Tuesday, February 4, 2014

506: Buddhism and Meditation

I admit. Last Tuesday in my lecture I gave the impression, that I almost threw the baby out with the bathwater, but Ciska Riverstone brought an article to my attention in an attempt to restore some balance.

The article is interesting and important indeed. Note the date: 31, October 2012.  It is on display behind me…plz take your time to read it.

 The article conforms all media rules, which helps you to sell science. It has a spectacular statement… “the world’s happiest man?” 

The accompanying pictures are showing a mix of something traditional in combination with complex technology. And it is about the brain, a hot and popular topic in 2012.

The most interesting aspect of the article is, however, that it is old news, almost 10 years old, when this information already was published but with another monk. This is namely about the team of David Richardson.

Richard J. Davidson (born December 12, 1951) is professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison since 1984.

He is popularizing the idea that based on what is known about the plasticity of the brain, we can learn happiness and compassion as skills just as we learn to play a musical instrument, or train in golf or tennis. 

Happiness, like any skill, requires practice and time but because we know that the brain is built to change in response to mental training, it is possible to train a mind to be happy.

In 2011 on January 24 I posted lecture 298, which ends with:

They [a.o. Davidson was meant here] are, so to speak, world champions in being happy. That is the reason that meditation enjoys the attention from leading scientists. This is not about buddhism, but about the mental techniques used in meditation.

A result of this research is "mindfulness meditation". It can be described as a calm awareness of one's body functions, feelings, content of consciousness, or consciousness itself. It has a positive influence on the brain.

There is a lot on YouTube about this subject, but the presentation "Cognitive Neuroscience of Mindfulness Meditation" [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sf6Q0G1iHBI ]
is interesting in relation to our project.
-end quote -

So, the article is just repeating old news. Matthieu Ricard already appeared on Youtube 6 years ago with his message, but the message is still important: meditation can change your feeling of happiness or wellbeing.

What has this to do with Buddhism. You might look at it this way. The real person Buddha may have developed indeed some method of concentration and meditation and may have experienced a real permanent mental change.

While we can explain this by referring to the working of the brain, even to some extend can cause it artificially by consuming psychopharmaca, he experienced it in his mind and called it “awakening” or “enlightenment”.

He integrated his physical and consequently mental experiences in his philosophy of life and his ideas on ethics, thus creating, what we now call, buddhism.

From a philosophical point of view I therefor like to separate the basic philosophical ideas of Buddhism from meditation. Meditation is a general tool. Like a hammer doesn’t make someone a carpenter. Lots of professions use a hammer as a tool. Practicing meditation doesn’t necessarily make you a buddhist.

But the buddhist tool of meditation helps use to achieve the Fourth Noble Truth:
Now this is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering. It is this Noble Eightfold Path; that is right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

And if you interpret “suffering’ as “discontentment”, meditation and the Fourth Truth may indeed lead to a happier life than a bigger car and an higher income.

