Meditation can be conceptualized as a family of complex tial to be speciﬁc about the type of meditation practice emotional and attentional regulatory training regimes under investigation. Failure to make such distinctions developed for various ends, including the cultivation of..
While philosophers of mind have devoted abundant time and attention to questions of content and consciousness, philosophical questions about the nature and scope of mental action have been relatively neglected. Galen Strawson’s account of mental action, arguably the most well-known extant account, holds that cognitive mental action consists in triggering the delivery of content to one’s field of consciousness. However, Strawson fails to recognize several distinct types of mental action that might not reduce to triggering content delivery. In this paper, (...) we argue that meditation provides a useful model for understanding a wider range of types of mental action than heretofore recognized. Conclusions yielded by two distinct bodies of current psychological research on meditation and cognition, and meditation and introspection, buttress meditation’s suitability for this role. (shrink)
Using theoretical analysis of self-consciousness concept and experimental evidence on the brain default mode network (DMN) that constitutes the neural signature of self-referential processes, we hypothesized that the anterior and posterior subnets comprising the DMN should show differences in their integrity as a function of meditation training. Functional connectivity within DMN and its subnets (measured by operational synchrony) has been measured in ten novice meditators using an electroencephalogram (EEG) recording in a pre-/post-meditation intervention design. We have found that (...) while the whole DMN was clearly suppressed, different subnets of DMN responded differently after 4 months of meditation training: The strength of EEG operational synchrony in the right and left posterior modules of the DMN decreased in resting post-meditation condition compared to a pre-meditation condition, whereas the frontal DMN module on the contrary exhibited an increase in the strength of EEG operational synchrony. These findings combined with published data on functional–anatomic heterogeneity within the DMN and on trait subjective experiences commonly found following meditation allow us to propose that the first-person perspective and the sense of agency (the witnessing observer) are presented by the frontal DMN module, while the posterior modules of the DMN are generally responsible for the experience of the continuity of ‘I’ as embodied and localized within bodily space. Significance of these findings is discussed. (shrink)
In the Dunhuang manuscript IOL Tib J 709, which is a collection of writings concerning meditation, we come across a short text attributed to a Tibetan master called Byaṅ-cub-klu-dbaṅ (allegedly eighth-ninth centuries CE). In his work, Byaṅ-cub-klu-dbaṅ exposes a method of meditation that seems to be strongly indebted to Indian Mahāyāna scriptural sources. Besides, also a Chinese Chan influence is here detectable. Therefore, the method of meditation taught by Byaṅ-cub-klu-dbaṅ seems to represent a commingling of different elements (...) from different contexts. After a general introduction to the manuscript IOL Tib J 709, this study focuses on Byaṅ-cub-klu-dbaṅ’s text, discussing and analysing the following topics: its author and date, the Indian Mahāyāna possible sources, Chinese Chan elements, the meditational path described. An annotated translation of the text, along with its transliteration and the reproduction of the fac-simile of the corresponding portion of the manuscript, concludes the study. (shrink)
Many spiritual traditions employ certain mental techniques (meditation) which consist in inhibiting mental activity whilst nonetheless remaining fully conscious, which is supposed to lead to a realisation of one’s own true nature prior to habitual self-substantialisation. In this paper I propose that this practice can be understood as a special means of becoming aware of consciousness itself as such. To explain this claim I conduct some phenomenologically oriented considerations about the nature of consciousness qua presence and the problem of (...) self-presence of this presence. (shrink)
This article announces the discovery of a Sinhalese version of the traditional meditation ( borān yogāvacara kammaṭṭhāna ) text in which the Consciousness or Mind, personified as a Princess living in a five-branched tree (the body), must understand the nature of death and seek the four gems that are the four noble truths. To do this she must overcome the cravings of the five senses, represented as five birds in the tree. Only in this way will she permanently avoid (...) the attentions of Death, Māra, and his three female servants, Birth, Sickness and Old Age. In this version of the text, when the Princess manages not to succumb to these three, Māra comes and snatches her from her tree and rapes her. The Buddha then appears to her to explain the path to liberation. The text provides a commentary, padārtha , which explains the details of the symbolism of the fruit in terms of rebirth and being born, the tree in terms of the body, etc. The text also offers interpretations of signs of impending death and prognostications regarding the next rebirth. Previously the existence of Khmer and Lānnā versions of this text have been recorded by Francois Bizot and Francois Lagirarde, the former publishing the text as Le Figuier a cinq branches (Le figuier à cinq branches, 1976). The Sinhalese version was redacted for one of the wives of King Kīrti Śrī Rājasiṅha of Kandy by the monk Varañāṇa Mahāthera of Ayutthayā. This confirms earlier speculation that this form of borān/dhammakāya meditation was brought to Sri Lanka with the introduction of the Siyam Nikāya in the mid-eighteenth century. It also shows that in Sri Lanka, as in Ayutthayā, this form of meditation—which in the modern period was to be rejected as ‘unorthodox’—was promoted at the highest levels of court and Saṅgha. (shrink)
