Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

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Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby Paul » Fri May 25, 2012 9:36 pm

Self-awareness is always bliss
-16th Karmapa

Bliss is one of the three nyams that can happen to a Dzogchen or Mahamudra practitioner. Thinking about this, this seems to be a bit odd - it's not immediately apparent why this should be.

So what is the cause of this from
a) a western medical perspective (if indeed meditational bliss has ever been researched)
b) from a Dzogchen/Tibetan medicine point of view - is it related to winds entering the central channel?

Also, in relation to the movement of winds, it's my understanding that bliss can rectify 'damaged' channels in the subtle body, or rather is the by product of the correction of such problems. Is this basically what is going on in this situation?
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.

-Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby asunthatneversets » Fri May 25, 2012 9:54 pm

Paul wrote:Self-awareness is always bliss
-16th Karmapa

Bliss is one of the three nyams that can happen to a Dzogchen or Mahamudra practitioner. Thinking about this, this seems to be a bit odd - it's not immediately apparent why this should be.

So what is the cause of this from
a) a western medical perspective (if indeed meditational bliss has ever been researched)
b) from a Dzogchen/Tibetan medicine point of view - is it related to winds entering the central channel?

Also, in relation to the movement of winds, it's my understanding that bliss can rectify 'damaged' channels in the subtle body, or rather is the by product of the correction of such problems. Is this basically what is going on in this situation?


What's the context of the Karmapa's statement? Is he speaking of actual nyams of bliss? Or of the peacefulness of equanimity that arises as a result of correct view?
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby Paul » Fri May 25, 2012 9:55 pm

asunthatneversets wrote:What's the context of the Karmapa's statement? Is he speaking of actual nyams of bliss? Or of the peacefulness of equanimity that arises as a result of correct view?


It's from his rebirth prediction letter.
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.

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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby asunthatneversets » Fri May 25, 2012 10:44 pm

Paul wrote:
asunthatneversets wrote:What's the context of the Karmapa's statement? Is he speaking of actual nyams of bliss? Or of the peacefulness of equanimity that arises as a result of correct view?


It's from his rebirth prediction letter.


I'd say the Karmapa is addressing the inherent joyfulness which is synonymous with ones natural state, being that the letter is so brief and that the next line is "the dharmadhātu is without center or edge" it would seem odd for that opening line to address something (considered) as mundane as a nyam.

But that doesn't mean we can't discuss the physiology of energetic movements in the body and their relation to blissful feelings. It's an interesting topic for sure.

In my opinion, western medicine has fallen so far from the mark with it's "mechanical" view of the body and world, that I doubt it would even have a valid explanation for such phenomena.
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby Paul » Fri May 25, 2012 11:02 pm

asunthatneversets wrote:'d say the Karmapa is addressing the inherent joyfulness which is synonymous with ones natural state.


I just thought it was an interesting quote - it's not at all the focus. As well as being a dualistic nyam (and as you mention) non-dual bliss is a factor of the natural state.

my opinion, western medicine has fallen so far from the mark with it's "mechanical" view of the body and world, that I doubt it would even have a valid explanation for such phenomena.


I would imagine it would be linked to a big release of dopamine. The question then is why would that be? Seems to be a strange outcome from sitting there and doing literally nothing.
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.

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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby Andrew108 » Sun May 27, 2012 9:46 am

Just for the sake of debate:
It's bliss/emptiness rather than bliss dopamine. But what is a brain-based nyam and what is not is very hard to decide. It could also be that certainty regarding 'emptiness' is brain-based in the sense that there is a primary experience of the emptiness of experience. Rigpa too is almost certainly brain-based if it is knowledge that can be recalled and put into experience. Blankness can also be said to be brain-based. In fact any experience or state of mind can be brain-based. What is felt but which cannot be put into words can also be brain-based. Any 'thing' that has a duration is most likely brain-based. Logically only a rigpa that is beyond the notion of duration - beyond the notion of time could be said to not be brain-based. That's why in Dzogchen spontaneous presence means so much. The rest of it is just contrivance (brain-based).
It actually comes down to a matter of faith and trust in the teacher. And this is obviously brain-based too. But then yes logically spontaneous presence is the only genuine experience of non brain-based experience and this when put into words is in a limited way called 'bliss'.
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"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby Jnana » Sun May 27, 2012 10:30 am

Paul wrote:Self-awareness is always bliss
-16th Karmapa

Bliss is one of the three nyams that can happen to a Dzogchen or Mahamudra practitioner.

I don't have an answer to your questions from a dzogchen perspective, but from a Kagyu mahāmudrā perspective, which the Karmapa may be referring to, "bliss" has different meanings in terms of experiences or in terms of realization. The former is changeable, and can come and go; the latter is not. Tai Situ Tenpai Nyinje, Oral Transmission of the Supreme Siddhas:

    In general, when there is direct realization and not just a general conception of the equal taste of the experiences of bliss, clarity, and nonthought, this is categorized as realization and not experience. This is the appearance of the meaning of the basis as a result of the obscurations weakening. The bliss referred to here is the supremely unchanging bliss, for you have eliminated the changeable bliss of the body and mind, and this bliss doesn't have a nature of being either happiness or suffering. This is what the Hevajra Tantra is referring to in the following passage:

    In it there is no center and no edge.
    There is no samsara and no nirvana.
    It is the supreme great bliss.
    There is no over there and no over here.

