Q. Can neuroscience open a new door for meditation?
A. The benefit of neuroscience for meditators, by which I mean not only Buddhists but everyone interested in meditation, is that neuroscience can actually map and reveal, visually, changes in the brain caused by meditation, which naturally increases our confidence in the practice of meditation. When we meditate, we don’t directly see evidence of a result, which used to not be a problem, but now in the 21st Century we’re all in such a hurry and so lacking time that we have neither the patience nor the time that Jetsun Milarepa did. So it’s easy for us to become discouraged or disheartened by a lack of evidence of improvement. Because neuroscience can literally show the results of meditation practice, it increases one’s confidence. Nevertheless we are just beginning to study this. Neuroscientists are really just beginning the active experimental study of meditators. As the technology develops further and is constantly updated, evidence of the results of meditation, more specific results and so forth, will no doubt increase.
However there is one problem, which is that generally where there are great meditators, there is no technology, and where there is technology, there are no great meditators. In the past, for example in Tibet, there were lots of great meditators because there was no technology so therefore there were no distractions. There was nothing to do other than meditate, so they meditated very well. On the other hand, now, when we have all of this technology that would enable neuroscience to examine great meditators, we’re all too distracted and entertained by the technology to be great meditators.
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