The therapeutic potential of meditation for physical and mental well-being is well documented, however the possibility of adverse effects warrants further discussion of the suitability of any particular meditation practice for every given participant. This concern highlights the need for a personalized approach in the meditation practice adjusted for a concrete individual. This can be done by using an objective screening procedure that detects the weak and strong cognitive skills in brain function, thus helping design a tailored (...)meditation training protocol. Quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG) is a suitable tool that allows identification of individual neurophysiological types. Using qEEG screening can aid developing a meditation training program that maximizes results and minimizes risk of potential negative effects. This brief theoretical–conceptual review provides a discussion of the problem and presents some illustrative results on the usage of qEEG screening for the guidance of mediation personalization. (shrink)
This paper seeks to analyse an under-discussed kind of self-control, namely the control of thoughts and sensations. I distinguish first-order control from second-order control and argue that their central forms are intentional concentration and intentional mindfulness respectively. These correspond to two forms of meditation, concentration meditation and mindfulness meditation, which have been regarded as central both in the traditions in which the practices arose and in the scientific literature on meditation. I analyse them in terms of (...) their characteristic intentions, distinguish them from concentration and mindfulness in general, and examine the relations between them. Concentration involves keeping the mind focused on a single object, while mindfulness requires noticing whatever mental states occupy the focus of one’s consciousness. In the course of the investigation I examine the role of phenomenology and volition in the activity of meditating, and how they change as meditative capacities develop. (shrink)
This study presents two case reports of altered states spontaneously occurring during meditation in two proficient practitioners. These states, known as fruition, are common within the Mahasi School of Theravada Buddhism, and are considered the culmination of contemplation-induced stages of consciousness. Here, electrophysiological measures of these experiences were measured, with the participant’s personal reports used to guide the neural analyzes. The preliminary results demonstrate an increase in global long-range gamma synchronization during the fruition states, compared to the background (...) class='Hi'>meditation. The discrepancies and similarities with other neuroscientific studies of meditation-induced altered states are discussed. Albeit preliminary, the results presented here provide support for the possibility - previously raised by various authors - that long-range global gamma synchronization may offer an underlying mechanism for un-learning of habitual conditioning and mental patterns, possibly underpinning the neural correlate of the Buddhist concept of liberation. Finally, this pilot study highlights the utility of employing neuro-phenomenology, namely using first-person reports to guide neural analyzes, in the study of subtle human consciousness states. (shrink)
This essay proposes that Socrates practiced various spiritual exercises, including meditation, and that this Socratic practice of meditation was habitual, aimed at cultivating emotional self-control and existential preparedness. Contemporary research in neurobiology supports the view that intentional mental actions, including meditation, have a profound impact on brain activity, neuroplasticity, and help engender emotional self-control. This impact on brain activity is confirmed via technological developments, a prime example of how technology benefits humanity. Socrates attains the balanced emotional self-control (...) that Alcibiades describes in the Symposium because of the sustained mental effort he exerts that directly impacts his brain and his emotional and philosophical life. The essay concludes that Socratic meditative practices aimed at manifesting true dignity as human beings within the complexities of a technological world offer a promising model of self-care worthy of embracing today. (shrink)
On the basis of many years of personal experience the paper describes Buddhist meditation as a mystical practice. After a short discussion of the role of some central concepts in Buddhism, William James’ concept of religious experience is used to explain the goal of meditators as the achievement of a special kind of an experience of this kind. Systematically, its main point is to explain the difference between a craving for pleasant ‘mental events’ in the sense of short-term moods, (...) and the long-term project of achieving a deep change in one’s attitude to life as a whole, a change that allows the acceptance of suffering and death. The last part argues that there is no reason to call the discussed practice irrational in a negative sense. Changes of attitude of the discussed kind cannot be brought about by argument alone. Therefore, a considered use of age-old practices like meditation should be seen as an addition, not as an undermining of reason. (shrink)
This paper first reviews key Buddhist concepts of time anicca , khanavada and uji and then describes the way in which a particular form of Bhuddist meditation, vipassana, may be thought to actualize them in human experience. The chief aim of the paper is to present a heuristic model of how vipassana meditation, by eroding dispositional tendencies rooted in the body-unconscious alters psychological time, transforming our felt-experience of time from a binding to a liberating force.
