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MRI and EEG of Jhana - Dhamma Wheel

MRI and EEG of Jhana

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
Sylvester
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MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby Sylvester » Sun Sep 15, 2013 5:21 am


beforewisdom
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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby beforewisdom » Mon Sep 16, 2013 3:12 pm

:goodpost:

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waterchan
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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby waterchan » Fri Jan 03, 2014 2:06 am

Thanks Sylvester! I'm highly interested in this. Will read it more thoroughly later.

One thing that makes me raise an eyebrow: in the Methods section it is mentioned that the test subject signals by clicking a mouse every time he reaches the next jhana... I would think that it's not possible to remember to click a mouse while in jhana?
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)

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kmath
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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby kmath » Fri Jan 03, 2014 2:17 am

Great post Sylvester!

One minor question: the author mentions that the jhanas only lasted 5-20 seconds. To me, that sounds way too short to constitute a jhana, at least in the way that I think of one. Did this strike anyone else as odd?

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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby Sati1 » Fri Jan 03, 2014 5:02 am

Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby Sylvester » Fri Jan 03, 2014 7:35 am


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waterchan
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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby waterchan » Fri Jan 03, 2014 9:13 pm

Thanks for the references, Sylvester. Unfortunately I'm not very well-read; I just don't understand how one would be able to voluntarily click a mouse if vitakka and vicara are absent in J2-J8.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)

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robertk
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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby robertk » Sat Jan 04, 2014 4:50 am


Kalama
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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby Kalama » Sun Jan 05, 2014 6:28 pm


lbrasington
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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby lbrasington » Sat Jan 18, 2014 3:06 am

It's not often the "rat" in a lab experiment gets to tell his side of the story. But then I guess I'm not the usual kind of "rat." I'm happy to see this thread discussing some of the very little we know scientifically about deep states of concentration. Below I'll see if I can address some of the questions raised above:

waterchan wrote:
> One thing that makes me raise an eyebrow: in the Methods section it is mentioned that the test subject signals by clicking a mouse every time he reaches the next jhana... I would think that it's not possible to remember to click a mouse while in jhana?

I actually had a button to click rather than an actual mouse. The device was very comfortable to rest my hand upon, with the button/switch under my left index finger (I'm left-handed). The signaling method was as follow:
2 clicks = I'm going to a deeper state
1 click = I have arrived in the next state
3 clicks = I'm going to a more shallow state

So I would start meditating by signaling 2 clicks. When I had arrived at Access Concentration -- defined as being fully with the object of meditation (the breath in this case), not getting distracted, and with only "wispy", background thought (if there were any thought) -- I would click once. Clicking would actually disturb being in Access Concentration but I could quickly regain it (and later the data from the first 20 seconds after the click would be ignored).

I would stay in Access Concentration for some period of time (depending on how well my meditation was going) and then "come out" and signal 2 clicks. I'd quickly regain Access Concentration, then begin my move into the 1st Jhana. Once the 1st Jhana was well established, I'd click once. This action (remembering to click and clicking) would again bring me out of the state, but I could quickly regain it (the the following 20 or so seconds of data would be ignored).

I would continue like this all the way up to J8. Then I would signal 3 clicks and move back down to J7, signaling again with 1 click once I had stabilized it.

So the method was not particularly disturbing and I practiced it several times a day for a month before starting these measurements for real (I was teaching a month long retreat before doing the measurements, so had a great environment in which to practice).

The other thing to realize is that there are quite a number of different opinions as to exactly what constitutes a jhana. I have a web page that discusses this at http://leighb.com/jhanantp.htm
I'm practicing the jhanas as found in the suttas - not the later and Much Deeper Visuddhimagga style jhanas. So it is possible to be in a jhanic state and remember to click the button as I moved up and down. Well, at least most of the time - I did occasionally forget - tho always managed to get in a single click at some point during a given jhana.


kmath wrote:
> One minor question: the author mentions that the jhanas only lasted 5-20 seconds. To me, that sounds way too short to constitute a jhana, at least in the way that I think of one. Did this strike anyone else as odd?

The data that was actually used was what seemed to be the "best" (i.e. most consistent) part of the several minutes I was in the various jhanas. I'm not sure how long those snippets were.


Sati1 wrote:
> I think they refer to the time to go from one jhana to the next, not the residence time in a given jhana.

Correct.


Sylvester wrote:
> Well, it's certainly controversial, if judged against the very absorbed model presented explicitly in DN 9 and its Dharmagupta parallel DA 28. The Sarvastivadin version (Pṛṣthapālasūtra) has been found, but I cannot find any bootleg copies online, so we won't be able to tell if that also presents an absorbed model where thoughts and intentions are abrogated in a jhāna.
>
> Hmm, won't it be nice to be able to ruminate and have positive thoughts in a jhāna? You could practically abhisaṅkharoti yourself into a perpetual motion machine type of jhānic existence...

Only the "higher extinction of consciousness" (i.e. the same as saññavedayitanirodha -- the "cessation of feeling and perception" which is often just called "nirodha") is a fully absorbed state in DN 9. And despite a number of scholar getting it wrong, saññavedayitanirodha is definitely not J8 (which is not mentioned in DN 9). I did not experience saññavedayitanirodha while doing these measurement - cuz I very seldom ever experience it, and certainly not under the less-than ideal circumstance of being measured while meditating.

Notice at verses 9-16 the phrase "At that time there is present a true but subtle perception of [the primary jhana factor]" occurs in the Pali for each of the first seven jhanas - that's not a state of full absorption. Notice also that one "proceeds from stage to stage" rather than the Visuddhimagga method of coming back to Access Concentration between each jhana. Doing so Requires being aware enough in each jhana to decide to move on (they are "controlled perceptions").


waterchan wrote:
> I just don't understand how one would be able to voluntarily click a mouse if vitakka and vicara are absent in J2-J8.

