be that methodology, context, or limitations and feasibility of objectivity.