Saturday, January 27, 2007

The research that the Dalai Lama initiated

A blogger (alas, I forget who) had linked to this fascinating article, that made me hold the Dalai Lama in high esteem. The Dalai Lama alone, among religious leaders, seems to possess the open-mindedness to question old beliefs and subject them to the rigour of scientific scrutiny. Every now and then, he invites a group of scientists to his home in Dharamsala, to discuss their work and how Buddhism might contribute to it.

In 2004, when discussing the subject of neuroplasticity with some visiting scientists, the Dalai Lama asked them a question. Scientists have explained, he said, that mental experiences are a result of chemical and electrical changes in the brain. But something had always bothered him about this explanation. Could it work the other way around? That is, in addition to the brain giving rise to thoughts and hopes and beliefs and emotions that add up to this thing we call the mind, maybe the mind also acts back on the brain to cause physical changes in the very matter that created it. If so, then pure thought would change the brain's activity, its circuits or even its structure. Something as intangible and insubstantial as a thought would rewire the brain.

While some neuroscientists summarily dismissed the suggestion as absurd, there were some who took up further research on Buddhist monks, to check if meditation and mental training produced enduring changes in the brain. Experiments under controlled conditions showed that as the volunteers began meditation, gamma waves of a fairly high intensity could be detected. In each case, monks with the most hours of meditation showed the most dramatic brain changes. That was a strong hint that mental training makes it easier for the brain to turn on circuits that underlie compassion and empathy.

"This positive state is a skill that can be trained," the scientists concluded. "Our findings clearly indicate that meditation can change the function of the brain in an enduring way."

If only some of our indigenous religious practitioners and scientists would collaborate in a similar manner, displaying the same degree of open-mindedness- maybe we could distill some ancient wisdom out of the plethora of myths and superstitions.

3 comments:

yhac said...

Very interesting article. Minor quibble though: "gamma rays" should imho read "gamma waves".
See
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma_Rays
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma_Wave

Raj said...

yhac, thanks for pointing out the error. I have made the correction.

sushil yadav said...

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.


Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.


When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.



A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.



FAST VISUALS /WORDS MAKE SLOW EMOTIONS EXTINCT.

SCIENTIFIC /INDUSTRIAL /FINANCIAL THINKING DESTROYS EMOTIONAL CIRCUITS.

A FAST (LARGE) SOCIETY CANNOT FEEL PAIN / REMORSE / EMPATHY.

A FAST (LARGE) SOCIETY WILL ALWAYS BE CRUEL TO ANIMALS/ TREES/ AIR/ WATER/ LAND AND TO ITSELF.


To read the complete article please follow either of these links :

PlanetSave

EarthNewsWire

sushil_yadav