As Husserl argues in the fifth Cartesian Meditation, the similarity of my Body (Leib) with the body (Körper) of another person is the founding moment of the experience of the other. This similarity is based on the previous objectivation of my Body. Husserl continuously worried to explicate this similarity-premise and by doing so, it appeared that this objectivation already presupposes intersubjectivity. By running into this problem, the Meditation actually fulfils its program by showing that the other is co-constitutive (...) of the world and more precisely of my existence as a worldly human being. At the same time he developed an alternative approach by identifying the original experience of the other as an expressive unity (Ausdruckseinheit) as the condition of possibility of intersubjective experience. By drawing on the relevant Forschungsmanuskripte in the volumes on Intersubjectivity and on Ideas II, it appears that the Meditation offers a naturalistic theory of intersubjectivity that results from the introduction of the reduction to primordiality. When one takes into account Husserl's analysis of the experience of an expressive unity, that is a defining characteristic of the personalistic attitude, one can clarify the derivative nature of this naturalistic approach. (shrink)
In recent years, the scientific study of meditation and psychedelic drugs has seen remarkable developments. The increased focus on meditation in cognitive neuroscience has led to a cross-cultural classification of standard meditation styles validated by functional and structural neuroanatomical data. Meanwhile, the renaissance of psychedelic research has shed light on the neurophysiology of altered states of consciousness induced by classical psychedelics, such as psilocybin and LSD, whose effects are mainly mediated by agonism of serotonin receptors. Few attempts (...) have been made at bridging these two domains of inquiry, despite intriguing evidence of overlap between the phenomenology and neurophysiology of meditation practice and psychedelic states. In particular, many contemplative traditions explicitly aim at dissolving the sense of self by eliciting altered states of consciousness through meditation, while classical psychedelics are known to produce significant disruptions of self-consciousness, a phenomenon known as drug-induced ego dissolution. In this article, we discuss available evidence regarding convergences and differences between phenomenological and neurophysiological data on meditation practice and psychedelic drug-induced states, with a particular emphasis on alterations of self-experience. While both meditation and psychedelics may disrupt self-consciousness and underlying neural processes, we emphasize that neither meditation nor psychedelic states can be conceived as simple, uniform categories. Moreover, we suggest that there are important phenomenological differences even between conscious states described as experiences of self-loss. As a result, we propose that self-consciousness may be best construed as a multidimensional construct, and that “self-loss,” far from being an unequivocal phenomenon, can take several forms. Indeed, various aspects of self-consciousness, including narrative aspects linked to autobiographical memory, self-related thoughts and mental time travel, and embodied aspects rooted in multisensory processes, may be differently affected by psychedelics and meditation practices. Finally, we consider long-term outcomes of experiences of self-loss induced by meditation and psychedelics on individual traits and prosocial behavior. We call for caution regarding the problematic conflation of temporary states of self-loss with “selflessness” as a behavioral or social trait, although there is preliminary evidence that correlations between short-term experiences of self-loss and long-term trait alterations may exist. (shrink)
Clinical and neuroscientific studies of Buddhist meditation practices are frequent topics in the news media, and have helped certain practices achieve mainstream cultural status. Buddhists have reacted by using these studies in a number of ways. Some deploy the studies to show the compatibility of science and Buddhism, often using the authority of science to lend credence to Buddhism. Other Buddhists use meditation studies to demonstrate the superiority of Buddhism over science. Within inter-Buddhist debates, meditation studies are (...) used to argue for changes in practice or belief, but also sometimes to reinforce certain traditional practices. Benjamin Zeller's threefold categorization of religious groups’ attitudes toward science and José Ignacio Cabezón's three ideal types of relationships between Buddhism and science contribute to analysis of Buddhist uses of scientific studies of meditation. (shrink)