The Discussion

[13:20] herman Bergson: Thank you ^_^
[13:20] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:20] Bejiita Imako: that might be true
[13:20] Chantal: Thank you Herman
[13:20] Frau Brause: thxs
[13:20] herman Bergson: The floor is yours if you have remarks or questions :-))
[13:20] Lizzy Pleides: thank you
[13:20] Debbie dB: Great Herman - thanks
[13:21] Frau Brause: but i guess for some the truth will not leasd at first in a better life^^
[13:21] Dar: Strange that scientist just now beginning to do studies about the benefits of  meditation when it's known for thousands of years.
[13:21] Frau Brause: for most ppl its hard to see the truth^^^
[13:21] Bejiita Imako: this for one thing shows that in contrast to many other religions which rely on super natural things, the concept of buddhism is scientifically provable
[13:21] Debbie dB: I still battle to see the truth
[13:21] Bejiita Imako: it is things that actually works
[13:21] herman Bergson: Let me answer Dar....an important remark....
[13:22] herman Bergson: This has a history Dar....
[13:22] Lizzy Pleides: There's again the problem of how to define happiness scientifically
[13:22] herman Bergson: the Easterlin paradox
[13:22] herman Bergson: In 1974 Easterlin an American economist published an article
[13:23] herman Bergson: and the thesis of the article was that increase of income between 1946 and 1974 had not increased the general ahppiness in the US...
[13:23] herman Bergson: That was a kind of a shock....
[13:24] herman Bergson: this conclusion is now debatable....but that is another issue
[13:24] xtc yonimyxtc: its only now we are beginning to have the technology to scientifically measure and record
[13:24] herman Bergson: yes xtc...but not only that....
[13:25] herman Bergson: After 18974 happiness became a legitimate subject of scientific investigation.....
[13:25] herman Bergson: Richardson began in 1984 with his research....
[13:25] herman Bergson: He met the Dala Ilama in 1992 and became a close friend
[13:26] herman Bergson: That brought meditation within his horizon
[13:26] herman Bergson: so that answers your question perhaps
[13:27] herman Bergson: And indeed...with all these fMRI scan techniques etc. we can look into the brain
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: true
[13:27] herman Bergson: and that is a technology of pretty recent origin
[13:28] Frau Brause: thoughts are still a very personal thing
[13:28] .: Beertje :.: it seems to me that people múst be happy these days
[13:28] Frau Brause: no one can watch them^^
[13:28] Frau Brause: so these techniques are not so useful^^
[13:28] Frau Brause: we measure only from the telling
[13:29] herman Bergson: the brian scans do not  observe thoughts .....
[13:29] Debbie dB: Well, technology seems to be good at helping us be happy... i love sl.
[13:29] Dar: For me meditation is not a tool for cultivating happiness. It's to cultivate  understanding of the nature of reality which cultivates a realization that nothing is permanent there for no need to be attached to things that will eventually cause suffering.  When one have achieve thus, then happiness is then percieved in the mind.
[13:29] herman Bergson: They observe responses of the organism to stimuli
[13:29] Frau Brause: true dar
[13:30] Dag: agree with Dar but you should have stopped before the last part of the sentence
[13:30] herman Bergson: It is not about cultivating happiness Dar
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: indeed SL is the only computer program that have given me real memories, thats since i ve met a lot of friends and done a lot f fun here
[13:30] Debbie dB: so dar - no sensitivity = no feeling?
[13:30] Dar: No happiness is a perception.
[13:30] oola Neruda: http://www.onbeing.org/blog/live-video-krista’s-interview-matthieu-ricard/4003


