Concentrating in Contemplative Studies

The Contemplative Studies Initiative is a group of Brown faculty who are working toward a goal of creating a multidisciplinary center for research and teaching about contemplative states of experience, across cultures and across time.  

Our first step towards this was establishing in 2007 a "Scholarly Concentration in Contemplative Studies" in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Medicine at Brown University (at the graduate level).

Our second major step was accomplished in May 2014, when we established a formal undergraduate concentration in Contemplative Studies on the Arts and Sciences campus.

Our new Contemplative Studies concentration builds upon our rigorous approach to making intellectually sound and experience-driven connections between disciplines in the breadth of a liberal education, while also cultivating in our students the wisdom that comess from developing mindfulness and discernment as both a personal and an academic focus.


The concentration in Contemplative Studies investigates the underlying philosophical, psychological and scientific bases of human contemplative experience.  Students pursue a "third person" academic approach drawn from the humanities and sciences to analyze the cultural, historical and scientific underpinnings of contemplative experiences in religion, art, music and literature.  This is developed in comination with a "critical first-person" approach based in practical experience of contemplative techniques and methods to provide an integrated understanding of the role of contemplative thought and experince in societies and on the individuals who constitute them.  We also support independent and dual concentratons in the Contemplative Creative Arts. 


Concentration Core (5 courses)

  • University 0540:  An Introduction to Contemplative Studies
  • Two introductory science courses that focus on the cognitive neurological functioning of the human brain and how contemplative practices affect it.
  • Two humanities courses that introduce students to contemplative religious traditions and the philosophical analysis of the key questions of human existence. 

Depth (6 courses) Students choose to complete either a Science or a Humanities Track. 

  The Science Track in Contemplative Studies gives concentrators in-depth understanding of the scientific methods used to investigate the cognitive neuroscience of contemplative practice and also provides a method of self-inquiry that can be used to augment any area of life. 

  • Three thematic science courses drawn primarily from NEUR and CLPS, at least two of which must be 1000-level.
  • One statistics course from one of the following departments:  Applied Math, Biology, CLPS, Education or Public Health
  • Laboratory research:  Two sememsters research in an established lab (e.g., BIOL 1950, 1960)with Britton, Kerr, Wantanabe or other approved faculty.

Humanities:  The Humanities Track explores the origin and development of contemplative practices within specific religious, cultural and historical contexts and gives students a foundation in the Philosophy of Mind relevant to the scientifc study of contemplative practice.  Intermediate and Advance Courses should be taken in these areas: 

  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Contemplative Religious Traditions

Breadth:  One additonal course beyond the two introductory level core courses outside one's chosen Concentration Track; this course may also be drawn from a range of courses in Contemplative Creative Arts. 

Senior Capstone:  Seminar that includes a Capstone Project

Honors:  Students wishing to be considered for Honors in Contemplative Studies must have a 3.5 grade point average in Concentration Courses, and their Capstone Project must be a two-semester Honors Thesis in the Senior Year. 

Contemplative Studies Faculty

Willoughby Britton,
Psychiatry, Medical School, School of Public
Catherine Kerr,
Family Medicine, Medical School
Monica Linden, Neuroscience
Eric Loucks, School of Public Health
Brad Marston, Physics*
Takeo Wantanable, Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences
Yuka Sasaki, Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences

Jake Davis, Contemplative Studies (Spring 2016)
Mary Louise Gill, Classic and Philosophy
Christopher Hill, Philosophy
Jared Lindahl, Cogut Humanities Center, Britton Lab (2015)
Finnian Moore-Gerety, Religious Studies (Fall 2015)
Michael Kennedy, Sociology
Jeffrey Poland, Science and Technology Studies
Amy Remensnyder, History
Harold Roth, Religious Studies, Director of Contemplative Studies*
Bhrigupati Singh, Anthropology, Watson Institute

Creative Arts:
Michelle Bach-Coulibaly, Theater Arts and Performance Studies
Carol DeBoer-Langworthy, English (Nonfiction Writing)
Eric Ehn, Theater Arts and Performance Studies
Robert P. Ward, English (Nonfiction Writing)

Program Coordinator:  Anne Heyrman-Hart* For all inquiries or to schedule an appointment with Professor Roth please email

*Indicates Concentration Advisor

Concentration Core (5 Courses)

UNIV 0540:  An Introduction to Contemplative Studies

Two introductory science courses that focus on the cognitive neurological functioning of the human brain and how contemplative practices affect it. 

One course chosen from List A:
BIOL 0800:  Principles of Physiology (Hai, Sobieraj)
NEUR 0010:  The Brain:  An Introduction to Neuroscience (Stein, Paradiso)
CLPS 0040:  Mind and Brain:  Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience (Domini)
CLPS 0200:  Human Cognition (Austerweil)
CLPS 0500:  Perception and Mind (Song)

One course chosen from List B:
UNIV 0090:  Meditation and the Brain (Kerr, Britton)
UNIV 1000:  Cognitive Neuroscience of Meditation (Kerr)

