Monash University has announced it will develop a first-of-its-kind centre for unprecedented collaboration between philosophy, neuroscience, medicine, education and interfaith dialogue research and studies.
The world-first Monash Centre for Consciousness and Contemplative Studies will bring together humanities and science researchers and be housed in the Faculty of Arts’ School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies from early 2022, following a transformational donation of $12million from Redbubble co-founder, Martin Hosking and his wife Loreto Hosking.
The Hoskings’ charitable organisation Three Springs Foundation is behind the gift.
By combining consciousness research and contemplative studies, it will be the first of its kind in the world with a broad, interdisciplinary remit covering three interrelated domains:
Research: enabling multidisciplinary humanities and neuroscience research at the forefront of consciousness science and contemplative studies;
Education: making philosophical wisdom and contemplative practices relevant and accessible to the broadest possible audience both nationally and globally; and
Community engagement: fostering understanding through cross-cultural and interfaith dialogue around contemplative practice traditions
Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Professor Sharon Pickering, said the Centre would enable Monash to set an international benchmark for pre-eminent research, dialogue and outreach for consciousness and contemplative studies.
“Understanding consciousness is one of the great scientific questions of our time, its connection to contemplation and contemplative studies will build our sense of common humanity, so I am thrilled that this new Centre will be based within the Faculty of Arts,” she said.
Centre Director Professor Jakob Hohwy, from Monash’s Cognition & Philosophy Lab, will lead the research stream and said: “We are excited about this unique opportunity to apply philosophical and scientific rigour to provide profound answers about the very essence of consciousness and contemplation.
“Thanks to the Hoskings, we believe we can open doors to greater reflection, curiosity, resilience, wellbeing and meaningful connections. The benefit of the Centre will be significant, across many research areas, for the community, and with future generations firmly in mind.”
Renowned mindfulness expert from Monash’s Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Associate Professor Craig Hassed OAM, will lead the education offering, with contemplative practices – mindfulness, meditation and contemplation – developed as core curriculum subjects and in-depth electives.
“Monash already has a reputation as a world leader in integrating contemplative practices, particularly mindfulness, into staff development and student education,” he said.
“Education will be a crucial platform to equip new generations of mindful leaders and contemplative practitioners. We want to provide public-facing educational opportunities for students, staff and industry partners that will allow for broad engagement with contemplative practice.”
Professor Rebecca Margolis from Monash’s Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation will lead community engagement to actively foster dialogue between the university and the general public and across cultures and religious traditions in meaningful ways, including in-person and online workshops and webinars, international visiting scholars, conferences, guided practice sessions and more.
“This Centre offers a groundbreaking model for a dynamic meeting place around consciousness and contemplative studies that will bring together researchers, educators, students, practitioners of diverse wisdom traditions as well as the general public,” Professor Margolis said.
Mr Hosking said the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for connection and reflection, which led him to consider supporting such a centre.
“I have been interested in unlocking the benefits of meditation and contemplative studies for a number of years. I know the personal benefits of meditation and believe the introduction of study in this area in universities will have a profound impact on our future leaders, professionals and educators. With this centre, Monash has shown a commitment to making research and education in this area a core part of their offerings,” he said.
Monash University President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner AC said: “This wouldn’t be possible without the generosity and commitment of Three Springs Foundation and the Hoskings. We are deeply grateful for their contribution, and humbled by their passion and enthusiasm for bringing consciousness research and contemplative studies into the public domain.”
Three Springs Foundation and the Hoskings have also donated funds to the University of Melbourne for a Contemplative Studies Centre, to be established within the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences. Together these two centres are positioning Victoria, and indeed Australia, as world leaders in this space.
The transformational gift from the Three Springs Foundation contributes to the Change It. For Good. campaign, which is the largest public fundraising initiative in Monash’s history.