there is a search line on this (ON BENG) website... if you t
[13:30] ἀρετή: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/12/26/1321664111.full.pdf
[13:31] oola Neruda: type in his name, you will get more links
[13:31] herman Bergson: there is a lot on Youtube of Ricard
[13:31] herman Bergson: But that is not what we are discussing...
[13:32] herman Bergson: Our subject is ...how do we interact with our environment and how can we influence this....
[13:32] Frau Brause: with our mind
[13:32] Frau Brause: u are what u think
[13:32] herman Bergson: Buddhism...Ricard for instance talks about benevolence....that meditation opens your mind for that
[13:32] Frau Brause: and what u think of others
[13:32] oola Neruda: the first link i gave is on that very subject... of happiness and meditation
[13:33] herman Bergson: and that is true....physically true
[13:33] ἀρετή: train the brain to form new ways of thinking
[13:33] Frau Brause: yes
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:33] herman Bergson: meditation stimulates the left prefrontal cortex...
[13:33] Frau Brause: the brain is a muscle
[13:33] Frau Brause: or a toll
[13:33] Frau Brause: ^^
[13:33] Frau Brause: tool
[13:34] herman Bergson: yes and we only today begin tounderstand how the brain works....
[13:34] Sousi: The brain is everything you are.
[13:34] herman Bergson: we use it...
[13:34] Lizzy Pleides: didn't Cannabis do that either?
[13:34] herman Bergson: but not to its full capacity....
[13:34] Frau Brause: yes it does not have to use us^^^
[13:35] herman Bergson: And I think that Buddha really discovered the possibility to "train" the brain
[13:35] Dag: does it make sense to make a distinction between brain and mind in this context ?
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: the brain to us is what the cpu is to the computer, in the early days the computer was in fact referred to as a mechanical brain
[13:35] Debbie dB: Our brains are flexible, and multi purpose. Garbage in - garbage out. But we can rewrite some algorrithms ;)
[13:35] Frau Brause: not only buddhishm
[13:35] Dar: Yes, the mind is always jumping around like a monkey, meditation teaches you to not let it jump around like a monkey.
[13:35] Sousi: The brain is the mind, yes, in a very real sense.
[13:35] Frau Brause: aggrippa from nettersheim too
[13:35] herman Bergson: Yes Debbie
[13:35] Frau Brause: the old alchemists
[13:35] Frau Brause: perhaps jesus does
[13:36] Frau Brause: but we all forgot it
[13:36] Frau Brause: or well church destroyed it^^
[13:36] Debbie dB: Religion just confuses thinking Bergie ;)
[13:36] Debbie dB: sorry - hermine
[13:36] herman Bergson: Maybe you can say that we now can explain what people thousands of years discovered by simple experience
[13:37] Frau Brause: i guess it is simple
[13:37] Frau Brause: but everyone tries to make it complex
[13:37] herman Bergson: I love to hear that :-))
[13:37] Frau Brause: to male money with it
[13:37] Frau Brause: make
[13:38] herman Bergson: That may be the big issue of today Frau Brause....
[13:38] Frau Brause: ^^
[13:38] Debbie dB: Yes. Its still all about the money. I would love to see more research on how capitalism makes us happy?
[13:38] Dar: I'd like to share a link with you all.. it's long and can watch it later if you wish.  It's worth the time. http://youtu.be/U555f9RryII
[13:38] herman Bergson: The discovery that making money does not increase the general wellbeing of  a population when certain level of prosperity is reached
[13:38] Frau Brause: debbie u can answer yourself i guess
[13:39] herman Bergson: There is Debbie....
[13:39] Sousi: It is fashionable to criticize capitalism... but what is the alternative, really?
[13:39] Frau Brause: less consume and more< happiness
[13:39] herman Bergson: and that research shows that increase of wealth does NOT make people happier
[13:39] Debbie dB: don’t use up the resources in one go,
[13:40] herman Bergson: unless this increase enables people to satisfy basic needs as housing and food and healthcare and education
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: very true
[13:40] oola Neruda: a family member began meditating and has changed greatly from grouchy to peaceful and helpful
[13:40] herman Bergson: that is possible oola
[13:40] oola Neruda: it took a long time tho
[13:41] Sousi: Thing is... it's not just about the amount of consumption... if we change to a planned economy, there are prices to pay for that as well.
[13:41] Frau Brause: its hard to meditate regular
[13:41] Frau Brause: in the first time
[13:41] herman Bergson: yes...like the Buddha...wasn’t he 40 years in meditation first?
[13:41] Frau Brause: i am just trying
[13:41] xtc yonimyxtc: do you have a link to that about money and well being, professor or a direction you can send me in to google it for myself? :-)
[13:41] herman Bergson: Google on Easterlin
[13:42] Dar: Very true frau, but keep it up, it's worth it in the end.
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: indeed, friends make you happy, owning more and more stuff is not rely the same thing cause well its just , stuff
[13:42] herman Bergson: no...USe Wikipedia and look at the bottom at the other links
[13:42] xtc yonimyxtc: ty, professor :-)
[13:42] Frau Brause: will do try now for nearly one year and its gettin better
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: usable maybe but you cant buy real happiness
[13:42] Debbie dB: sousi , capitalism has many flaws. To just accept it as the only system is not correct.
