32 UTILITY OF BUDDHIST MEDITATION TO OVERCOME PHYSICAL INFIRMITY AND MENTAL DISORDERS BASED ON MODERN NEUROSCIENCE   RESEARCHES

Thứ năm - 09/05/2019 05:05
by Ven. Polgolle Kusaladhamma
49



 
UTILITY OF BUDDHIST MEDITATION TO OVERCOME PHYSICAL INFIRMITY AND MENTAL DISORDERS BASED ON MODERN NEUROSCIENCE   RESEARCHES

 
by Ven. Polgolle Kusaladhamma*



INTRODUCTION

Buddhist Meditation practices mainly focus to train the mind for overcoming the suffering, problems, especially negative forces in emotions that create mental unrest, unhappiness, fear, and frustration etc. which brings more problems and suffering. The negative emotions bring not only mental unrest, but also it is detrimental to physical health. The positive states of the mind bring inner strength, mental fortitude and, due to that beneficial to the physical health. The modern neuroscientist also explore about the brain mechanisms pertain of attention and emotion. Neuron system is the most complex organ system in the body. Neurons are cells specialized for communication. The neurons send information one neuron to another as electrical signals. These cells have the ability to communicate with other types of cells. The neuron electrically excitable cells that receives, processes and transmits information through electrical and chemical signals. The transmission occurs via synapses. Mainly neurons system consists with two components, the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.1

Buddhist traditional Meditation practices associate with some philosophical and metaphysical concepts also. Therefore scientific

* Doctor. Coordinator & Lecturer, Department of Buddhist Studies, SIBA Campus, Sri Lanka
  1. Wade, Nicholas.1999. p 234
 


research about the Meditation practices must distinguish the empirical aspects of the Buddhist teaching and other aspect of the Meditation practices. Neurologists prove the simple Meditation practices can make observable changes in the human neuron system.

BUDDHIST MEDITATION AND NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCHES

The Pali term bhāvanā has been translated into English as Meditation. The term bhāvanā has derived from the term “bhāva which gives the meanings such as emotion,sentiment,and state of mind.” The Pali term bhāvanā literally means development, cultivating,and producing.Pali Text Societys Pali-English Dictionary has given the meaning for term bhāvanā, as producing, dwelling on something, putting ones thoughts to, application, developing by means of thought or meditation, cultivation by mind, culture2. The English term Meditation derived from the Latin term meditari.” considering the state of consciousness in which the individual eliminates environmental stimuli from awareness. So that, the mind has a single focus for the relaxation and relief from stress. A wide variety of techniques are used to clear the mind of stressful outside interface.

Mosbys medical Dictionary define Meditation as a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention order to awareness of the present moment, reduce the stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth. Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing defines Meditation as; any mental activity intended to keep the practitioners attention in the present; has been used for several thousand years to balance physical, emotional, and mental states; sometimes employed as part of overall therapy for diverse medical conditions (e.g. providing pain relief, lowering blood pressure)


 
  1. See Sutta - See on term Dhs. trsl 261 (240); Expos. I. 217 (DhsA. 163); Cpd. 207 n. 2.
Cp. pari, vi, sam.Vin. I, 294 (indriya); D. III, 219 (three: kāya, citta, paññā), 221, 225, 285, 291;
S. I, 48; Dh. 73, 301; J. I, 196 (mettā); III, 45 (id.); Nd 143 (saññā); Nett 91 (samatha-vipas- sanaṃ); Vbh. 12, 16 sq.99, 325; Vism. 130 (karaa, bhāvanā, rakkhaṇa; here bh. bringing out, keeping in existence), 314 (karuṇā), 317 (upekkhā); Miln. 25 (ṃanuyuñjati); Sdhp. 15, 216,
233, 451.
 


Buddhist meditations divide into two categories as samatha and vipassana meditations. Pali Text Societys Pali-English Dictionary imply Samatha as, Calm, quietude of heart, tranquility, serenity and cessation of the Sakras3. The Pali Term Vipassanā translated to English as insight,clear seeing.The Prefix Vi means special and the root pasmeans see. The term Vipassnā means seeing deeply.It define as,

Looking into something with clarity and precision, seeing each component as distinct and separate, and piercing all the way through so as to perceive the most fundamental reality of that thing4.”

