Meditation Techniques For Beginners
Western Science Takes a Big Blow in Meditation Study - by Victor Fama
Western science is finally catching up to what the Buddha taught 2500 years ago: that meditation is indeed a brain workout, and this workout actually increases the size of the brain:
"A study published in NeuroImage presents findings by a group of researchers at UCLA who used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of meditators. The researchers report having found differences between the scans, showing that certain brain areas of the long-term meditator group were larger than those of the non-meditating control group. Meditators displayed a significantly larger volume of hippocampal tissue, as well as a similarly increased volume of tissue in the orbito-frontal cortex, the thalamus and the inferior temporal gyrus. All of these areas are recognized as playing a role in emotional regulation."
This is no surprise to Buddhists: most of us have heard that the brain is no different than any other muscle, "use it or lose it" as it will entropy if it isn't exercised regularly. The implications of the study are far-reaching, from the treatment of Alzheimer's, ADHD to anger management.
But there is another implication that will shake western materialistic science to the core: the implication that the brain itself is NOT 'in charge,' that the brain does NOT necessarily determine our behavior and that the brain itself can be CONSCIOUSLY CHANGED by a combination of WILL and SUSTAINED, DIRECTED ATTENTION. Science to this point has happily explained everything in terms of brain structure, replacing the ability to have free-will and self-determinism with an organic, pre-destined fate determined by the genetics of the brain. This brings us to the realm of religion, ladies and gentleman, and it is indeed something that science is ill-equipped to explain.
The study refutes that idea the brain CAUSES certain behaviors, and implies that the brain is a RESULT of certain behaviors. Since meditation changes the brain, it means that the brain is a result, not a cause. Other studies are starting to show the effect of different behaviors on the brain as well.
Meditation Techniques For Beginners
So...what exactly IS it that is 'in charge'? WHAT-or WHO-inside this physical body can make the decision to do things to cause the brain to get larger in the first place? What can get us to meditate, if it's not the brain itself? Interesting questions, to be sure.
In addition, the meditation study rejects the ever-increasing tendency of our culture to abdicate personal responsibility, by claiming that our behavior is caused by things out of our control, like our genes or our brain.The reality is that, as the Buddha taught, we can overcome all manner of inner obstacles, from faulty brain chemistry to difficult upbringing to abusive parents. We CAN.
For example, one of the seven deadly sins is 'sloth'-emotional or physical apathy. Sounds like depression to me. There are numerous Orthodox Christian texts which talk about the sin of 'low self-esteem.' Buddhism teaches that depression is one of many, many mental formations that can be let go of through meditation, sati, or mindfulness.
Obviously, the religious sages were well-ahead of Western science in this regard. Think of the implications to the drug industry. It is completely built on the idea that depression is purely a result of bad chemistry, and that drugs can fix this. (By the way, while I'm pretty much anti-medication for this type of thing, as you can can see, I won't deny that once the brain chemistry has been altered, it will be much tougher for the average person to 'fix' it with meditation alone, and they might not be willing to put in the effort. In such cases I leave open the possibility that medication can at least do some help.)
I say, "Meditate, not medicate!"
"Luders (one of the researchers) suggests, "These [more developed areas] might be the neuronal underpinnings that give meditators' the outstanding ability to regulate their emotions, and allow for well-adjusted responses to whatever life throws their way." The specific correlates of these findings on the microscopic level are not known, leading her to propose the need for further study in order to determine whether it is an increase in the multiplicity of neurons, increased neuronal size or a specific neuroplastic wiring plan that those who meditate develop, as opposed to those who do not."
The beautiful thing about meditation is that the breath, the most common object of meditation, is not even religious! The breath is not Christian, not Muslim, not Hindu, not Buddhist, not even atheist-it is all of these, and it is none of these. So you don't have to worry about whether 'it's ok' to practice.
So, as they say, "Hurry up and just sit there!" - Happy Sitting!
Victor Fama, Quang Vinh or Light of Glory, the founder of this site, was ordained as a Lay Buddhist Teacher as a 45th Generation Descendant of Linji (Lam Te in Vietnamese, Rinzai in Japanese) by Ven. Thich Tri Hoang. Quang Vinh is inspired by what he calls 'The Iconoclastic Teachers' or 'The Iconoclasts,' which includes Linji, Huineng, Sunlun Sayadaw, G.I. Gurdjieff and Christian Rosenkreuz, as well as the Ven. Hoang, filled with quiet humility, love for all beings and, simply, presence.
Buddhist Flag Meanings
The Dharma Wheel
In Buddhism—according to the Pali Canon, Vinayapitaka, Khandhaka,
Mahavagga, the number of spokes of the Dharmachakra represent
Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is a Japanese Buddhist
chant based upon the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren Daishonin (Feb 16, 1222 – Oct
13, 1282) a Buddhist monk who lived during the Kamakura period (1185–1333)
in Japan. Nichiren taught devotion to the Lotus Sutra, entitled Myōhō-Renge-Kyō in
Japanese, as the exclusive means to attain enlightenment and the chanting of
Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō as the essential practice of the teaching.
Various schools with diverging interpretations of Nichiren's teachings comprise