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: with put friends around you are still alone and sad
[13:42] Sousi: Present an alternative.
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: no matter how much "stuff” and money you have
[13:43] Lizzy Pleides: social equity might make happy
[13:43] Frau Brause: true bejita
[13:43] xtc yonimyxtc: one DOES need money for the basics which translates into money=happiness
[13:43] Sousi: And in what what way would "social equity" be a replacement for capitalism?
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: yes, up to that point, but u don’t need 20 computers and 10 rolls royce
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: that don’t make you happier
[13:44] Frau Brause: not even a car bejita
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: one of them maybe
[13:44] Frau Brause: only food enough to be not hungry
[13:44] Frau Brause: anb some clothes
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: but some people have a whole range of luxury cars
[13:44] Frau Brause: but not 10 dresses
[13:44] Debbie dB: OK - heres an alternative - redistribute wealth once an individual has more than 10 times as much as the average ;)
[13:44] Sousi: And who gets to decide what kind of food you get to eat?
[13:44] Frau Brause: u only need the basics
[13:44] Frau Brause: and that is really not much
[13:45] Frau Brause: media makes us mad about things
[13:45] Sousi: After all, you only need "food enough not to be hungry"
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: i want nice friends, good food and a nice place to live
[13:45] Frau Brause: which we really do not need
[13:45] Debbie dB: Yes.
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:45] Debbie dB: what purpose does a new Ferrari serve?
[13:46] herman Bergson: A fact is that when we have reached a standard of living as we have inEurope and the US, more money etc does not add to our general feeling of happiness
[13:46] .: Beertje :.: status
[13:46] Sousi: Who decides what purpose is served by each product?
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: a car for me is mostly to get from one point to another, however can be a nice feeling in a fast car with good acceleration
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: but the most important thing any car can do
[13:46] herman Bergson: A new Ferrari doesn’t work.....
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: get me from A to B
[13:46] xtc yonimyxtc: everything beyond 'basic' is extravagant eg when you start adding adjectives to the word 'basic'
[13:46] Debbie dB: Bejita -- it makes the driver look like a greedy idiot with a small dick ;)
[13:46] Dar: This will make me sound like a robot maybe.. but when I think of happiness, and well being, I only think of the mind and how it precedes all things. In essence, it's a choice how we feel, and how we view things.
[13:46] herman Bergson: Our feeling of happiness is 30 to 50% genetic
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: heheh well a car like that will sting in may peoples eyes for sure
[13:47] xtc yonimyxtc: *an extravagance
[13:47] ἀρετή: it would be fun to drive it.. simple pleasures in life?
[13:47] Lizzy Pleides: material things only can make you happy for some days until you are used to it
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: i suppose so
[13:47] Debbie dB: With one Ferrari cost you can put 30 kids through school.
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: something like that
[13:47] herman Bergson: It would be fun to drive it indeed for a short time....after that it becomes just common driving a car
[13:48] ἀρετή: why would a person's happiness determine the happiness of another?
[13:48] Debbie dB: and a fuel waster.
[13:48] Sousi: So... if you really want to own a Ferrari, and the People's Revolutionary Council of Oversight of Value of Consumer Products has stated that Ferraris may not be built, will you be happy about that?
[13:48] Debbie dB: yes
[13:48] Debbie dB: as long as it applied universally
[13:48] herman Bergson: I wouldn’t care...
[13:48] oola Neruda: happiness depend on that of another person??? mothers can tell you
[13:48] Sousi: And if they then killed your three favorite foods, judging them "extravagant"?
[13:49] Debbie dB: Right now i m unhappy about pollution - can I do anything about that?
[13:49] Frau Brause: yes debbie
[13:49] Sousi: After all, oatmeal is enough for everyone?
[13:49] Frau Brause: dont drive a car
[13:49] Frau Brause: and tell everyone around u
[13:49] Debbie dB: Oh happiness is contagious! Share the joy
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: also most Ferraris are wrecked in a short while cause the owners think they have magical powers and that they can drive like maniacs, a car is a machine obeying the laws of physics
[13:49] bergfrau Apfelbaum: my 3 Ferraris are already moved out :-) and love is the greatest wealth
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: just like any other car
[13:49] Frau Brause: that makes ppl think
[13:49] ἀρετή: if happiness was a currency...
[13:49] Frau Brause: and perhaps u reach one
[13:49] Frau Brause: and U are one person less
[13:49] Frau Brause: everyone can do ANYTHING
[13:50] ἀρετή: I don't own a Ferrari, but I'm not bashing anyone who owns one either.
[13:50] Sousi: If PCs able to run Second Life were seen as extravagant and collected and forbidden for use by private persons?
