Interesting articles about science...
Thank you for your practice.
Interesting articles about science...
Thank you for your practice.
Thank you Fugen for sharing. Interesting read.
Thank you Fugen, read over coffee this morning. :)
Thanks so much. This seems important: a place where these two things meet. Otherwise, we just have the old and stupid battle of religion (so-called) vs science (so-called), which is just another version of the other older stupid battle religion vs religion.
The articles speak of some wonderful potential discoveries, but I also want to be a bit cautious and skeptical about some of the wilder claims made. (Why am I always the party pooper! :))
OBJECTION 1 - WHAT IS "ENLIGHTENMENT"
Just this morning, I wrote the following to an old friend of mine, a theoretical physicist, who asked about the Buddhist view of self identity and death. I tried to explain, to my science minded friend, that he is not just what he thinks he is, but something much vaster:
There are times in meditation, including Zen meditation, when we come to pierce and experience such states profoundly. HOWEVER, EXPERIENCING THIS TIMELESS-VASTNESS AND BOUNDLESSNESS IS (STRANGE AS IT SOUNDS) ONLY A VERY LIMITED VIEW ON WHAT ENLIGHTENMENT IS. [scared] It is like getting on a bus and taking a trip to experience the wide vistas of the Grand Canyon. Well, the Grand Canyon may be mind-blowingly powerful and a sight to see, but do not confuse it with all the rest of life and this world which are no less wide and wondrous when known as such.Quote:
The human brain receives data through the senses, next processes, organizes and interprets the same, and creates within it a model of reality. For example, right now, you are not actually seeing the room where you sit, but a recreation based on photons which entered the eye, converted to electro-chemical energy, then processed into a "holo-deck" simulation somewhere in your frontal cortex with contributions by many parts of the brain.
As part of that simulation, the human mind creates a conscious awareness of self identity (the feeling of "I am me"), and a pretty good division between your "myself" and all the rest of the world which it judges to be "not my self". For example, the brain tends to draw a border at the surface of the skin, inside which is "you" and beyond which is "the world out there". ...
However, that is not the only way to look at, or define, who "you" are and your relationship to the rest of the world. It is possible to muck around with that "holo-deck" model to create an alternative experience of reality in which the walls between the "self" and "the world and everything else out there" drop away. ...
When the "alternative model" kicks in by dropping the hard division between "self" and "not self", one might then find that your self identity can come to include everything [in the world] as one single whole. It is not strictly necessary to only define yourself at the skin line. You can, for example, perceive the sun and trees and other people as being as much "part of you" as your nails or nose or left kidney. The "new model" simply redraws the border to include all that.
Now, what does this mean for death?
Simply, one can come to perceive that (1) although we will all someday die in the small "self" sense (2) we do not in the "wide border" sense.
It is the same reason that I do not believe "Seeing God" drug experiences = Enlightenment. I just heard a wonderful story on Public Radio's science podcast "RadioLab" about folks who were given psilocybin mushrooms by researchers who found that they could induce profound, often life changing religious experiences in test subjects. (In one study, 10 out of 10 who received the mushrooms ended up becoming religious ministers later in life, and considered the experience as part of the reason, while none of the people who received a placebo did).
In a nutshell, a wondrous and important experience perhaps, but in "Zen Enlightenment" one comes to realize that even this ordinary, dusty, confining, sometimes joyous and sometimes ugly world is just as miraculous, wondrous, and "holy" as anything like that. The "Grand Canyon" or "Top of Mt. Everest" is a wonderful place to visit, but wouldn't want to live there. Scratching one's nose, taking out the trash, feeding the baby ... when we come to perceive this world as such ... is all as much the "Buddhaland" as anything with rainbow colored trees and cotton candy castles in the sky. The most "boring and ordinary, beautiful or ugly" of this world is Extraordinary and Beautiful when properly understood.
I once wrote this on such Kensho (Seeing One's Nature) experiences ...
For Kensho is, in fact, special as special ever has been or could be … a sacred jewel, key to the path, life’s vitality realized … nothing other than special!
Yet Kensho is “nothing special” in that each and all facets of this life-world-self, bar none, are vital, sacred, a unique treasure – and every step of the path is central to the path. The “ordinary and mundane” is never ordinary. Every moment and any encounter, each breeze and blade of grass is special, sacred, a jewel in Indra’s Net. Thus, I do not mean to lower the import of Kensho in the least, but just to RAISE UP all of life, and every instant of practice, to one and the same par with Kensho, for such is the wholeness, intimacy, unity that is KENSHO’d in KENSHO.