Dorion Cairns correctly interprets the preconstituted stratum of Edmund Husserl’s Fifth Cartesian Meditation to be the primordial ego and not the social world, as was thought by Alfred Schutz, who considered Husserl to be insufficiently attentive to the social world’s hold upon us. Following Cairns’s interpretation, which involves recovering and reconstructing strata that may never exist independently, one better understands how the transfer of sense animate organism involves automatic association, or somatic apprehension. This sense-transfer extends to any animate organism, (...) not just humans, and draws on extensive unreflected-upon similarities despite the distinctive fact that the other’s body is never given to oneself as is one’s own. Following Cairns’s interpretation, one can also understand the second epoché as an imaginative, reconstructive abstraction rather than as an example of failed ascesis. Consequently, Husserl appears as less intellectualized in his approach to empathy than often thought to be and more confident in the phenomenologist’s capacity to imagine and attend selectively to experience. (shrink)
This integral investigation explored phenomenological and neurophysiologic, individual and collective dimensions of Christian Trinitarian meditation experiences in a volunteer, convenience sample of 10 practicing Christians, 6 men and 4 women, with a mean age of 48 years and an age range from 21 to 85 years. Participants meditated for a minimum period of 15 minutes, during which neurophysiologic data in the form of electroencephalographic (EEG), electromyographic (EMG), blood volume pulse (BVP) and respiratory activity were recorded. A phenomenological analysis indicated (...) that the meditation process generally involved a movement from body to mind to spirit as evident in reports of an increasingly relaxed, contented and focused state of consciousness characterised by Christian Trinitarian imagery, wonder, surrender, peace, bliss, openness and formlessness. The neuropsychological findings indicated significant increases, from baseline to meditation recordings, in the alpha and beta range, accompanied by increasing mean trends in the theta and gamma range, and decreasing mean trends in the delta range, EMG, BVP and respiration. Integrative findings indicated the practical theological value of small doses of Christian Trinity meditation to enhance spiritual life for those forms of waking, thinking, conscious behaviour needed in everyday world involvement and healing. Findings were discussed in relation to further integrative investigations and interventions with practical theological implications. (shrink)
This essay discusses Stanley Cavell’s remarkable interpretation of Emmanuel Levinas’s thought against the background of his own ongoing engagement with Wittgenstein, Austin, and the problem of other minds. This unlikely debate, the only extensive discussion of Levinas by Cavell in his long philosophical career sofar, focuses on their different reception of Descartes’s idea of the infinite. The essay proposes to read both thinkers against the background of Wittgenstein’s model of philosophical meditation and raises the question as to whether Cavell (...) and Levinas do not indirectly shed light on the early modern motif of the spiritual automaton. (shrink)
This article considers the psychology of meditation and other introverted forms of mystical development from a neo-Piagetian perspective, which has commonalities with biogenetic structuralist and neurotheological approaches. Evidence is found that lines of meditative development unfold through Patañjali’s stages at different rates in an echo of the unfolding of lines of cognitive development through Piaget’s stages at different rates. Similar factors predicting the degree of independence of development apply to both conventional cognitive and meditative contents. As the same brain (...) and the same nervous system are involved in both cognitive developmental psychology and meditation there are likely to be commonalities between conventional psychological and transpersonal development. Neo-Piagetian transpersonal psychology predicts a variable landscape of spiritual development across traditions and individuals, in line with variability in the cultural learning environment. (shrink)
Mastering the Art of Meditation is an instructional guide to various forms of meditation, representing several spiritual traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Shamanism. Readers are led through the three aspects of meditation: Concentrative, Receptive, and Expressive. Techniques include: Breathing, Imaging, Icon, Mandala, Shamanic Nature Gazing, Music, Mantra, Sacred Words, Centering Prayer, Body Awareness, Movement, Koans, Compassion, Samatha, Vipassana, Zazen, Tapas, Kundalini, Chi, and Tonglen. Dr. Don Giles, the author, spent over a decade learning these practices from (...) a variety of masters from around the world. Dr. Giles, a Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies, has been teaching students both in and outside of the classroom for over 25 years. (shrink)
