How does the 'Silent Mind' affect the intellectual mind?

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How does the 'Silent Mind' affect the intellectual mind?

Postby Dhammabodhi » Fri Sep 18, 2009 3:32 pm

Hello to everyone, :anjali:

As the title suggests, I'd like to know whether there's any theory/speculation/belief (in or outside the Pali Canon) on the extent of the effect a still, calm, peaceful mind has on rational thinking and on intellectual and scientific understanding.

I know for certain that a scientist(like any other putthujjana) can also be immoral or display negative behaviour in society(recent case in mind: about 100 professors in Germany are under investigation of taking bribes for awarding PhD degrees) and therefore not 'good' meditators, but what about the converse: would a very good meditator with extraordinary sila (let's say a stream-winner) also be, necessarily, a very good scientist?

Also, I've always wondered at the possibility that there may be a time when advanced meditators and physicists and mathematicians sit down together to help each other(I'd guess the help will be more from the former side!). So a related question: Is it possible for someone who has been able to reach high levels of concentration translate his insights into the nature of things to the language of mathematics(or even create and do extraordinarily complex abstract mathematics which have no apparent relation with physics and nature)?

Thank you for any comments and references in advance!
Metta,
P.S: In hindsight I should have put this thread on the "Theravada for a modern world" section. Moderators kindly move this thread if it does not suit this section. Thanks! :anjali:
Dhammabodhi
-Samāhitam cittam yathābhutam pajānāti.

समाहितं चित्तं यथाभूतं पजानाती |

A concentrated mind sees things as they really are.

-Ujuko nāma so maggo, abhayā nāma sā disā.

उजुको नाम सो माग्गो, अभया नाम सा दिसा |

'Straight' is this path, fearlessness is its way.
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Re: How does the 'Silent Mind' affect the intellectual mind?

Postby EOD » Sat Sep 19, 2009 6:07 pm

Dhammabodhi wrote:would a very good meditator with extraordinary sila (let's say a stream-winner) also be, necessarily, a very good scientist?

Hello,

I doubt that. Not because of a lack of intellectual abilities but of interest. If your main goal or first priority in life is nibbana, you will most certainly not spend more time than necessary with other things, especially not with people who do not share a similar goal.

Dhammabodhi wrote:Also, I've always wondered at the possibility that there may be a time when advanced meditators and physicists and mathematicians sit down together to help each other(I'd guess the help will be more from the former side!). So a related question: Is it possible for someone who has been able to reach high levels of concentration translate his insights into the nature of things to the language of mathematics(or even create and do extraordinarily complex abstract mathematics which have no apparent relation with physics and nature)?

The problem is that in most cases the non-meditators can't reproduce or verify the experiences of the meditators unless they undergo a similar meditation practice. I think that there is a rather high risk that the meditator would appear as insane or as a liar to the non-meditator as soon as his words are unverifiable and not in accordance with the belief system of the scientist. You seem to be a bit more optimistic than I here. :-)

Best wishes,

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Re: How does the 'Silent Mind' affect the intellectual mind?

Postby genkaku » Sat Sep 19, 2009 6:20 pm

FWIW, I think that any discipline -- scientific, artistic, poetic, spiritual, etc. -- will, if the student is truly diligent, lead to the same place. And to that extent, there is no reason to suppose that a scientist and someone devoted to meditation would be at odds. Setting aside adoration and attachment, the Dharma expresses itself in infinite ways...

Infinite ways and yet anyone can laugh.

Anyone can be happy.
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Re: How does the 'Silent Mind' affect the intellectual mind?

Postby Moggalana » Sat Sep 19, 2009 7:09 pm

Dhammabodhi wrote:Also, I've always wondered at the possibility that there may be a time when advanced meditators and physicists and mathematicians sit down together to help each other(I'd guess the help will be more from the former side!).

This is happening right now! Check out the Mind and Life Institute (Wikipedia Page). Of special interest may be the works of Richard Davidson, Alan Wallace and Matthieu Ricard.
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Re: How does the 'Silent Mind' affect the intellectual mind?

Postby christopher::: » Sat Sep 19, 2009 9:42 pm

Moggalana wrote:
Dhammabodhi wrote:Also, I've always wondered at the possibility that there may be a time when advanced meditators and physicists and mathematicians sit down together to help each other(I'd guess the help will be more from the former side!).

This is happening right now! Check out the Mind and Life Institute (Wikipedia Page). Of special interest may be the works of Richard Davidson, Alan Wallace and Matthieu Ricard.


Thanks for that!