    It is incorrect to distinguish clarity and emptiness as phenomena that are separate from this great bliss. Great bliss is the natural mind, which is the union of clarity and emptiness. From Ācārya Āryadeva's treatise entitled the Hundred Verses on the Essence of Understanding:

    Through eliminating conceptualization,
    there will be no intense aspiration.
    This clear appearance
    is self-knowing and great bliss.
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby Jnana » Sun May 27, 2012 10:55 am

Paul wrote:I would imagine it would be linked to a big release of dopamine. The question then is why would that be? Seems to be a strange outcome from sitting there and doing literally nothing.

As an experience, bliss arises in dependence upon the internal winds, etc. This can occur from regular śamatha practices, or can be induced through prāṇāyāma. In the context of sūtra style śamatha, the Abhidharmakośabhāsya states:

    In the state of absorption, the body is penetrated by a wind born of excellent mental samādhi; this wind is tangible which is agreeably felt (sukhavedanīya) and is called well-being.

Experientially, this can feel like the heart chakra area (or other chakra areas) greatly opening and expanding and all sense of constriction completely dissolving, and being completely pervaded by bliss and universal compassion.
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby Nemo » Sun May 27, 2012 2:28 pm

If you are looking for a physiological phenomenon related to Dzogchen the only one I know of is calluses on your ass. It sounds like you want to put Dzogchen in a pill. Dzogchen even survives the destruction of your body after death. You won't find it in a lab.
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby Paul » Sun May 27, 2012 5:11 pm

Nemo wrote:It sounds like you want to put Dzogchen in a pill. Dzogchen even survives the destruction of your body after death. You won't find it in a lab.


No, not at all. I have a vajra sister who is a neurologist. She has given some very interesting information about studies into the neurological phenomena that occur when someone is resting in the nature of mind. Its really very interesting.

Tsoknyi rinpoche states that bliss (not the dualistic nyam bliss, but actual empty-bliss) is the natural effulgence of rigpa. To rephrase my question a bit, why is physical pleasure - not just plain relaxation, but pleasure - a natural quality of the nature of mind? It almost seems out of place, unlike for example, the ability to cognise. As Dzogchen practice is so closely connected to the body and its winds, I think this might be a good point to explore how our 'internal plumbing' has an effect on experience and how that changes over time.

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche say, interestingly:

Now we are entering the realm of Ati yoga, where we discover that actually the fundamental state of our being is our physical body - our existence as body
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.

-Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby Nemo » Sun May 27, 2012 8:53 pm

Vipassana would be very valuable to study for a neurologist. But Dzogchen is out of their league. Perhaps a quantum physicist could see some interesting changes.
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby Malcolm » Sun May 27, 2012 8:55 pm

Paul wrote:Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche say, interestingly:

Now we are entering the realm of Ati yoga, where we discover that actually the fundamental state of our being is our physical body - our existence as body


This is perfectly in line with what I have said all along for many years. Let those who have ears, listen.
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Sun May 27, 2012 8:59 pm

Paul wrote:I have a vajra sister who is a neurologist. She has given some very interesting information about studies into the neurological phenomena that occur when someone is resting in the nature of mind. Its really very interesting.


Could you elaborate?
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby Paul » Sun May 27, 2012 9:14 pm

treehuggingoctopus wrote:
Paul wrote:I have a vajra sister who is a neurologist. She has given some very interesting information about studies into the neurological phenomena that occur when someone is resting in the nature of mind. Its really very interesting.


Could you elaborate?


From what I remember from her lecture, she said that the medial prefrontal cortex stops being active. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for a) conceptual thought and b) establishing ourselves within a social context. She said the you can actually feel it 'release' when dropping into rigpa, which I assume is the reduction of blood circulating to that point (she didn't say that though). This reminds me of one of the descriptions in explanations of what rigpa is like - taking off a heavy hat. Sogyal Rinpoche mentions this in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying:
Dudjom Rinpoche says: “That moment is like taking a hood off your head. What boundless spaciousness and relief! This is the supreme seeing: seeing what was not seen before.”
The strong feeling of "I am in my head, behind my eyes" is the result of the medial prefrontal cortex being active, and becomes more apparent when stressed.

The other aspect was that the hypothalamus becomes quite active. She explained that this is an indication of how active the senses were, and in the brain scans that she did, it would indicate that all the senses were bing left relatively unfiltered/modified into the relevant parts of the brain. The link there should be pretty obvious with Dzogchen instructions.

That's all I can remember for the moment. I will look for her details - I know she is always looking for meditators who can lend her their brains for a while...

EDIT: This is the lady in question: http://www.iop.kcl.ac.uk/staff/profile/ ... x?go=12804
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.

-Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby Dechen Norbu » Mon May 28, 2012 1:25 am

Very cool research.
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby asunthatneversets » Mon May 28, 2012 1:26 am

This lady Jill Bolte had a stroke which essentially shut down her brain... her ability to move, her speech, memory etc... but the most interesting part was that due to the location of the burst blood vessel in her left hemisphere she lost her sense of self-awareness too. She said that the left hemisphere was the most damaged and during her recovery the part that told her she was a separate individual remained shut off for some time. She couldn't tell the difference between her and her surroundings and felt like everything was an extension of herself.

"I am the life-force power of the universe. I am the life-force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form, at one with all that is.”
- Jill Bolte Taylor


She spoke about her experience at TED:
http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html

This thread also reminded me of a radio interview I listened to a couple weeks ago with a Neil Slade who researches the amygdala. He does exercises which stimulate the amygdala by doing visualizations of a feather tickling that area (which reminded me of the visualizations done in buddhism which I'm sure also stimulate this area). He claimed to have a ton of ways to stimulate these areas of the brain, (he didn't share too much because he was obviously trying to sell his book, but) I'd bet most of them resemble buddhist/vajrayana/dzogchen practices. He spoke of a friend who uses a tuning fork tuned to a specific frequency that is held to the temple which also stimulates the amygdala (which made me think of the sounding of mantras which I'm sure also vibrate and stimulate these areas of the brain). The stimulation over time seems to produce the same "popping" or "releasing" effect Paul spoke of which leads to what Slade called "sense of enlightenment" experiences.

"Having spoken with a number of successful people in various fields, Slade has determined that there are many ways to stimulate the amygdala. He recalled a conversation with Steven Snyder, a piano tuner who has worked with the biggest recording studios in New York City. Snyder told Slade that he activates his amygdala by striking a tuning fork and placing it to the side of his head where that part of the brain is located. Ultimately, Slade said, consistent stimulation of the amygdala over time can result in a phenomenon called "popping the frontal lobe," something he experienced six years after he began his research. Slade described it as akin to a sense of enlightenment and marveled that "it's the best feeling that you've ever had."

Link to the radio interview I heard:
http://www.coasttocoastam.com/show/2012/05/07
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Mon May 28, 2012 5:28 am

Paul wrote:
treehuggingoctopus wrote:
Paul wrote:I have a vajra sister who is a neurologist. She has given some very interesting information about studies into the neurological phenomena that occur when someone is resting in the nature of mind. Its really very interesting.


Could you elaborate?


From what I remember from her lecture, she said that the medial prefrontal cortex stops being active. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for a) conceptual thought and b) establishing ourselves within a social context. She said the you can actually feel it 'release' when dropping into rigpa, which I assume is the reduction of blood circulating to that point (she didn't say that though). This reminds me of one of the descriptions in explanations of what rigpa is like - taking off a heavy hat. Sogyal Rinpoche mentions this in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying:
Dudjom Rinpoche says: “That moment is like taking a hood off your head. What boundless spaciousness and relief! This is the supreme seeing: seeing what was not seen before.”
The strong feeling of "I am in my head, behind my eyes" is the result of the medial prefrontal cortex being active, and becomes more apparent when stressed.

The other aspect was that the hypothalamus becomes quite active. She explained that this is an indication of how active the senses were, and in the brain scans that she did, it would indicate that all the senses were bing left relatively unfiltered/modified into the relevant parts of the brain. The link there should be pretty obvious with Dzogchen instructions.

That's all I can remember for the moment. I will look for her details - I know she is always looking for meditators who can lend her their brains for a while...

EDIT: This is the lady in question: http://www.iop.kcl.ac.uk/staff/profile/ ... x?go=12804


Fascinating stuff, thanks. Hopefully she will publish some paper at some point. I, for one, would love to learn more.
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby Sherlock » Mon May 28, 2012 3:49 pm

I definitely do feel like the region behind my forehead is relieved of a burden after Dzogchen practice -- I don't know if it's rigpa though, I think it is more like what is described as the state you experience after practice, there's a Tibetan word for this.
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby Clarence » Mon May 28, 2012 6:04 pm

Without being critical about the brain research, it always makes me worry that it reduces everything to being a result of certain processes in the brain. What then is the use of practicing at all if we can just use a tuning fork to get the same results? I am asking this sincerely btw, not to put down the research or the people posting the research.
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Re: Bliss, Dzogchen practice and physiology

Postby Sherlock » Mon May 28, 2012 6:10 pm

Clarence wrote:Without being critical about the brain research, it always makes me worry that it reduces everything to being a result of certain processes in the brain. What then is the use of practicing at all if we can just use a tuning fork to get the same results? I am asking this sincerely btw, not to put down the research or the people posting the research.


Malcolm could probably explain this but I guess it would have something to do with the fact that while the brain is certainly important, in Dzogchen it is not the only part of the body contributing to your mind and hence anything affecting solely the brain cannot really bring complete realization.
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