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Buddhism and Meditation Practice

abracad, · Categories: buddhism, meditation, science and spirituality

The Buddhist response to the pervasiveness of unsatisfactoriness is to seek to extinguish attachment and craving (ie enlightenment or nirvana). The practice of meditation plays a significant role towards this end.

There are numerous varieties of Buddhist meditation, eg Zen, Vipassana, concentration to name but a few. However, one that has gained much attention and credibility in the West is mindfulness (eg a Google search for this term yields 39 million hits, an Amazon search some 56,000 titles).

Mindfulness meditation is about objective observation. It's about simply being in the here and now, seeing and accepting reality as it is, without feelings or judgement, not measuring it against some ideal that we'd like it to be.
Buddhist monk and scholar Bhikkhu Bodhi, paraphrased by Robert Wright, says:

"ordinarily the faculty of attention is used as an instrument for serving our purposes, our biological and psychological needs. But mindfulness is a kind of attention which operates independently of all ulterior aims and purposes."

Common experiences reported by committed meditators that accord with Buddhist philosophy include the concept of non-self, formlessness and the one-ness / boundaryless-ness of all things.

Meditation Practice and Modern Science

One of the biggest obstacles faced by novice meditators, and perhaps to true objectivity, is the so-called default mode network, the constant train of thoughts that run through the mind. Studies published by the National Academy of Sciences show that during the meditation this default mode network quietens down.

The Forbes article 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain summarizes current research on the benefits of mediation including slowing the effects of ageing on the brain, helping sufferers of depression and anxiety, and helping kids in school. Many meditators attest to the benefits of meditation in daily life, as demonstrated by their continuing practice.

Meditation, particularly mindfulness, is being increasingly employed in psychotherapy to aid sufferers of mental illness. For example, the British NHS Website carries an article Mindfulness 'as good as drugs for preventing depression relapse'.

Inspired by Prof. Robert Wright's Coursera course Buddhism and Modern Psychology

Free Guided Meditations an introduction to mindfulness meditation from UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center


Filed in: buddhism, meditation, science and spirituality

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