Realizing that fact – that the most “ordinary” is sacred and whole and unbroken – is at the heart of Kensho! Failing to see Kensho as extraordinary insight into the extra-ordinariness and sacredness of both the sacred and ordinary is not to see “Kensho.”
OBJECTION 2 - EXCESSIVE CLAIMS FOR WHAT THESE MIND STATES RESULT IN, THE MENTAL STATES OF A "ZEN ROSHI" ETC.
Some of the anecdotal claims for what is being experienced by Shinzen Young or Sasaki Roshi are over the top. Jōshū Sasaki Roshi, for example, is the same Roshi who (it turns out) spent several decades fondling and molesting dozens of female students under the guise of "spiritual training", and who spent time in prison for embezzlement of money from his temple (I am now actually personally involved in something called the "Sasaki Archives", translating his old criminal records from Japan. http://sasakiarchive.com/ ) There is a wonderful tendency of human beings to want desperately to see and impose perfection on their spiritual heroes, and such is the reputation that built around the "inscrutable Sasaki", something most wonderfully described in the movie Kumare (now available for free viewing this month by Tricycle subscribers) ...
I have looked through the test results in Dr. Vago's most recent reports so far published, and they seem much more modest and less earth shaking than claimed in the article.Quote:
In the half-documentary, half-social experiment Kumaré, now playing throughout March at the Tricycle Film Club, New Jersey-born filmmaker Vikram Gandhi poses as an Eastern guru and attracts a retinue of disciples in Arizona. ... Inspired to make a movie about fake teachers and those drawn to them, Vikram reinvents himself as the guru Kumaré, moving to Arizona and guest speaking at yoga studios around the state. Donning robes, walking barefoot, and spewing nonsense spiritual platitudes in a fake Indian accent, Kumaré lures in a number of devoted disciples almost immediately. It soon dawns on him, however, that he's bitten off more than he can chew. In the end, he must face his followers—to whom he is sympathetic—and reveal his true identity, potentially hurting those who have placed in him their complete trust and faith.
Tricycle also had a recent series of articles on why we must be cautious about these brain studies. Bernard Faure comments ...
The dialogue between Buddhism and neuroscience has been widely presented in various media—mainstream, academic, and Buddhist—as a historical event. It seems to me, however, that without a preliminary self-critical examination of the assumptions each side brings with it, it is not even clear what such a dialogue entails. ...
For advocates of the meeting of Buddhism and neuroscience, meditation provides what seems to be the definitive area of convergence. Even mainstream Western media have made considerable noise about experiments done on Buddhist meditators. They cite studies claiming that meditation transforms the structure of the brain, which would seem to support the idea of neuroplasticity. Meditators are said to experience dramatic transformations in cognitive function and neural activity. They are even said to produce at will such enviable mental states as compassion and happiness. That it would be possible to find the neural correlates of such mental states and, therefore, to reproduce them at will—well, it is not hard to see why some would be feeling more than a little enthusiastic.
But let’s slow down a little and look at these claims a bit more carefully. ... An oft-quoted article by Antoine Lutz, John D. Dunne, and Richard J. Davidson entitled “Meditation and the Neuroscience of Consciousness” acknowledges that in spite of thousands of publications on meditation in Western languages, little is known about the impact of meditation on the brain. ...
At a more technical level, measurements of a meditation practitioner’s brain lead to unresolved questions about their meaning. What exactly do an increase of prefrontal activity or cortex thickness, an increase of gamma rays, and the like mean? Changes in brain-wave patterns and such during practice tell us nothing about the experience itself, let alone about its value for the practitioner.
Even as data, the data are often problematic. EEGs and fMRIs may provide a wealth of data, but these are usually inconclusive.
The online magazine from which these articles came "Psychology Tomorrow", is not exactly a mainstream publication. It is filled with articles written on a variety of subjects from "lucid dreamng" to "out of body" experiences.
In these articles, fact and "wishful thinking" and extreme claims are mixed together beyond knowing where one ends and the other begins. I would take these articles with a cautious grain of salt.
Thank you for this Jundo. :)
A little party pooping can make good parties better.
Why does the party pooper also talk so endless, and in the end I still dont know what Enlightment is ... :p
Fortunately I dont want to know.
Thank you Fugen & Jundo
It's not good to blindly buy into the idea that science will reveal earth shaking things about meditation (and to meditate for that) in the same way it's not advisable to start packing for Gliese 581g.
Very interesting articles, but I agree with Jundo and the rest of wise Treeleafers.
One can't blindly buy into Buddhism/scientific studies until more conclusive evidence is found.
I personally have those emptiness experiences quite often. Am I enlightened? Nah. I'm just your regular geek trying to learn.