By Sydney Eppinger
“To the mandarins of neuroscience, the very idea seemed as likely as the wings of a butterfly leaving a dent on an armored tank.”- His Holiness The Dalai Lama, 2007
Science and spirituality have often lain at opposite sides of the spectrum of beliefs. However, with the help of the Dalai Lama, that gap in conviction could take one step closer to agreement.
With an ever-expanding interest in the research of our science community, over the past five years His Holiness has been involved with the exploration of the human brain. Specifically, the investigation of thoughts, emotions, and beliefs that one produces and their effect on the physical workings of the brain.
In a study done by the University of Wisconsin, Madison, a group of volunteers who underwent brief meditative training and a group of highly experienced Buddhist monk adepts (meditators) were studied in their practice of a specific type of meditation called nonreferential compassion. Focusing on unlimited love, kindness, and caring for all beings, the two groups’ brain activities were monitored and recorded. After review, it was clear that the appearance of gamma waves, which are “implicated in creating the unity of conscious perception” according to the US Library on National Medicine, were the predominant result of this type of meditation for both groups.
However, when monitored long after the meditation had ceased, the researchers noticed that while the volunteers’ gamma wave output had returned to normal, the monks’ gamma wave signals never decreased. They actually continued to rise and remain strong long after the monks had stopped mediation. This suggests that the monks had a longer lasting sense of happiness, compassion, and love than the volunteers.
What does this mean for the scientific community? With the help of the Dalai Lama and a little investigative thought, the minds lasting effects on the brains’ activity may become less of a mystery and above all else, a very useful skill.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama will speak on Oct. 18 and 19 at Western Connecticut State University, and the public is invited to a free video simulcast in the Ives Concert Hall, 180 White St. To help promote this opportunity, WCSU students have created a Twitter page.