The dominant paradigm in science is that mind is an emergent property of the brain whereas Buddhism sees mind as forerunner. If Buddhists want science to recognise the Buddha’s claims about the mind then Buddhism has to play by the rules of science. The burden of proof is upon Buddhists to devise experiments that show beyond reasonable doubt that purely mental activity can be detected and measured independently of matter. Until then, any talk of “Scientific Buddhism” is meaningless.
A useful reminder of what constitutes meditation and its place within the grand scheme of canonical Buddhist teachings…
Although Theravada claims to be the most orthodox Buddhist tradition, modernists within that tradition have promoted vipassana or insight meditation as the Buddha’s unique meditation practice. In the Pali Canon, however, insight generally comes after mastery of the jhanas. Modern understandings of the word “vipassana” appear to differ from the understanding of the Early Buddhists who transmitted the Sutta Pitaka.
Experiencing life as a personal affront and entertaining denial and anger is not only physically/mentally draining but also stresses the people around us. Accepting the situation and not taking it personally, on the other hand, not only eases our suffering mind but is kinder to others and a sets a good example. Our patience may be strengthened by contemplating the following mantra on waking each morning…
Sickness, ageing and death are as much a part of the lifecycle as birth, youth and health. Yet our attitude and actions suggest that we don’t really understand these life experiences. My purpose in writing this post is to inspire a realistic and proactive attitude towards imminent death and terminal decline. In particular, I wish to highlight the urgent need for an end of life care and treatment plan.
The fundamentals of existence are visible form or corporeality (Rupa); feelings of pleasure, pain or indifference (Vedana); names, allusions or perceptions (Sanna); conditioned mental formulations (Sankhara); and cogniscance, consciousness, or awareness (Vinnana). According to the Buddha, these five ‘aggregates’ are impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha) and not-self (anatta), and that is how we should contemplate them.
Does modern science lend support to Buddhist ideas about the human mind? Does modern science lend support to the logic behind Buddhist meditation practice? After summarizing what Buddhism says about human minds and meditation, I refer to three scientific studies which may enable one to answer ‘yes’ to both questions.
An enlightened being remains equanimous under any circumstances. If awareness is present we, too, can recognise all experiences as impermanent (anicca) and unsatisfactory (dukkha), and we can remain calm because we do not mistake them as ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘mine’ or ‘self’ (anatta). However, we are unlikely to develop and maintain this ability if our practice is confined to a daily session on a cushion in the shrine room at the appointed time.
The psychological problems associated with modern-day consumerist societies (unrealistic aspirations, warped opinions, extreme emotions, stress, etc.) are well documented and all too commonly felt. Similar problems appear to have existed also in the Buddha’s time, around 2500 years ago, when societies were arguably simpler. The Buddha saw that these perennial existential problems arose from delusion, aversion and craving (aka the ‘three fires’) and his solution was mindfulness…