Saturday, February 04, 2006

Buddhism and Brains

This month's Wired Magazine has an interesting article about Buddhist meditation and neuroscience. While I haven't read the actual paper, I can't say I'm particularly surprised that the study showed a huge increase in gamma waves and altered brain structure. This would have been perfect for some of my classes as an undergrad, where much of my focus was on "Buddhist Psychology."

A lot of the critiques that are discussed in the article largely stem from a misunderstanding of Buddhism (aside from the worrying about getting acurate and unbiased results). While in some sects and practices, Buddhism is very much on par with the orientation of other religions (such as Pure Land Buddhism), but in other ways though, it is far closer to science and psychology. Indeed, some aspects of Buddhism actually reveal the limitations and problems rooted in scientific dogma, like the belief in objectivism (although, I'd argue that it comes from a root in religion anyhow).

My undergrad thesis advisor co-authored an interesting book on the relations between Buddhism and cognitive science that discusses a lot of these same issues. I imagine we'll be seeing more books of this sort over the next few years.

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