Through its distinctive research and degree programs, the Bhaktivedanta Institute (B.I.) is in the forefront of the newly emerging scientific field of Consciousness Studies. In 1990, the Institute conducted in San Francisco, the First International Conference on the Study of Consciousness Within Science, in which fourteen major research scientists including three Nobel Laureates presented papers. The Institute has, since then, conducted, the world's only and longest running colloquium on science and consciousness in the Bay Area.
As a logical culmination of these activities, the Bhaktivedanta Institute started in 1997 the world's first (and so far the only) full-fledged graduate degree (M.S./Ph.D.) program in "Consciousness Studies", in collaboration with the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, one of India's foremost technological universities. This program is based on the Institute's own research initiative within the new field of consciousness studies.
Persons aspiring to enter the M.S. or Ph. D. program for consciousness studies (CSt) at Bhaktivedanta Institute must therefore note that our program is not a study of consciousness directly. It is a rigorous scientific study of matter while taking into account the presence of consciousness in the lived world. Thus, the program will conform to the widely accepted standards and practices of scientific research pertaining to study of matter, even while encouraging creative scientific ideas. All class room discussions, submissions, assignments, projects, guided self-studies, and final dissertation will adhere to the above guidelines. The Institute will issue further guidelines to students admitted into its programs on an ongoing basis in this regard.
There are other approaches within the field of consciousness studies, which can be subsumed under the following broad categories.
- Stay within the limits of current empirical science and account for the phenomenon of consciousness;
- Envisage that the study of consciousness requires a radically new approach within science.
- Argue that consciousness, being a quintessentially subjective phenomenon, cannot be studied within a empirical science that is committed to the third-person perspective.
The students admitted into the M.S. program will study all of these approaches in appropriate courses.
Because of the recent emergence of the field of CSt and its strongly-interdisciplinary nature, except for students with particularly relevant and outstanding research background, students aspiring to enter the Ph.D. program are always directed to first enroll and complete the M.S. degree program.