Compassion is not superiority (Day 42)

May 23, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessIt’s very easy for us to assume that the one who feels compassion is in some way superior to the one he or she feels compassion for. This is partly rooted, I presume, in the assumption that it’s weak to suffer, but that assumption in turn grows from our biological conditioning. We’re social animals, and one of the things a social animal has as part of its genetic makeup is a propensity to establish where it stands in a social hierarchy.

In Buddhist terms this is “seeking status,” which is one pair of the eight lokadhammas, which could be translated as “ways of the world,” although it’s often poetically rendered as the “eight worldly … Read more »

Brains of Buddhist monks scanned in meditation study

April 24, 2011

Matt Danzico: In a laboratory tucked away off a noisy New York City street, a soft-spoken neuroscientist has been placing Tibetan Buddhist monks into a car-sized brain scanner to better understand the ancient practice of meditation.

But could this unusual research not only unravel the secrets of leading a harmonious life but also shed light on some of the world’s more mysterious diseases?

Zoran Josipovic, a research scientist and adjunct professor at New York University, says he has been peering into the brains of monks while they meditate in an attempt to understand how their brains reorganise themselves during the exercise.

Since 2008, the researcher has been placing the minds and bodies of prominent Buddhist … Read more »

Aldous Huxley: “We can only love what we know, and we can never know completely what we do not love. Love is a mode of knowledge…”

January 21, 2009

Aldous Huxley

Halfway between “the season of goodwill” and Valentine’s Day, Bodhipaksa looks at Huxley’s understanding of what love really is. Is love a feeling, or is it a way of knowing?

What do we mean when we say the word “love”? What does it really mean to love someone? In what way is love “a mode of knowledge.” When we’re talking about the fact that we love ice cream we obviously mean something very different from the love we talk about having for a person. One’s just a simple desire for sense-fulfillment while the other is much more complex. But even when we talk about loving another person there are many different forms of love. At … Read more »

Brain activity altered during religious experience

January 2, 2009

In America there’s a feeling of Christmas. But that’s not the only winter holiday going on. Jews are lighting Hanukkah candles, Muslims recently feasted on Eid al-Adha, and pagans celebrated the solstice. So it’s a good time for researchers to consider spirituality—from a scientific point of view.

One experience central to major religions around the world is that of transcendence, the idea of almost losing a sense of self to the feeling that there’s something bigger out there. Now scientists at the University of Missouri say they’ve located that experience in our brains. All the people studied, from Buddhist monks in meditation to Francescan nuns in prayer, experience this transcendence. And they all have decreased … Read more »

“Gesture of Awareness,” by Charles Genoud

April 26, 2008

Gesture of Awareness, by Charles GenoudHow useful can books be in stimulating spiritual realization, when such realization must be grounded in experience? Paramananda takes a skeptical — yet appreciative — look at a new book attempting to pointing the way to non-duality.

It seems a little ironic that I find myself in two minds about Genoud’s book — ironic because this slim volume is all about “being” in one mind. It is not that I in any way disagree with what Genoud is trying to point the reader towards, which is the essential non-dual nature of reality. It is more that I am just a little skeptical that such “pointings” are of much use when they appear in a generalized … Read more »