The claim of this paper is that there is a common form of reflection in Anselm’s prayers and the Proslogion and Monologion. The practice of meditation, of rumination and introspection, is the crucial link between these works, mostly thought of as philosophy or speculative theology, and as opposed to Anselm’s monastic practices of meditative prayer and thoughtful examination of self and scripture. The philosophical meditations are, like the prayers, the product of an imaginative project, in this case of reasoning (...) as if he did not already believe and as if reason alone were his only resource. I show that Anselm’s arguments are solutions to the aporetic paradoxes toward which he pushes reason. Like the sinner’s realization of his own inability to extricate himself, grasping these paradoxes is for Anselm the only way of moving toward a sense of the metaphysically unique being of God. (shrink)
At first blush, the town square in Fairfield, Iowa, seems no different from hundreds like it that grace small communities from New England to California. It has a pretty gazebo where bands play, a stretch of grass ideal for sunbathing, and a monument to historic local events, and all of it is surrounded by businesses that offer clothes, medicine, food, and, perhaps, a drink or two. Such town centers are so classically American that Disney and Hollywood have turned them into (...) clichés, timeworn settings for amusement parks, Fourth of July celebrations, political speeches, and romance.1But a closer look at the heart of Fairfield shows how far this place is from ordinary. Hard by a couple of real estate sales offices .. (shrink)
A critical reply to the anti-mindfulness critics in the collection, who oppose the popular secularized adoption of mindfulness on various grounds (it is not Buddhism, it is Buddhism, it is a tool of neo-capitalist exploitation, etc.), I argue that mindfulness is a quality of consciousness, opposite mindlessness, that may be cultivated through practice, and is almost always beneficial to those who cultivate it.
I argue for a possible Buddhist theory of free will that combines Frankfurt's hierarchical analysis of meta-volitional/volitional accord with elements of the Buddhist eightfold path that prescribe that Buddhist aspirants cultivate meta-volitional wills that promote the mental freedom that culminates in enlightenment, as well as a causal/functional analysis of how Buddhist meditative methodology not only plausibly makes that possible, but in ways that may be applied to undermine Galen Strawson's impossibility argument, along with most of the other major arguments for (...) free will skepticism. (shrink)
Zen students described their experiences when working with koans, and a phenomenological method was used to identify the structure of those experiences. Zen koans are statements or stories developed in China and Japan by Zen masters in order to help students transform their conscious awareness of the world. Eight participants including 3 females and 5 males from Southern California with 1 to 30 years of experience in Zen answered open-ended questions about koan practice in one tape-recorded session for each participant. (...) Refl ection yielded the following thematic clusters: (a) motivation, (b) approaches to working with koans, (c) experiences while working with koans, (d) experiences of insight into koans, (e) working with a teacher, and (f ) transformation. Participants described positive transformations including better control of emotions and concentration, better awareness of prejudices and biases with the ability to suppress those types of habitual associations, and a new relation to and acceptance of spiritual questions and doubts. (shrink)
In a book geared toward the younger generation, the author explains techniques to sharpen alertness, quiet the mind, increase awareness, strengthen positive mental states and develop insight. Original.
A renowned philosopher of the mind, also known for his groundbreaking work on Buddhism and cognitive science, Evan Thompson combines the latest neuroscience research on sleep, dreaming, and meditation with Indian and Western philosophy of the mind, casting new light on the self and its relation to the brain. Thompson shows how the self is a changing process, not a static thing. When we are awake we identify with our body, but if we let our mind wander or daydream, (...) we project a mentally imagined self into the remembered past or anticipated future. As we fall asleep, the impression of being a bounded self distinct from the world dissolves, but the self reappears in the dream state. If we have a lucid dream, we no longer identify only with the self within the dream. Our sense of self now includes our dreaming self, the "I" as dreamer. Finally, as we meditate--either in the waking state or in a lucid dream--we can observe whatever images or thoughts arise and how we tend to identify with them as "me." We can also experience sheer awareness itself, distinct from the changing contents that make up our image of the self. Contemplative traditions say that we can learn to let go of the self, so that when we die we can witness its dissolution with equanimity. Thompson weaves together neuroscience, philosophy, and personal narrative to depict these transformations, adding uncommon depth to life's profound questions. Contemplative experience comes to illuminate scientific findings, and scientific evidence enriches the vast knowledge acquired by contemplatives. (shrink)