You have to remember that "vitakka and vicara" just mean thinking in the suttas. It's only really in the Abhidhamma where they get new meaning of "initial and sustained thinking/application." From the Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary:

"Looking at the combination vitakka+vicara in earlier and later works one comes to the conclusion that they were once used to denote one & the same thing: just thought, thinking, only in an emphatic way (as they are also semantically synonymous), and that one has to take them as one expression, ... without being able to state their difference. With the advance in the Sangha of intensive study of terminology they became distinguished mutually. Vitakka became the inception of mind, or attending, and was no longer applied, as in the Suttas, to thinking in general."

So correct, there is no "thinking" in J2-J8, but there can certainly be intention to come out enough to click and then very easily return to the J-state.


Kalama wrote:
> to let mental formation come to rest , does not mean that there is no potential of intention/volition , otherwise further Jhana proceedings would not be possible.

Correct.


Kalama wrote:
> But I share the suspicion of the MRI findings and suppose something like 'Jhana light' . It is rather odd to imagine that in an enviroment of rather heavy MRI machinery and observing staff the necessary serenity and consequent concentration for adanced Jhana states are reached.

Yeah, these were far from my "best" jhanic experiences :-) It's a very much a less-than ideal environment, but I was able to gain the jhanic states, tho they were a bit wobbly. But, hey, it's what we could do - and it's better than no data at all.


Kalama wrote:
> And I agree that a voluntary mouse click is not what one would expect to enable a change to Jhana 2 or even further.

As I say above. It was more like: be in a jhana, come out, click twice, slip back in enough to start the transition, transition, stabilize the next jhana, come out, click once, slip back in.


Kalama wrote:
> However we don't know for sure, do we?

So now maybe we all do know at least a bit more....

Thanks for the discussion. I hope this has been helpful.

Leigh "the lab rat" Brasington

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robertk
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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby robertk » Sat Jan 18, 2014 2:17 pm

thanks very much for joining in Leigh . You are a very influential voice in the jhana discussions worlwide.
I really admire your openess on your website about different interpretations of jhana, your honesty is evident.

I take a very classical view (see my website abhidhamma.org/forums) so don't agree with you on several major points but would always welcome discussion.
of course my 'knowledge' is entirely theoretical so what I have to say is based on the ancient theravada, not on personal evidence.

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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jan 18, 2014 11:58 pm

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby Sylvester » Sun Jan 19, 2014 5:51 am


culaavuso
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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby culaavuso » Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:53 am



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Modus.Ponens
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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sun Jan 19, 2014 1:34 pm

He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
(Jhana Sutta - Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation)

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Anagarika
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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby Anagarika » Sun Jan 19, 2014 2:45 pm

Leigh, I will add my note of gratitude and appreciation for your input here on DW. You have helped me greatly take Jhana practice out of its difficult "clamshell packaging," and you have a real gift of teaching with clarity and kindness.

At the time of testing, this subject was to our knowledge the only person in the US who had the requisite training in jhana who was willing to submit to the experimental protocol.

This is what we might call "authenticity!" A true ācariya.

Kalama
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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby Kalama » Fri Jan 24, 2014 6:27 pm

Hi Leigh,

thanks for your kind response . It was nice to read the warm wellcome you received .
You wrote: 'Yeah, these were far from my "best" jhanic experiences :-) It's a very much a less-than ideal environment, but I was able to gain the jhanic states, tho they were a bit wobbly. But, hey, it's what we could do - and it's better than no data at all.

D: you are right . I think it is quite useful to share theory and practise with scientists since consciousness lost its No-No image of academical interest, even if now the materialists/annihilists are still the majority. Consequently Buddhism seems to be less exotic to many in the West .

L:The other thing to realize is that there are quite a number of different opinions as to exactly what constitutes a jhana. I have a web page that discusses this at http://leighb.com/jhanantp.htm

D: noted as to be read ...
I wonder how far the similes of the 4 Jhanas of the standard texts are commented /interpreted

L:You have to remember that "vitakka and vicara" just mean thinking in the suttas. It's only really in the Abhidhamma where they get new meaning of "initial and sustained thinking/application." From the Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary:
"Looking at the combination vitakka+vicara in earlier and later works one comes to the conclusion that they were once used to denote one & the same thing: just thought, thinking, only in an emphatic way (as they are also semantically synonymous), and that one has to take them as one expression, ... without being able to state their difference. With the advance in the Sangha of intensive study of terminology they became distinguished mutually. Vitakka became the inception of mind, or attending, and was no longer applied, as in the Suttas, to thinking in general."

D: I am not clear about this . Agreed it is thinking in general but there is the aspect of arising thoughts (always those appearing 'very important' to consider .. which one may wellcome by 'Yes! and an immidiate ' bye,bye' ) and those which make a good round of associations either followed by discursive thinking or like day dreaming .....being absent for a while .

How would you describe the Buddha's recalling of sitting under the shadow of the Roseapple-tree , a memory which obviously cleared the way to his enlightenment?

Metta Kalama

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waterchan
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Re: MRI and EEG of Jhana

Postby waterchan » Fri Jan 24, 2014 6:44 pm

Thanks for describing your lab rat experience in detail and responding to my questions, Leigh! Although I still have my doubts and reservations, I greatly respect the fact that you were willing to submit to the scrutiny of a laboratory environment. I think one thing we can agree on is that rigorous scientific studies of jhana meditation are in severe shortage, and I hope we can see more scientific studies of jhana meditators in the future.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)


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