Monday, May 17, 2010

Just Because You Meditated for 30 Years Doesn't Mean You See the World As It Truly Is




Buddhists claim that through meditation you can achieve enlightenment. A part of that enlightenment is seeing the world as it truly is. Meditation reduces activation in your brain's parietal lobe, which is the area that allows you to distinguish your self from your environment. Let's say that long practice of meditation allows you to willfully reduce parietal lobe activation.

Why do Buddhists think the feeling of a loss of self, that the world is one, is the true reality? Why is the world as experienced after arduous meditation and getting your brain to work differently, thought to be the way the world is?

Let's say I created an exercise that allowed you to turn off your visual areas. Would you let me claim that this is evidence that the world, or at least light, doesn't really exist? And that doing this exercise allows you to experience the world as it really is?

In both of these cases you're training your mind to shut off the detector in your brain that makes certain distinctions. Shutting down a part of your brain doesn't tell you anything special about the world.

The attributionist view holds that we have a bias to misattribute psychological experiences to supernatural ones. This occurs with sleep paralysis and the belief in aliens and succubi, near-death experiences, and, I believe, in meditation too. 

Bookmark and Share

1 comment:

Dan Tasse said...

Hi Jim,
Neat post! I haven't meditated for 30 years, or even 1 year, so I can't say anything for sure. But here are a couple things I'm thinking:

- Maybe the shutting down of the parietal lobe isn't all that's happening, it's just all we can currently see. Maybe there's something else going on.

- From the Buddhists I've talked to, it's not about knowing the Grand Truth About The World, it's more like seeing another perspective that's equally legit. Sort of like wearing 3-d glasses, which effectively shut off the red-recognizing part of your left eye and the blue-recognizing part of your right eye. And you see something different. Okay, maybe it's not "truly" in 3-d, but it's another perspective, and arguably more useful for your understanding of the movie, or reality, than the "true" red-blue 2-d image.

- Maybe enlightenment is spiritual, or personally meaningful, not supernatural. And saying it's just psychological, not spiritual, creates a false dichotomy. Think about being in love: that's really just neurons in your brain too, but that doesn't make it any less valid.

Dan