The synonym for term Vipassanā  is  paccakkha;  gives the means such as before the eyesor direct experiential perception.It  rejects  the  knowledge  derived  from  reasoning or arguments. In Tibatian Buddhism Pali term Vipassanā use as ihagthong.The term ihag means higher,superior,greater, the term thongmeans view,or to see.”  Thusihagthong gives the meaning superior seeing,great vissioin,supreme wisdom,superior manner of seeing,and seeing that which the essential nature  is.”  It  refers  to  insight  into  the  tilakkhaa or three marks of existence such as impermanence, suffering, or unsatisfactoriness, and realization of non-self. (aniccatā, dukkhatā, anattatā).

The Sabbāsava Sutta and the Satipahāna Sutta mainly explain the way of free from all kind of unsatisfactoriness, unhappiness and unpleasantness. All the problems come to human beings according to Buddhism not mainly due to the external world. Buddhism emphasize that human mind is the main object which pertaining to suffer and happiness. Sabbāsava Sutta in Majjhima-Nikāya Buddha says,

Monks, I will teach you the method of restraining the mind from all the desire or cankers.

Then the Buddha proclaimed impotent of wise attention. Yo niso manasikāra.” When people live with wise attention new defilements


3. PTS. M. I, 33; A. I, 61, 95; II, 140; III, 86 sq. (ceto), 116 sq. , 449; IV, 360; V, 99; D. III,
54, 213, 273; DhA. II, 177; S. IV, 362; Dhs. 11, 15, 54.
4. Gunaratana, Henepola. 2011, P. 21
 


will not enter into the mind. The defilements exist in the mind can see clearly through wise attention and it is easy to eradicate from the mind. Buddhist meditation prescribe regard to the human temperaments or carita. The term carita derived from the car+ta which gives the meanings such as behavior, temperaments or the perfuming of charity. Pāli canon use another synonyms cariya which gives the meaning behavior, practice, habit, familiarity, and temperament. According to the Visuddhimagga, carita means personal nature (pakati), and idiosyncrasy (ussanna) etc. There are six temperaments.
Rāga carita - greedy temperaments.

Psychic phenomena related to greedy temperaments are Deceit (māyā), hypocrisy (ṭheyya), excessive wish (mahicchatā), evil wish (picchatā), discontentment (asantuṭhi), persuasion (saṅga) avariciousness (tintina), discourteous living (asabhāgavutti), tedium (arati), apathy (tandi), restlessness (vijambhita), after meal drowsiness (bhattasammado), sluggishness (satasonattaṃ), guile (kuhanā), insinuating talk (lapanā), and seeking profit by profit. (lābena lābaṃ nijiginsanatā)

Abnormal Behaviors: Harming to others, Killing animals, Stealing, Sexual misconduct, taking intoxicant, frequently watching drama, wandering the streets at inappropriate times, associate with evil companions.

Treatment (Meditation): Nīlakasiṇa (Blue kasia), The ten Loathsome Objects (asubha- kammaṭhāna) Bloated corpse, Livid corpse, Festering corpse, Corpse cut open, Gnawed corpse, Scattered corpse, Hacked and scattered corpse, Bleeding corpse, Worm-infested corpse and Skeleton. And Kayagatāsati. (contemplation on body)
Dosa Carita - Anger Temperaments.

Psychic phenomena related to anger temperaments are anger (kodha), grudge (upanāha), ingratitude (makkha), disparaging (palāsa), jealousy (issā), meanness (macchariya), contumacy (dovacassata), and having evil friends (pāpamittā).
Abnormal  Behaviors:  Harming  to  others,  Killing  animals,
 


uncontrolled  senses,  self-mortification,  malevolence,  disobedient, Associate with evil companions, and engaged with war.

Treatment (Meditation): Nīla Kasiṇa (blue kasia), ta kasia (Yellow kasia), Lohita kasia (red kasia), Odāta kasia (White kasia), The four sublime abodes (Brahma vihāra); Loving- kindness meditation (mettā  bhāvanā), Compassion meditation (karuā bhāvaā), meditation of sympathetic joy (muditā bhāvanā), and meditation of Equanimity (upekkhā bhāvanā).
Moha Carita - Dull Temperaments

Psychic phenomena related to dull temperaments are sloth (thīna), restlessness (uddaccha), remorse (kukkucca), doubt (vicikicchā), dogma  (adanaggāhi), difficulty  in renouncing (duppainissaggitā), un-mindfulness (muttahasacca),  and  absence of awareness (asampajañña).