I'm not an advanced meditator in any way, but the period where i put the most time and attention into my practice was 1988 to 1993, when I was in graduate school working on my doctoral degree. Without cultivating calmness of mind and non-reactive concentration I'd never have made it thru that process. Prior to that, when I was more focused on art, mindfulness practice was also essential, just with less need for effort....

:meditate: :jedi:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: How does the 'Silent Mind' affect the intellectual mind?

Postby Dhammabodhi » Sun Sep 20, 2009 12:55 am

Thanks to everyone for your comments and inputs!

@EOD:
I doubt that. Not because of a lack of intellectual abilities but of interest.

This is an important point. But to play along, my question was more on the ability or the potential of the meditator in question.

The problem is that in most cases the non-meditators can't reproduce or verify the experiences of the meditators unless they undergo a similar meditation practice. I think that there is a rather high risk that the meditator would appear as insane or as a liar to the non-meditator as soon as his words are unverifiable and not in accordance with the belief system of the scientist


I agree with this, but I was kinda trying to go the other way: whether meditators can translate their insights into mathematical language, creating mathematical structures and deriving results in terms of theorems? There is no question of unverifiability left then. The physicist Edward Witten, for example, has used physical insights in a brilliant way to obtain deep mathematical results( for which he was awarded the Fields Medal, the highest honour in mathematics, even though he is a physicist. He is the first physicist to have done so.)

@Genkaku:
any discipline -- scientific, artistic, poetic, spiritual, etc. -- will, if the student is truly diligent, lead to the same place.


I'm afraid I do not agree with that, at least in the field of science, and in particular in theoretical physics and mathematics. In my opinion there is a limit to which u can reach simply through diligence and effort, but there are some people whose level you'll never reach. To Richard Feynmann, the great physicist and Nobel laureate, it was said:
"There are two kinds of geniuses: the 'ordinary' and the 'magicians'. An ordinary genius is a fellow whom you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they've done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. Even after we understand what they have done it is completely dark. Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest calibre." - Mark Kac


@Moggallana: Thanks for the link! I know of the Mind and life Institute, but to me it seems like its just a dialogue, not really "work", in terms of concrete results. For example, the Dalai Lama or Bhikkhu Thanissaro(just to name a couple) have not appeared as authors of any article in a journal of physics or mathematics. The only real input as far as I can understand has been in the fields of Psychology and neuroscience( one such phenomenon which has been studied in neuroscience with help from Buddhist Meditation is of Brain Plasticity, see also http://brainimaging.waisman.wisc.edu/publications/2008/DavidsonBuddhaIEEE.pdf). So things are in its infancy compared to what I have in mind.

I appreciate the replies and look forward to more!
Metta, :anjali:
Dhammabodhi
-Samāhitam cittam yathābhutam pajānāti.

समाहितं चित्तं यथाभूतं पजानाती |

A concentrated mind sees things as they really are.

-Ujuko nāma so maggo, abhayā nāma sā disā.

उजुको नाम सो माग्गो, अभया नाम सा दिसा |

'Straight' is this path, fearlessness is its way.
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Re: How does the 'Silent Mind' affect the intellectual mind?

Postby Moggalana » Sun Sep 20, 2009 9:51 am

Dhammabodhi wrote:@Moggallana: Thanks for the link! I know of the Mind and life Institute, but to me it seems like its just a dialogue, not really "work", in terms of concrete results. For example, the Dalai Lama or Bhikkhu Thanissaro(just to name a couple) have not appeared as authors of any article in a journal of physics or mathematics. The only real input as far as I can understand has been in the fields of Psychology and neuroscience( one such phenomenon which has been studied in neuroscience with help from Buddhist Meditation is of Brain Plasticity, see also http://brainimaging.waisman.wisc.edu/publications/2008/DavidsonBuddhaIEEE.pdf). So things are in its infancy compared to what I have in mind.
Dhammabodhi


Yes, so far there has mainly been research in the fields of psychology and neuroscience. There is probably more common ground between those disciplines and buddhism.
Do you know Matthieu Ricard's book "The Quantum and the Lotus"? A dialogue between Matthieu Ricard (former biologist, tibetan buddhist monk) and Trinh Xuan Thuan (physicist). That's maybe the closest to what you have been suggesting.

Tranquility meditation (samatha) enhances awareness, concentration and mindfulness which is also the basis for every intellectual discipline. So it helps a lot, in my opionion at least. I also remember Ajahn Brahm talking about how meditation helped him to get through his final exams at Cambridge because it allowed him to cope with stress.
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Re: How does the 'Silent Mind' affect the intellectual mind?

