Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

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Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby fijiNut » Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:25 am

With the recent discussion/topics of attainments by some Dhamma friends on this forum and in Dharma-overground, and their ease in entering jhana/fruition; the thought just occurred to me that maybe they should publicize their claims with institutes like the Mind and Life institute or other neuroscience panels studying meditation and the effects of the mind.

If indeed there is something unique and special about these states of mind that can be proven in scientific terms (eg. nirodha sampatti- the mind shuts down completely?) which scientists cannot explain, there should be benefits in terms of outreach in terms of Dhamma for others?

What do you think?
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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby fijiNut » Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:27 am

Oh, and kindly keep discussion constructive and civilized and limit mud-slinging to this thread:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=5569
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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby Ben » Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:36 am

Hi Fijinut

I think its an emminently sensible idea. I think it was Nibs who reported that Kenneth Folk said that enlightenment changes the structure of the brain, so if this is the case and Kenneth Folk, Daniel Ingram and followers are 'enlightened', then perhaps they can demonstrate the efficacy of their method by getting brain scans and thus producing physical evidence of their 'enlightenment'.
kind regards

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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby fijiNut » Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:44 am

Thanks Ben,

I have taken on good faith that they are indeed liberated in mind to some degree; and that they have mastered the jhanas and fruition with certain skill; so my intention was not really to demand for evidence or proof for myself of their attainment.

But rather I was hoping that a study like this would benefit the other 5.5 billion people in this world who are not Buddhist or heard the Dhamma, surely a objective scientific study of this process and end result of liberation of mind with tangible results and benefits would benefit many.
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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby Paññāsikhara » Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:55 am

However, doesn't this presuppose that we can identify whether or not somebody is an arahant from a brain scan?

How would the people reading the output know what to look for?

One would need to establish some particular traits that arahants (people known conclusively to be arahants, by the way) exhibit, but that nobody who is not an arahant (that's a lot of people) do not exhibit. Or vice versa, ie. ordinary people have, but arahants don't.

And then this begs the question of knowing who was an arahant in the first place.
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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby Paññāsikhara » Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:59 am

Mind and Life tend to limit things to certain emotional states related to areas of the brain. As far as I know, they've never tested an "enlightened persons" hypothesis, yet. Just things like "people who meditate a lot (10 000s of hrs) on loving kindness, can make part X of the brain light up on a scan, in a manner that non-meditators are totally unable to do". That sort of thing.

The issue of nirodha may only be relevant if one accepts (an a priori and otherwise scientifically untested) hypothesis that only arahants, and all arahants, can attain it. This is not even an issue that Buddhists can traditionally agree on. And also that any and all mental activity (in the buddhist sense) can be measured with a brain scan.

It's also incredibly expensive. :tongue:
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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby Ben » Thu Sep 16, 2010 12:14 pm

Hi FijiNut and Venerable

Personally, I don't think liberation creates a change to the brain's structure - though I would be happy to be proved wrong.
Since it was reported that one of the proponents of hardcore movement, a self-declared 'arahant' suggests that enlightenment (or enlightenment as they understand it) creates physical changes to the brain, then i am interested in adherents of the hardcore movement produce evidence in support of their claims.
kind regards

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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby Shonin » Thu Sep 16, 2010 12:29 pm

Every single experience we have changes the physical structure of the brain.
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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby Paññāsikhara » Thu Sep 16, 2010 12:42 pm

Ben wrote:Hi FijiNut and Venerable

Personally, I don't think liberation creates a change to the brain's structure - though I would be happy to be proved wrong.
Since it was reported that one of the proponents of hardcore movement, a self-declared 'arahant' suggests that enlightenment (or enlightenment as they understand it) creates physical changes to the brain, then i am interested in adherents of the hardcore movement produce evidence in support of their claims.
kind regards

Ben


Thank you, Ben, I was not aware that these, ahem, "hardcore arahants", ahem, had made such claims.

Then the comments about specifying what those changes were, as noted above, would have to be provided by them, along with the burden (and it is a fairly heavy one) of showing that all, um, "arahants", er, have this, but others do not.

It is now fairly common knowledge in the meditation / neuro-science field that meditation does produce certain changes. But there is something quite different between this notion of "meditation", and that of what constitutes an, er, um, "arahant".
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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:17 pm

Brainscans have been performed on monks showing changes in temporal lobe activity brought about through meditative absorption:

http://psyphz.psych.wisc.edu/web/News/M ... _11-04.htm
Last edited by BubbaBuddhist on Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby fijiNut » Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:24 pm

Hi everybody,

Just a reminder to please keep criticisms/accusations of non/false attainment to this thread:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=5569
(moderators, please help)

Intentions of this thread is to discuss the benefits of scientific study of jhana/fruition states of meditation.

Mind and Life tend to limit things to certain emotional states related to areas of the brain. As far as I know, they've never tested an "enlightened persons" hypothesis, yet. Just things like "people who meditate a lot (10 000s of hrs) on loving kindness, can make part X of the brain light up on a scan, in a manner that non-meditators are totally unable to do". That sort of thing...