Abnormal Behaviors: frivolous talk, false speech, talkative, laziness, confuse, admiring the evil doer, insulting to wise, delight on should not delight, non-delight on should delight, no his own opinion, and does not like to eliminate wrong views.

Treatment (Meditation): simple mediation practices such as Ānasati Bhāvanā (mindfulness on breath).
Saddhā carita - faithful temperaments.

Psychic phenomena related to faithful temperaments are free generosity(muttaga),desiretoseeaNobleperson(ariyānadassana kāmatā), desire to hear doctrine of the Noble person (saddhammaṃ sotukāmatā), great gladness (mojjabahulatā), ingenuousness (asaṭa hatā), honesty (amāyāvitā), and faith in things of faith (pasādanīyesuhānesu pasādo), are frequently arising whole mental phenomena in faithful temperaments.

Behaviors: they have benevolence activities. Only they have improve their qualities. Patient, wisely talking, compassion, loving- kindness, like share knowledge, clean, gentle, generosity, not a opportunist, beloved to father, mother, sisters, brothers, wife and husband, faithful to religion, admiring others good qualities, like to development, practice the equanimity, doesnt like give pain to others, like to calm environment, like to read books, and have wide vision.
 


However there is a chance to cheat them due to amūlikā saddhā.

Meditation: Dasa Anussati (ten recollections): Recollection of the Buddha, Recollection of the Dhamma, Recollection of the Sagha, Recollection of Virtue, Recollection of Generosity, Recollection of Divine Beings, Recollection of Death, Recollection of the Body, Recollection of Breathing, and Recollection of Peace.
Buddhi Carita - Intelligence temperaments.

Psychic phenomena related to intelligence  temperaments; the person is easy to be admonished (savacassatā), possession of good friends (kalyāna mittatā), has moderation in diet (bojane amattñutā), devotes to wakefulness and has sense of urgency at eight grounds for the sense of urgency (saṃveganiyesu hanesu saṃvego), and practices wisely by means of sense of urgency (saṃviggassaca yoniso padhānaṃ)

Behaviors: keen knowledge, inheritably wise, improve the intellectual capacity, wise, easily understand, benevolence behaviors, associate with the good companions, mindful, have good memory power, and no indulge in foods. They have only develop their good qualities.

Mediation: maraṇānussati bhāvanā (recollection of death), āhārepaikūla saññā (Repulsiveness of Food), and catudhātu- vavaṭhāna (Analysis of the Four Elements).
Vitakka Carita - Speculative temperaments.

Psychic phenomena related to speculative temperaments; talkativeness (bhassabahulata), sociability (ganaramatā), boredom with devotion to the profitable (rattindumayana), and flaming by day(divapajjalana).

Abnormal Behaviors: Talkative, Frequenting public spectacle, does not like to meritorious deeds, live in dream world, constantly change the opinion, believe others, everything without any order, and like to dwell in impure environment.
Treatments: Ānasati meditation, blue Kasiṇa.

IBMT did the experiment using two different groups of students. One group of students practiced the Meditation while
 


other practice relaxation. Before 5 days two groups were similar by, behavioural, endocrine, and immune. After 5 days Meditation training, control group showed significant improvement of attention and positive mood. They showed reduced of cortisol and secretion hormones, which pertaining to reducing the stress and increased immune reactivity. The scientists used new technologies such as physiological reaction in heart rate, respiratory amplitude and rate, skin conductance response (SCR), and brain imaging to monitor autonomic nervous system.

The Meditated group showed higher levels of self-regulation than relaxation group. The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and prefrontal cortex (PFC) of the brain show mechanism of self- regulation of attention and emotion. During the training, activity of the ACC and PFC increased more in the Meditation group than relaxation group.