Postby Dhammabodhi » Sun Sep 20, 2009 12:28 pm

Hi Moggallana!

Thanks for the reference! I've heard of the book, but haven't got around to reading it yet. I'm a big fan of Matthieu Ricard though! :anjali:
I totally agree with you that meditation helps to relieve stress so that the mind is peaceful and works better. I hope there is a day when meditation is commonly practiced among physicists and mathematicians (many still believe its voodoo :tongue:), and help take science to new dimensions!(pun intended :smile: )

Metta, :anjali:
Dhammabodhi
-Samāhitam cittam yathābhutam pajānāti.

समाहितं चित्तं यथाभूतं पजानाती |

A concentrated mind sees things as they really are.

-Ujuko nāma so maggo, abhayā nāma sā disā.

उजुको नाम सो माग्गो, अभया नाम सा दिसा |

'Straight' is this path, fearlessness is its way.
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Re: How does the 'Silent Mind' affect the intellectual mind?

Postby nomad » Tue Sep 22, 2009 2:24 am

Dhammabodhi wrote:@Moggallana: Thanks for the link! I know of the Mind and life Institute, but to me it seems like its just a dialogue, not really "work", in terms of concrete results.


I am somewhat confused by this statement. You seem to strongly support meditators and scientists sitting down to work together on research (which I agree is a good idea), but then you easily dismiss a project that could be a step in the right direction toward realizing that goal. Sometimes, a group of scientists sitting in a room and collaborating with like-minded people can be just as productive and concrete as developing a new vaccine or building a new aircraft. I believe that the idea that science must always produce a hard, concrete product such as a new photo of some distant galaxy or a new serum for treating the flu has put a heavy burden on researchers and in many cases, stifled ingenuity and progress. Just look at the United States’ new plan to reach the Moon as a prime example. The entire program was completely drawn out and sold before any of the real research had been done. A product needed to be produced and now our scientists are unable to seek out ingenious ways to reach the stars, but are instead, stifled by a closed system of requirements and timetables that turn science into a corporate product for mass production and profit. I’ll stop before I go into a rant, but I hope you get my point in that we need people to start these discussions and ask the difficult questions. Sometimes, a little dialog and a rocket to the Moon can go the same distance.

On one final note, this has been a difficult thread to follow. I don’t know if it’s the grammar structure or how you’ve phrased your question, but I would not be surprised if I had misinterpreted what you’re trying to say. If that is the case, please clarify it for me because right now it seem as though you’re asking if it would be possible for high level meditators to translate the effects of meditation into a science-based text such as a published physics research paper or mathematical formula. To this I would answer a resounding yes and hope that it comes someday soon. I believe that the words of the Buddha and the experiences of meditation and its effects on the mind would make beautiful math. However, I don't know offhand (aside from previously mentioned texts) of anyone who has successfully published material in any professional journals.

~nomad

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Re: How does the 'Silent Mind' affect the intellectual mind?

Postby Dhammabodhi » Tue Sep 22, 2009 11:38 am

Dear nomad,

Thanks for your reply and thoughts! It seems you have misunderstood what I was trying to say. I'm sorry if I wasn't able to put my views(and questions) across clearly. In my original post I wrote:
Also, I've always wondered at the possibility that there may be a time when advanced meditators and physicists and mathematicians sit down together to help each other(I'd guess the help will be more from the former side!).


To which friend Moggallana replied:
This is happening right now!


What you have quoted should be seen in this context. I'm not dismissing the platform of the Mind and Life Institute. Far from it, I believe such a dialogue is crucial, and I very much appreciate what they are doing. I completely agree with you that this sort of discussion is very healthy and among scientists it is often a setting for creating new science. However, it's just that its not what I had in mind when I wrote in the OP the above quote. What you have understood of my question is quite correct:
it seem as though you’re asking if it would be possible for high level meditators to translate the effects of meditation into a science-based text such as a published physics research paper or mathematical formula.


This, in my opnion, has not yet started at the MLI.

Please let me know if I should clarify some other points that may not be clear.
Finally,
To this I would answer a resounding yes and hope that it comes someday soon. I believe that the words of the Buddha and the experiences of meditation and its effects on the mind would make beautiful math


Sadhu! Sadhu! :anjali:
Metta,
Dhammabodhi
-Samāhitam cittam yathābhutam pajānāti.

समाहितं चित्तं यथाभूतं पजानाती |

A concentrated mind sees things as they really are.

-Ujuko nāma so maggo, abhayā nāma sā disā.

उजुको नाम सो माग्गो, अभया नाम सा दिसा |

'Straight' is this path, fearlessness is its way.
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