An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Meditation, Compassion and the Rogue Scientists!

Recently – on Nov 12, 2005 – the Dalai Lama address the Annual COnference of the Society for Neuroscience. He was brought at the behest of a renowned Neuroscientist – Richard Davidson. Davidson is a Professor of Neurosciences at University of Wisconsin, Madison.

He has performed several clinical tests and experiments on Monk – many from Dalai Lama’s group and others – to understand how the brain reacts and works after a person has practised meditation. The results were just startling!

He suggests that with prolonged meditation the brains functions and inherent structuring could be altered. In June 2002 his team had done experiments on Mattien Ricard. He was from a monastery in Nepal.. with several thousand hours of meditation behind him. The team put on 120-odd electrodes on his head and asked him to think about “Unconditional loving kindness and compassion”. The meditative exercise of Ricard produced unusual amounts of Gamma waves.. not seen in normal humans! In fact the Gamma waves in the brains of various monks studied were at least 30 TIMES higher than the research team’s!

The oscillations in the cortex of the brain also resembled that of a person under anaesthesia. It was seen that the prefrontal cortex – the part responsible for emotions was particularly active… the ability to focus on an emotion such as Compassion had resulted in predominance of activity in an area that was linked to such emotions in brain’s activity!

The article in the “Wired” does suggest that brain nerves like our Muscles can be “trained” and made to work in a wilful manner! It is something that Swami Vivekananda said in his lectures in 1895.. and the Vedic Rishis knew since 10,000 years.. INSTINCT CAN BE UNLEARNED! In fact as Swami Vivekananda says so well “Instinct is Degeneration of Voluntary Action

Now many amongst the Neuroscientists community weren’t very happy with Dalai Lama giving an address at this occassion! Their “beef” was that he is a “religious” person and so has no place in a scientific community! In fact many boycotted the function and many gave in their dissent in writing!

One of the foremost critic was this person called Yi Rao! This is what Yi had to say:

“This science is sub-standard… the motivation of both Dalai Lama and Davidson are questionable!” He went on to charge that Davidson is a politically involved scientist who engineered Dalai Lama’s invitation to lend scientific legitimacy to Buddhism and press Chinese Government to free Tibet!!

It is interesting because Yi is CHINESE! 🙂

Now, in his contradictory allegations and “dissent” this self-proclaimed “objective” scientist has NOT given EVEN ONE proof or argument on WHY Dalai Lama’s contention – that meditation can help improve control over neural system – and Davidson’s extensive research is INCORRECT?!! Not ONE WORD on that! Just simple allegations.. upon allegations.. bogus conclusions built upon bogus conclusions! And interestingly, over HALF of the 544 signatories of petition protesting Dalai Lama’s address were Chinese. Go figure!

It is as if science has been restricted to only those things that can be done in lab and which should necessarily eschew any reference to ANY religious activity whatsoever! The motivations and inspirations that took scientific minds like Einstein and Newton and Heisenberg to such heights.. is now not only frowned upon but considered BLASPHEMOUS!!

Why am I deliberating on this point in such detail? Because I have had similar run-ins with a self-proclaimed “scientist” who studied from IIT and did his PhD.. in a school where the Atomic giant Dirac walked the corridors. That gives him enough gunpowder to to a “Yi Rao” whenever Science is uttered. He starts with his tirade of Bogus conclusions upon bogus conclusions! It happened in one debate on Intentblog and he writes on his own blog – where you can sample his generally mindless and senseless rants!

This cult-like mentality amongst today’s egotistic scientific community which cannot seek inspirations from other disciplines – even in the most obvious corners – is something that amazes me… and lends me to believe that science as we know it will have it very tough in the coming times!

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