Furthermore, scientists showed Meditation affiliated by physical changes such as oxygen consumption, heart rate, skin resistance etc. Especially the function of autonomic neuron system, including heart rate, skin resistance and conductance, respiratory amplitude rate and EEG frequencies. The Meditation group shows an increase of autonomic neuron system, especially parasympathetic neuron system than others. The Meditated group shows greater EEG power in the midline theta wave and the frontal midline theta rhythm will be positively correlated with high-frequency of heart rate. Major chemicals inside the brain that affect neural activity. Primary neurotransmitters and its effect to the body,
  1. Glutamate      - excites receiving neurons
 
  1. GABA (Gama amino-butyric acid) - inhibits receiving neurons.
The main Neuromodulators (influence the neurotransmitters);
  1. Serotonin      - regulate mood, sleep, and digestion.
Antidepressants  increasing
  1. Dopamine     - involved with rewards and attention.
  2. Norepinephrine - alerts and arouses
 
 
  1. Acetylcholine - Promotes wakefulness and learning
 
  1. Opioids         - buffer stress, provide soothing, reduce pain, produce pleasure
 
  1. Oxytocin      - promotes nurturing behaviours toward children and bonding couples. Associate with blissful closeness and love.
 
  1. Vasopressin    - supports pair bonding. It may promote aggressiveness toward sexual rivals.
 
  1. Cortisol        - released by the adrenal glands during the stress response.
  2. Estrogen       - affect libido, mood, and memory

In human brain contains 100 billion neurons and 1000 synapses on each. If the person stuck on certain thoughts, he has problem with cingulate system. If trouble in focusing his attention, he has problem in Prefrontal cortex prescription. If increase the anxiety, the problem is in basal ganglia system. If it is difficult to connect meaningfully with others, the problem is in the deep limbic system. If cannot tame the temper, the problem is in the temporal lobes. According to estimate, human body can sense some 20 million bites of information per second. While conscious mind it is about 40 bits of information per second. The compassion and happiness for the infant helpful to enlargement of the brain during first few weeks.

John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, show how Meditation practices affect genes and brain activity. His latest work show how Meditation can switch on and off some genes linked to stress and immune function. Meditation makes free of all the neurotic behavior that results from the existence of a tortured. The Meditation certainly is the way to cure such neurosis and unhealthy emotional states.

The mind is immaterial. It is co-occurs and interrelated with material neural activity. What flows through the mind sculpts your brain. It makes physical changes such as,
  1. Alterations brain waves
  2. Consumption of oxygen and glucose
 
 
  1. Ebbs and flows of neurochemicals
  2. Increased blood/nutrient flow to active regions.
  3. Altered epigenetics.
  4. Increasing the excitability of active neurons.
  5. Strengthening existing synapses.
  6. Building new synapses; thickening cortex
  7. Neuronal pruning
 
  1. Thickness and strengthens the anterior (frontal) cingulate cortex and insula. Those area involved with controlled attention, empathy, and compassion. The Meditation can improve these functions.
  2. Less cortical thinning with aging
 
  1. Increase activation of the left frontal regions, which lifts moods.
  2. Increases the power and reach of fast, gamma brainwaves.
  3. Decreased stress-related cortisol
  4. Stronger immune system5

The activity in the frontal region of the brain reflects a persons emotional state. Especially right frontal areas marks the fleeting positive mood. The negative emotions fade more quickly in people by more left-frontal activities. The Meditation on compassion showed greater shift toward left-frontal activation.

With the support of His Holiness Dalai Lama, Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin started an experiments on effects of Meditation on the brain. His results explained that long-term, or short-term practice of Meditation affect in different levels of activity in brain regions related to qualities such as attention, anxiety, depression, fear, and anger. He show body it-self has ability of healing.
Many  doctors  prescribing  Meditation  for  blood  pressure,

 
  1. Rick Hanson, 2011 p. 26
 


angina, and asthma breathe easier, relieve insomnia and stress. The experiments describe that deep relaxation changes our bodies on a genetic level. The researchers at Harvard Medical School discovered that, disease-fighting geneswere active in long-term practitioners of Meditation more than others. They found genes that protect from affections such as pain, infertility, high blood pressure arthritis, stronger immunity, healthier hormone levels and lower blood pressure. The hypnotherapist at Londons Body Mind Medicine Centre report on their experiment and says,

After two months, their bodies began to change, the genes that help fight inflammation, kill diseased cells and protect the body from cancer. All began to active.
Fifteen minutes of Meditation can produce following health benefits,
    1. Increased immunity - Researches at the Ohio State University found that Meditation increased immunity in recovering cancer patients. When it practices daily, reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence. A month of mediation exercises boost natural killer cells, and giving them resistance to tumors and to viruses. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin reported meditators also showed a significant increase in immunity to the flu.
 
