Buddha Science. . .

Mindfulness has become a buzzword. The concept is typically defined as a kind of non-elaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is. It is a skill that one cultivates through meditation practice, whereby one learns to pay attention to the phenomena of one’s experience from a detached perspective.

An increasingly popular subject of clinical research, with 1,153 studies published on it in 2021 alone, mindfulness has been said to reduce stress and enhance emotional regulation, to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, addiction, chronic pain, and eating disorders, to increase attention span, and to improve immune system function.

Asian Buddhists, in turn, have sought to associate their religion with the prestige of science. The Dalai Lama, in particular, has been a champion of the dialog between Buddhism and science. In 1991, he founded the Mind and Life Institute, with the purpose of “bridging science and contemplative wisdom to foster insight and inspire action toward flourishing.” The organization has hosted more than 30 dialogs between the Dalai Lama and scientists, and the spiritual leader has also spoken at several neuroscience conferences.

Buddhism’s extensive discourse on the nature of the mind is especially important in this regard. Many Buddhist texts across traditions discuss topics such as the nature of the self, the relationship between mind and reality, and the cultivation of positive states such as compassion. Many scientists have taken Buddhism to the study and research realm.

The scientific study of meditation is indeed partly motivated by the personal experience of scientists. Many of them had their own serious meditation practices and benefited from meditation before studying it scientifically. Others took the opposite course, motivated by early mindfulness research to start meditating. Perhaps there are larger cultural forces at work. Perhaps the neural Buddhists, with their materialistic worldviews, still thirst for spirituality: the life-affirming orientation, the social identity based on shared moral purpose, and even the notion of transcendence that religions are uniquely suited to satisfy. In which case, scientific Buddhism may be the next horizon for cultivating not only better mental states and perspectives but also better understandings of the roles we can each play as life unfolds for all.

Peace and Love, Jim

#science #thedailybuddha

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