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: they might be fast and so but if you want to drive that fast you should only do when you know what you really are doing and where it is appropriate
[13:50] Debbie dB: Im not bashing the owners - i m asking why the directors of the company aren’t jailed for making wasteful, dangerous machines
[13:50] herman Bergson: What is your point Sousi? :-)
[13:50] ἀρετή: fast cars are mostly to test the engineering capabilities
[13:51] Debbie dB: blah
[13:51] Sousi: My point is... there is NOBODY that can plan well enough to plan our economy.
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: a Ferrari cant bend physical laws more then any other car, if you don’t look out you will crash
[13:51] herman Bergson: no....
[13:51] Sousi: Any such decision will be an experiment in misery, just like all the previous ones were.
[13:51] herman Bergson: but life is not only economy....on the contrary
[13:51] Debbie dB: we don’t need think of only two methods - capitilism cs communism. we need something kinder than capatilism, and freer than Russian communism
[13:52] Sousi: Capitalism is far from perfect... but as I said, I have heard of no credible alternative.
[13:52] herman Bergson: Life should be a just distribution of resources to begin with
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:52] ἀρετή: compassion
[13:52] herman Bergson: yes Aryen
[13:52] Dar: I think the point is missed.. it's not that things makes you happy or unhappy, it's not being attached to the feeling or experience of happy or unhappy.
[13:52] Debbie dB: the current experiment has 90 % of the people poor, and 10 % fat
[13:52] herman Bergson: non violence
[13:52] Sousi: You guys aware of the Gini coefficient number?
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: indeed, something like that Debbie
[13:52] Debbie dB: yes
[13:53] Debbie dB: I know that co-eficient
[13:53] herman Bergson: Explain Sousi
[13:53] herman Bergson: plz
[13:53] Sousi: Do you also know that old Soviet Russia had a very bad one?
[13:54] Sousi: The Gini coefficient is a way to measure spread of wealth in a society - wealth gaps.
[13:54] Debbie dB: Oh probably. But so does america
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:54] Sousi: If goes from a thought endpoint where one person owns everything, to the other where everyone has exactly the same.
[13:54] Sousi: Sure... America has a wealth divide.
[13:55] Sousi: But... and here is the important part: The Soviet Union was far, far, far worse.
[13:55] Debbie dB:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:55] Debbie dB: ¨°º©©º°¨=^ L A F F S ^=¨°º©©º°¨
[13:55] Chantal: Wishes everyone a good time Thank you Herman, most enjoyed it :)
[13:55] Frau Brause: bye chantal
[13:55] herman Bergson: it  represents the income distribution of a nation's residents
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: bye Chantal
[13:55] Debbie dB: Bye chantel
[13:55] Chantal: Bye
[13:55] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye Chantal :-)
[13:56] ἀρετή: bye Chantal
[13:56] herman Bergson: Bye Chantal....
[13:56] Sousi: Otherwise put: For the wealthy, communism was a system that allowed them to rise far and away higher in wealth compared to the have-nots
[13:56] Lizzy Pleides: we have very different results in happiness rankings
[13:56] herman Bergson: Ok....
[13:56] herman Bergson: For all of you....
[13:56] oola Neruda: i am rather ill today...and must go lie down... be well all of you
[13:56] herman Bergson: Study the GINI coefficient...
[13:56] ἀρετή: is this the part where we go and meditate on the subject? :)
[13:56] herman Bergson: it is in Wikipedia :-)
[13:56] Lizzy Pleides: TC oola
[13:56] Dar: :)
[13:56] xtc yonimyxtc: lol, areyn :-))
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: aw ok oola
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: bye then
[13:57] Sousi: Communism empowers corruption. To nobody's surprise.
[13:57] Dar: Feel better soon.
[13:57] Debbie dB: theres a good graph in wikipedia.
[13:57] ἀρετή: take care, oola
[13:57] herman Bergson: And find the article of Easterlin 1974...I forgot the title....
[13:57] herman Bergson: The growth of......
[13:57] herman Bergson: Anyway
[13:57] xtc yonimyxtc: yes, thank you, professor
[13:58] herman Bergson: Thank you all for this good discussion
[13:58] herman Bergson: Hope to see you all again next time
[[13:58] Bejiita Imako:
[13:58] herman Bergson: Class dismissed
[13:58] Debbie dB: Thanks herman.
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: cu tuesday then
[13:58] Bejiita Imako:
[13:58] xtc yonimyxtc: fare well, bergsonians, until we meet again...
[13:58] Dar: Thank you Herman, everyone.
[13:58] .: Beertje :.: thank you Herman
[13:58] Frau Brause: good night all
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: bye all
[13:58] ἀρετή: fun term.. bergsonians
[13:58] Frau Brause: hope to see u next week
[13:58] bergfrau Apfelbaum: thanks for this interesting topic! herman
[13:58] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ***** APPPPPPPLLLLAAAUUUSSSSEEEEEEE***********
[13:58] ἀρετή: Thanks for the class
[13:58] Lizzy Pleides: good night everyone
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: YAY! (yay!)
[13:58] Debbie dB: and thanks sousi ;) Ill try to think of an alternative
[13:59] bergfrau Apfelbaum: bye bye class :o)

[13:59] Bejiita Imako: cu

No comments:

Post a Comment