    1. Increased Fertility – A research at the University of Western Australia found that women are more likely to conceive during periods when they are relaxed rather than stressed. A research at Trakya University, in Turkey, also found that stress reduces sperm count and motility, relaxation also boost male fertility.
 
    1. Lowers the blood pressure - Harvard Medical School and British Medical Journal report that Meditation lowered blood pressure by making the body less responsive to stress hormones.
 
    1. Anti-inflammatory - The researchers at Emory University in the US say that Stress leads to inflammation, a state linked to heart disease, arthritis, asthma and skin conditions such as psoriasis, say Meditation can help prevent and treat such symptoms.
 
 
    1. Relieves irritable bowel syndrome - The researchers at the State University of New York recommended Meditation twice a day as an effective treatment to irritable bowel syndrome.
 
    1. Reduce the physical pain, anxiety and stress - A study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics showed sustained benefits over a three year period in a group of women who had taken an eight-week course in Meditation.
 
    1. Helps lower blood sugar- Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles showed that patients were able to lower their blood pressure, blood sugar and insulin by practicing Meditation.
 
    1. Donald K. Swearer has said: Meditation is also promoted in Thailand as a treatment for patients with AIDS. Beginning in 1989, a team of psychologists, social workers and nurses utilized Meditation techniques as part of a hospital training program to help care workers who treat HIV and drug dependent   patients.

Meditation more helpful for various health problems such as anxiety, pain, depression, stress, insomnia etc. (Physical or emotional symptoms that may be associated with chronic illnesses (such as heart disease, HIV/AIDS, and cancer) and their treatment.) Researches in 210 institutes including Harvard, and UCLA Medical School, in 33 countries show benefits of Meditation.
  1. Reduced High Blood Pressure and Death Rates - American Journal of Cardiology
 
  1. Reduced High Blood Pressure and Reduced Hypertension - American Journal of Hypertension
  2. Reduced Atherosclerosis - American Journal of Cardiology
 
  1. Reduced Thickening of Coronary Arteries - The American Heart Associations Stroke
 
  1. Reduced Blood Pressure - International Journal of Neuroscience
  2. Slowing of Aging - International Journal of Neuroscience
 
 
  1. Reduced  Hospitalization  Rates  -  American  Journal  of Managed Care
  2. Increased Creativity - Journal of Creative Behavior
  3. Decreased Anxiety - Journal of Clinical Psychology
  4. Reduced Alcohol Abuse - American Journal of Psychiatry
  5. Increased Productivity - Academy of Management Journal
 
  1. Reduced   Blood   Pressure:   Comparisons   with   Other Procedures-TheAmericanHeartAssociationsHypertension

CONCLUSION

In first two years every single neuron has 2500 synapses and at age three grow into 15000 synapses per neuron. In average adult has half that number of synapses. The reason is come connections are strengthened while eliminated and some connections never used and die. It is known as synaptic purring. The Meditation practices influence to the human neuron system and body functions. Scientists investigate use of effective, preventative, and non-pharmacological options to treat the mental illnesses. The Meditation practices important to regulate emotions, mood, and stress. Short time period meditation practice makes people calm, less stressed, and relax. 20 minutes of Meditation leads to physical changes such as reduced blood pressure, lower the heart rate, deeper and calmer breathing, lower risk of heart attack, and treatment for chronic and acute pain.

Four days of Meditation show reduced of unpleasantness and intensity of the pain. The Meditation increases the function of the left hemisphere, orbito-frontal cortex and hippocampus regions which linked with positive mood, immune functions. While aging the people thins the cortex of the brain and it can be cause for dementia. Scientific experiments show around one hour Meditation for six years increased the cortical thickness.

Neurobiologist believed human brain grow during infancy and childhood until 1960. The brain plasticity means brains ability of changing and adapt as a result of experiences. Modern neurobiologists believe the brain continues to create new neural pathways and learn new information and create new memories according to
 


neuron plasticity. The plasticity occur during the lifetime but more predominant during specific life ages. The plasticity involves brain cells other than neurons including glial and vascular cells. The plasticity occurs due to learning, experiences, memory formation, or damage to the brain. The environment and genetics influence to it.

 

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