Two Humanities courses that introduce students to contemplative religious traditions and to the philosophical analysis of key questions of human existence.
ANTH 1240:  Religion and Culture (in India) (Singh)
CLAS 1120G:  Idea of Self (Pucci)
CLAS 1140:  The Classical Philosophy of India (Buchta)
CLAS 1160:  Classics of Indian Literature (Fitzgerald)
PHIL 0010:  The Place of Persons (Christensen)
PHIL 0220:  Mind and Matter (Staff)
PHIL 0250:  The Meaning of Life (Larmore)
PHIL 0350:  Ancient Philosophy (Gill)
RELS 0040:  Great Contemplative Traditions of Asia (Roth)
RELS 0056:  Spiritual But Not Religious:  American Spirituality Past + Present (Vaca)
RELS 0065:  On Being Human:  Religious/Philosophical Conceptions of Self (Lewis)
RELS 0120:  Foundations of Chinese Religions (Roth)
RELS 0130:  The Hindu Tradition (Staff)
RELS 0190:  Japanese Religious Traditions (Sawada)
RELS 0290E:  Engaged Buddhism (Roth)
UNIV 0456:  Stages of the Contemplative Path (Lindahl)
(and others, with approval)


Students choose either a Sciences Track or a Humanities Track 

Science Track:
Three thematic science courses drawn primarily from NEUR or CLPS, at least two of which must be 1000-level.
NEUR 1020:  Principles of Neurobiology (Aizenmen)
NEUR 1030:  Neural Systems (Linden)
NEUR 1520:  Exploring Neural Data (Linden)
CLPS 0400:  Brain Damage and the Mind (Festa)
CLPS 0710:  The Psychology and Philosophy of Happiness (Krueger)
CLPS 1291:  Computational Cognitive Science (Serre)
CLPS 1400:  The Neural Bases of Cognition (Burwell)
CLPS 1492:  Computational Cognitive Neuroscience (Frank)
CLPS 1570:  Visual Consciousness (Wantanabe)
PHP 1880:  Meditation, Mindfulness, and Health (Loucks)
PHP 1920:  Social Determinants of Health (Loucks)
(and others, with approval)

One Statistics Course
APMA 0650:  Essential Statistics (Harrison)
APMA 1650:  Statistical Inference (Klivans)
BIOL 0495:  Statistical Analysis of Biological Data (Ramachandran)
CLPS 0900:  Quantitative Methods in Psychology (Welch, Wright)
EDUC 1110:  Introductory Statistics for Education Research and Policy Analysis (Kraft)
PHP 1501:  Essentials of Data Analysis (Gutman)
(and others, with approval)

Two Semesters Laboratory Research
Two semesters research in an established lab (e.g. BIOL 1950, 1960) with Britton, Kerr, Loucks, Wantanabe or approved others.

Humanities Track
Contemplative Religious Traditions
CLAS 0820:  The Epics of India (Fitzgerald)
CLAS 0850/RELS 0925:  The Mythology of India (Fitzgerald)
CLAS 0855:  The Bhagavad Gita (Fitzgerald)
CLAS 0995:  The Performing Arts in Classical South Asia (Buchta)
EAST 0180/RELS 0195:  Japan:  Nature, Ritual and the Arts (Sawada)
EAST 1420:  The Confucian Mind (Sawada)
EAST 1950/RELS 0950:  The Floating World (Sawada)
EAST 1880D:  Early Daoist Syncretism (Roth)
RELS 0530:  Laozi and the Daodejing (Roth)
RELS 0550:  Tibetan Buddhism and the West (Lindahl)
RELS 0570:  Science, Religion and th Search for Happiness in Classica Asian Thought
RELS 0580:  Experiencing the Sacred:  Embodiment and Aesthetics in South Asian Religions (Moore-Gerety)
RELS 0911:  Indian Buddhism (Staff)
RELS 1370B:  Philosophy of Mysticism (Bush)
RELS 1440:  Themes in Japanese Buddhism (Sawada)
RELS 1441:  Zen Meditation in China, Korea and Japan (Roth)
RELS 1442:  The History, Philosophy, and Practice of Rinzai Zen Buddhism (Roth)
RELS 1530:  The Theory and Practice of Buddhist Meditation (Roth)
SCSO 1550E:  Science and Religion (Poland)
SCSO 1700Y:  Neuroethics (Poland)
SO 1871S:  Knowedge Networks and Global Transformation (Kennedy)
SOC 1871Z:  Martial Arts, Culture and Society (Kennedy)
(and others, with approval)

The Philosophy of Mind
PHIL 0650:  Psychology & Philosophy of Happiness (Reginster)
PHIL 0990L:  Moral Psychology (Arpaly)
PHIL 0990M:  Descartes' Meditations (Larmore)
PHIL 0991:  Plato, Mind, and Moral Psychology (Broakes)
PHIL 1290:  Kant's Moral Philosophy (Guyer)
PHIL 1520:  Consciousness (Hill)
PHIL 1590:  Philosophy of Science (Christensen)
PHIL 1650:  Moral Theories (Arpaly)
PHIL 1660:  Metaphysics (Broakes)
PHIL 1750:  Epistemology
PHIL 2020O:  Puzzles of Consciousness (Pautz)
PHIL 2150G:  Aristotle's Metaphysics (Gill)
PHIL 1720:  Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (Guyer)
PHIL 1770:  Philosophy of Mind (Hill)
UNIV 1520:  The Shaping of World Views (Almeida)
UNIV XXX:  Buddhist Ethical Thought (Davis)
(and others, with approval)