Monash University: World-first Centre for Consciousness and Contemplative Studies opens at Monash University

A world-first research and education centre bringing together contemplative practitioners, educators and humanities and science researchers will open today at Monash University.

The Monash Centre for Consciousness and Contemplative Studies (M3CS) will enable unprecedented collaboration between the disciplines of philosophy, neuroscience, medicine, psychology, education and interfaith dialogue, contributing to exciting new research, educational and community engagement initiatives.

Housed in the Faculty of Arts’ School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, the centre was made possible by a transformational philanthropic grant of $12 million last year from the Three Springs Foundation’s Martin and Loreto Hosking.

M3CS has a broad, interdisciplinary remit covering three interrelated domains:

Research: enabling multidisciplinary humanities and neuroscience research at the forefront of consciousness science and contemplative studies;
Community engagement: fostering social cohesion through cross-cultural and interfaith dialogue; and
Education: making perennial wisdom and contemplative practices relevant, practical and accessible to future generations.
Centre Director Professor Jakob Hohwy, who will lead the research stream, said M3CS will be a regional and global leader in consciousness research and contemplative studies.

“Understanding consciousness is one of the great scientific questions of our time and research and teaching in these spaces is fundamental to making the world a better place,” Professor Hohwy said.

“The centre’s mission is to make contemplative practices central to our conscious connection with each other and our environment, helping us to better solve the many challenges the world confronts, making us more aware of ourselves, each other and the planet.

“By understanding how people make decisions, we can thereby gain a different perspective on the problems the world confronts, and find better and wiser solutions.”

M3CS will be officially opened by Professor Margaret Gardner AC, President and Vice-Chancellor of Monash University.

Professor Gardner said: “M3CS is aligned with Monash’s strategic plan, Impact 2030, focused on addressing the challenges of the age for the betterment of our communities, both locally and globally.

“In an age of volatility, M3CS is developing interdisciplinary approaches through research, education and collaboration with industry and community to create and support thriving communities.”

Renowned mindfulness expert and Centre Deputy Director Professor Craig Hassed OAM, who is leading the education offering, spoke to the centre’s outputs.

“Wellbeing and contemplative practices are valuable in themselves but also because of their flow on effects into how we live, work and relate to others,” Professor Hassed said.

“Contemplative practices are vital to illuminate the interrelationships between consciousness, our self, our free will, and how we think, feel and act. Such practices have been at the heart of the world’s great wisdom traditions for millennia and we need to use the best they have to offer to cultivate the state of mind and heart necessary to solve contemporary challenges.

“Education will be a crucial platform to equip new generations of mindful leaders, problem solvers and contemplative practitioners.”

Professor Hassed will lead educational initiatives on contemplative practices including mindfulness. These are being integrated into core curriculum subjects, in-depth electives, professional development courses, massive online open courses (MOOCs) and short courses.

Offerings include electives for undergraduate students focusing on flourishing, or contemplative practices, as well as mindfulness for workplace wellbeing and productivity for postgraduate students. For community and industry professionals there are courses available on compassion training and reasoning.

Professor Rebecca Margolis 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.

The transformational philanthropic grant from the Three Springs Foundation contributes to the Change It. For Good. campaign, which is the largest public fundraising initiative in Monash’s history.