Born in Appleton, Wisconsin in 1952, Christine
Skarda was educated in the United States and Europe. She received
her Ph.D. in philosophy in 1982 and subsequently taught internationally.
In 1982, Skarda was invited to join the innovative Sloan program
at UC Berkeley and MIT that brought together experts from diverse
fields to study intelligence; she thus became a pioneer in the
movement later known as cognitive science. Skarda's interest
in perception led her to investigate its physiological basis.
She held post-doctoral positions in a neuroscience lab at UC
Berkeley from 1984 to 1992 and a fellowship in Cognitive Science
at the École Polytechnique in Paris between 1986 and 1988.
By the early 1990s, Skarda's own neuroscience research and her
analysis of decades of data from the research of others convinced
her that the theoretical model of perception prevalent in neuroscience
was flawed. Instead of the perceptual system constructing internal
representations of a fundamentally separate external world, Skarda
presented an alternative model. Reality starts out as an unbroken
web, which a perceptual system breaks up. All the data she had
analyzed convinced her that our sense of ourselves as subjects
completely independent from objects is created by perceptual
activity; it is not an actual state of affairs. In fact there
are no gaps between the perceiver and the world. (See C. Skarda:
The Perceptual Form of
To gain access to this undifferentiated level
and to understand how the perceptual process breaks it up into
the world we experience, Skarda then turned to Tibetan Buddhism.
This tradition offers systematic methods to explore this foundational
state. Since 1992, she has been using these methods to investigate
where the model prevalent in neuroscience has gone wrong.
To this end, Skarda has spent the last sixteen years in meditation
retreat in India and the United States under the guidance of
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche,
and Khen Ngawang Jimpa Rinpoche. She now also teaches Buddhism,
drawing from her background in Western thought and science to
explain even the most subtle and difficult points of Buddhist
philosophy by using the language of the modern world.