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Barbara O'Brien

Science and Meditation

By July 20, 2010

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The June issue of the scholarly journal Psychlogical Science has an article titled "Intensive Meditation Training Improves Perceptual Discrimination and Sustained Attention" by Katherine A. MacLean and 12 other people. The article itself is behind a subscription firewall, but the gist of it is that researchers decided Buddhist meditation increases attention span.

Very briefly, the researchers rounded up 60 people and sent 30 to an intensive Buddhist meditation retreat. Tests showed that the meditation group had an enhanced attention span compared to the control group. You can read more about it at Science Daily, next to a stock photo of someone meditating in a position more associated with Hinduism than Buddhism. Baby steps.

Of course, what I want to know is where the intensive retreat was held and what sort of Buddhist meditation they were doing there. No luck with that. I assume it's in the full article, behind the subscription firewall.

At least they've specified "Buddhist" meditation. I get so frustrated with articles about research into meditation that provide no clues what sort of meditation is being discussed. It's a bit like discussing the effects of "exercise" without providing details about the exercise.

July 21, 2010 at 1:35 am
(1) Keerthi says:

The photograph they show is of somebody practicing Yoga. May be they have picked it from a Yoga web site.

Science uses five senses to make all its decisions. The Buddha called the five senses as “fools” who can never reveal the truth and asked to give up association with them (Mahamangala Sutta).

The Buddha’s method is to directly use the mind. The more one uses it the more he/she see the truth. Direct use of mind is called Prajna and what it reveals is unarguable truth. The Buddha called this method as Vidya or science.

Whatever seen and experienced directly by the mind are declared without adding “I think” or “my opinion” etc. For e.g. if you have a pain inside your knee you never say “I think I have a pain in my knee”. Instead you would say “I have a pain in my knee”.

The Buddha derived all his Dharma through this method and therefore it is wrong to use the word Buddhist philosophy and Buddha never used words like “this is my opinion” etc.

Therefore, according to The Buddha the method of using five senses is non-science which he called Avidya.

The Samsara started with Avidya according to dependent origination. One attains Nirvana or escapes from Samsara on eradicating the last fetter called Avidya out of the ten fetters (Samyojana) which binds the mind to the body.

July 21, 2010 at 2:03 am
(2) Wonderlane says:

No, that is a common Buddhist meditation position. Certain mudras are conducive to specific mediations. This same asana is part of standard Sunday practice at Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism in Seattle, Washington, USA based on a 1000 year old tradition.

July 21, 2010 at 9:29 am
(3) Barbara O'Brien says:

No, that is a common Buddhist meditation position.

I stand corrected. I’ve never seen anyone use that position in Buddhism, but I admit I’ve never witnessed Sakya meditation.

July 22, 2010 at 10:50 pm
(4) George Deane says:

Did we need yet another study to come to this conclusion?This study is an exercise in useless redundancy with the possible exception that the characterization of this study as a redundancy is too understated a term to describe their conclusion.

July 23, 2010 at 7:35 am
(5) Barbara O'Brien says:

Did we need yet another study to come to this conclusion?

Although there have been lots of studies going back to the 1970s, many of the earlier studies aren’t taken all that seriously by scientists because they were done by people who were advocates of meditation. The kind of objective scientific study that gets published in respected, peer-reviewed scientific journals is in its early stages.

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