That is my point completely. From my limited understanding, there hasn't been much study on the Theravada side of practice, most studies have been on Tibetan monks.

In regards to just 'lighting up certain parts of the brains' does not cut it for me. :P I was hoping for a bit more 'hardcore' results.

This is an extract from "Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond" by Ajahn Brahm:
http://www.wisdom-books.com/ProductExtract.asp?PID=15340
A lay disciple once told me how, completely by chance, he had fallen into a deep jhana while meditating at home. His wife thought he had died and sent for an ambulance. He was rushed to hospital in a loud wail of sirens. In the emergency room, no heartbeat registered on the EGG, and no brain activity was seen by the EEG. So the doctor on duty put defibrillators on his chest to reactivate his heart. Even though he was being bounced up and down on the hospital bed through the force of the electric shocks, he didn’t feel a thing. When he emerged from the jhana in the emergency room, perfectly all right, he had no knowledge of how he had got there, nothing of ambulances and sirens, nothing of body-jerking defibrillators. All that long time that he was in jhana, he was fully aware, but only of bliss. This is an example of what is meant by the five senses shutting down within the experience of jhana


Imagine if this this can be recreated and observed under controlled conditions for scientific studies, I'm sure much benefit will arise out this. Not only does it scientifically verify countless Buddhist practitioners' experience for the past 2500 years.
The implications for the development of science in this area will be huge.
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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby m0rl0ck » Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:33 pm

Ben wrote:Hi FijiNut and Venerable

Personally, I don't think liberation creates a change to the brain's structure - though I would be happy to be proved wrong.
Since it was reported that one of the proponents of hardcore movement, a self-declared 'arahant' suggests that enlightenment (or enlightenment as they understand it) creates physical changes to the brain, then i am interested in adherents of the hardcore movement produce evidence in support of their claims.
kind regards

Ben


There is already evidence that meditation changes the brain physically:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 134655.htm
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 103357.htm
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 215950.htm

I think we should also keep in mind that just as the self is not the body, the mind is not the brain.
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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby Ben » Thu Sep 16, 2010 2:12 pm

Thanks eryone for the corrections and comments.
Sorry FijiNut for taking the thread off-topic, my apologies!
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Sep 16, 2010 2:18 pm

Brain scans are not going to prove one is an arahant or even ariya. They can show the results of extensive long term meditation practice and they can show during actual meditation difference from non-meditators. As to whether the meditating individual is an ariya, that is not in the realm of science.
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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby elcfa » Thu Sep 16, 2010 2:46 pm

You may want to check out the following books
Zen-Brain Reflections James H. Austin
http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Brain-Reflect ... t_ep_dpt_3

Zen and the Brain: Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness [Hardcover] James H. Austin
http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Brain-Underst ... 0262011646

The author is a respected professor in neurology and accomplished Zen meditator. He experienced Kensho state: Japanese term for enlightenment experiences.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen_and_the_Brain

The books deal with all researches about meditation effects on the brain, hypothesis of enlightenment effects on the brain.

Note: The book is not for the faint of heart since the author goes into the most minute details of the brain. I had a difficult time reading them though the overall conclusion/insights are fascinating.
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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Thu Sep 16, 2010 7:11 pm

What just happened? Image
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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby Ytrog » Thu Sep 16, 2010 7:15 pm

Though it is an interesting idea i think there is a slight problem here. Most neurologists wouldn't be monks and monks aren't allowed to report their "progress" to lay people or other non-monks. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this would make it very difficult to do.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... 4.html#Pr4
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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby appicchato » Thu Sep 16, 2010 7:51 pm

Wow...another prime example of the typical Occidental mindset of rustling the bushes looking for answers...or a government grant...no snarkiness, nor cynicism, intended...meditation as mental muscle-building (physically enlarging the brain)...that's rich...and what if it does?...where's the connection, the benefit, of (the endeavor of) liberating one's self of greed, ill will, and delusion?...apples and oranges...strive on...
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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby Ytrog » Thu Sep 16, 2010 7:58 pm

appicchato wrote:Wow...another prime example of the typical Occidental mindset of rustling the bushes looking for answers...or a government grant...no snarkiness, nor cynicism, intended...meditation as mental muscle-building (physically enlarging the brain)...that's rich...and what if it does?...where's the connection, the benefit, of (the endeavor of) liberating one's self of greed, ill will, and delusion?...apples and oranges...strive on...


A good point. It reminds me of something with a poisoned arrow. ;)
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mindfulness, bliss and beyond (page 8) wrote:Do not linger on the past. Do not keep carrying around coffins full of dead moments


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Re: Why not brain-scan an Aharant? Benefits for science & Dhamma

Postby Viscid » Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:02 pm

I've always found these fMRI studies on meditation subjects to be rather unimpressive. Long-term meditation enlarges portions of the brain associated with attention regulation. Predictable.

Western practitioners are always looking for further validation of their beliefs through objective methodology. If you want the brain to light up in the pattern of the wheel of dhamma in an fMRI or show substantive neuroanatomical changes (I dub these 'modern siddhis,') then it shows doubt and insecurity in the necessity of your practice.
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