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Buddhist meditation practices have become a topic of widespread interest in both science and medicine. Traditional Buddhist formulations describe meditation as a state of relaxed alertness that must guard against both excessive hyperarousal (restlessness) and excessive hypoarousal (drowsiness, sleep). Modern applications of meditation have emphasized the hypoarousing and relaxing effects without as much emphasis on the arousing or alertness-promoting effects. In an attempt to counterbalance the plethora of data demonstrating the relaxing and hypoarousing effects of Buddhist meditation, this interdisciplinary review aims to provide evidence of meditation's arousing or wake-promoting effects by drawing both from Buddhist textual sources and from scientific studies, including subjective, behavioral, and neuroimaging studies during wakefulness, meditation, and sleep. Factors that may influence whether meditation increases or decreases arousal are discussed, with particular emphasis on dose, expertise, and contemplative trajectory. The course of meditative progress suggests a nonlinear multiphasic trajectory, such that early phases that are more effortful may produce more fatigue and sleep propensity, while later stages produce greater wakefulness as a result of neuroplastic changes and more efficient processing.
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"This landmark collection is the definitive introduction to the Buddha's teachings in his own words. The American scholar monk Bhikkhu Bodhi, whose voluminous translations have won widespread acclaim, here presents selected discourses of the Buddha from the Pali Canon, the earliest record of what the Buddha taught. Divided into ten thematic chapters, In the Buddha's Words reveals the full scope of the Buddha's discourses, from family life and marriage to renunciation and the path of insight. A concise informative introduction precedes each chapter, guiding the reader toward a deeper understanding of the texts that follow." "In the Buddha's Words allows even readers unacquainted with Buddhism to grasp the significance of the Buddha's contributions to our world heritage. Taken as a whole, these texts bear eloquent testimony to the breadth and intelligence of the Buddha's teachings, and point the way to an ancient yet ever vital path. Students and seekers alike will find this systematic presentation indispensable."--BOOK JACKET.

The category "experience" has played a cardinal role in modern studies of Buddhism. Few scholars seem to question the notion that Buddhist monastic practice, particularly meditation, is intended first and foremost to inculcate specific religious or "mystical" experiences in the minds of practitioners. Accordingly, a wide variety of Buddhist technical terms pertaining to the "stages on the path" are subject to a phenomenological hermeneutic-they are interpreted as if they designated discrete "states of consciousness" experienced by historical individuals in the course of their meditative practice. This paper argues that the role of experience in the history of Buddhism has been greatly exaggerated in contemporary scholarship. Both historical and ethnographic evidence suggests that the privileging of experience may well be traced to certain twentieth-century Asian reform movements, notably those that urge a "return" to zazen or vipassanā meditation, and these reforms were profoundly influenced by religious developments in the West. Even in the case of those contemporary Buddhist schools that do unambiguously exalt meditative experience, ethnographic data belies the notion that the rhetoric of meditative states functions ostensively. While some adepts may indeed experience "altered states" in the course of their training, critical analysis shows that such states do not constitute the reference points for the elaborate Buddhist discourse pertaining to the "path." Rather, such discourse turns out to function ideologically and performatively-wielded more often than not in the interests of legitimation and institutional authority.

This article examines the lay meditation movement occurring in contemporary Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The lay meditation movement represents a different perspective from the nationalistic Sinhala Buddhism that has dominated the discourse in the wake of the intractable ethnic conflict in the country. The lay meditation movement reflects the contemporary ferment in Buddhist discourse among the laity. One of the key themes in this movement is the privileging of experience because it gives the lay groups authority to challenge contemporary orthodoxy and it has empowered a new class of spiritual leaders, the lay gurus. Paraphrasing Stirrat, we can say that these lay gurus are leading the lay meditation movement towards ‘a series of different interpretations of what it means’ to be a Buddhist today. In its overall effect the lay meditation movement not only reconstructs what it means to be a Buddhist today but also points in the direction of establishing new forms of sectarianism that could be considered to be ‘new religious movements’ under the umbrella of Buddhism.

Abstract. We explore the role of meditative practice in cultivating experiences of compassion, empathy, and altruism and address an apparent paradox: Meditation often is associated with solitary retreat, if not preoccupation with one's own concerns. How, then, does such a practice promote compassion for others? We propose a two-stage model. The first stage involves disengagement from usual preoccupation with self-reinforcing, self-defeating, or self-indulgent behaviors and reactions; the second involves a focused engagement with a universal human capacity for altruistic experience, love, and compassion. Reference is made to the limited research literature and to clinical applications of loving kindness (metta) meditation in cultivating these processes.

Over the past 30 years the practice of meditation has become increasingly popular in clinical settings. In addition to evidence-based medical uses, meditation may have psychiatric benefits. In this review, the literature on the role of meditation in addressing psychiatric issues, and specifically substance use disorders, is discussed. Each of the three meditation modalities that have been most widely studied—transcendental meditation, Buddhist meditation, and mindfulness-based meditation—is critically examined in terms of its background, techniques, mechanisms of action, and evidence-based clinical applications, with special attention given to its emerging role in the treatment of substance use disorders. The unique methodological difficulties that beset the study of meditation are also considered. A brief discussion then integrates the research that has been completed thus far, elucidates the specific ways that meditation may be helpful for substance use disorders, and suggests new avenues for research.

This study examined the effects of meditation on mental imagery, evaluating Buddhist monks' reports concerning their extraordinary imagery skills. Practitioners of Buddhist meditation were divided into two groups according to their preferred meditation style: Deity Yoga (focused attention on an internal visual image) or Open Presence (evenly distributed attention, not directed to any particular object). Both groups of meditators completed computerized mental-imagery tasks before and after meditation. Their performance was compared with that of control groups, who either rested or performed other visuospatial tasks between testing sessions. The results indicate that all the groups performed at the same baseline level, but after meditation, Deity Yoga practitioners demonstrated a dramatic increase in performance on imagery tasks compared with the other groups. The results suggest that Deity meditation specifically trains one's capacity to access heightened visuospatial processing resources, rather than generally improving visuospatial imagery abilities.