Indeed, some have taken up the oars of religion in order to steer along a new course of integrated study. Dr. B. Alan Wallace, founder of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, has proposed a discipline called “Contemplative Science,” which seeks to discover the nature of reality by pursuing genuine happiness, truth, and virtue in an empirical way. (The first chapter of his book Contemplative Science: Where Buddhism and Neuroscience Converge is available here). In 2007, Dr. Wallace led one of the most extensive studies of the long-term benefits of meditation practice ever, called The Shamatha Project. Researchers examined the effects of intensive meditation on attention, cognitive performance, emotional regulation, and health. Scientists are still analyzing the data, but the work is likely to make waves.
Two earlier studies have already yielded suggestive results. One, led by Richard J. Davidson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, showed that long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma wave synchrony. Participants—monks and novices—were asked to practice “compassion” meditation, a complete focus on loving-kindness. In the monks, activity in the left prefrontal cortex (the seat of positive emotions such as happiness) overwhelmed activity in the right prefrontal cortex (the site of negative emotions and anxiety) to an extent never before seen from purely mental activity. The conclusion, according to Dr. Davidson, is that “happiness, compassion, loving-kindness, and clarity of attention can all be regarded as the product of skills that can be enhanced through mental training and this training induces plastic changes in the brain and in the body.” (This according to an Upaya Dharma Podcast, a great resource). In another study, Harvard University’s Sara Lazar showed that meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness (in the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula). More studies need to—and surely will be—performed, but the path of inquiry may have positive public health ramifications. It seems as though meditation is capable of helping an individual truly achieve well-being.
Most interesting of all, in my opinion, is the relationship of ideas across these disciplines. For example, in his book The Synaptic Self, Dr. Joseph LeDoux of New York University argues that the self is created and maintained by arrangements of synaptic connections—pathways of communication between neurons. In an episode of the podcast “Buddhist Geeks” (which I recommend), neuropsychologist and Buddhist teacher Dr. Rick Hanson essentially concurs, describing self as a “network phenomenon” that is constantly changing. The transitory nature of neurobiological identity happens to affirm the Buddhist concept of anatta, or “not-self.” According to Buddhism, there is no inherent, independent existence. This is just one interesting philosophical consequence of our growing understanding of the brain. The interaction between Buddhism and science has yielded exciting data and revolutionary ideas. I look forward to more of this dialogue in the years to come.
Ben Ehrlich is a freelance writer and a contributor to The Beautiful Brain. He graduated from Middlebury College in 2009 with a degree in comparative literature. His blog, which tracks his ongoing research into the life and work of the great Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal, can be found here.Related Articles:
Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hung is one of the most powerful mantras known and is extraordinarily effective in dealing with health challenges. It is powerful. It is universal. It works on many levels; the mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical.
Ra Ma Da Sa is like a rare diamond, which connects you with the pure healing energy of the universe. You can instill the health trend in your consciousness by injecting this strong healing vibration into your mind.
Here is a detailed explanation by Shakta Kaur:
Posture: Sit in easy pose or in a chair with a straight spine.
Focus: Eyes are closed and focused at the third-eye point.
Breath: The breath will come automatically as you chant. Inhale deeply before you begin chanting.
Mantra: “Ra Ma Da Sa, Sa Say So Hung.” The mantra should be sung in one complete exhalation. As you chant the first “Sa,” your navel point is pulled in so that this syllable is abbreviated. You should rest for 4 beats between the first “Sa” and the second “Sa.” You should also pull your navel point in as you chant “Hung.” “Hung” should be vibrated at the root of the nose. The rest of the syllables are drawn out in a strong, powerful chant. Strive to keep your chant at full volume (loud but not raucous) throughout the meditation.
Meaning of Mantra:
- Ra=sun energy
- Ma=moon energy
- Da=earth energy
- Sa=infinity, universal energy
- Sa=repeat in second half of mantra
- Say=the personal embodiment of Sa
- So=the personal sense of merger with Sa
- Hung=the Infinite, vibrating and real.
The mantra literally means, “I am Thou.” It is also used to mean, “The service of God is within me.”
Mudra: Bend the arms and bring the elbows against the side of the rib cage. The palms of the hands are parallel and face the sky. The elbows are snug at your sides with the forearms in close to your upper arms. The hands are at a 60 degree angle, halfway between pointing forward and pointing to the sides (pictured).
Time: 11 minutes, increasing gradually to 31 minutes.
End: Inhale deeply, hold your breath and visualize the person you want to send healing to (it can be yourself). Make that image in your mind very clear and see a glowing green light around the person. Keeping that person in your mind, exhale. Inhale deeply, hold your breath and continue to send the person healing green light. Still keeping that vision in your mind, exhale. For the last time, inhale deeply, hold your breath and see the person very clearly, see the green healing light bathing the person, bathing every cell in the body. Exhale and relax.
Note: This highly effective meditation deals with vayu siddhi, the power of air. It brings health and many other desirable positive changes. If you wish to heal yourself, imagine a glowing green light around yourself as you meditate.
Chanting or listening to this mantra set to this classical tune will drive out depression and revibrate your life. It is timeless and can not be outdated. It has worked in the past, it works now, and it will work in the future. There is no time, no place, no space and no condition attached to this mantra. It burns the seed of disease. Use it everyday. Offer it to anyone.
If you work with it, it will work for you. In moments of anxiety, despair, fear or worry, let it be your safeguard. It will give you a strong sense of your own centeredness.
In the words of Yogi Bhajan, Master of White Tantric and Kundalini Yoga, who openly taught this healing mantra to the Western world, "It has worked for three thousand, four hundred years, why should it not work now?"