Neuropathology and Buddhism?

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Neuropathology and Buddhism?

Postby steveb1 » Tue Dec 27, 2011 4:35 am

Please forgive if this has already been beaten to death on these boards, but I feel the need to inquire:

1. As I understand it, many modern neuroscientists say that the soul or self is an illusion or delusion based on misinterpretation of brain activity. Some popularizers use this idea to say, "See? Neuroscience confirms Buddhist anatta/anatman".

Somehow, I do not think that this is an accurate statement. If I understand correctly, the Buddha taught that the human being is composed of temporary processes that the Buddha compared to mere "heaps" - "heaps of skandhas". There are mental as well as physical skandhas.

If this is correct, then are not those neurologists who make the claim mistaken? Mistaken in that if the soul/self/mind is delusional, then from the Buddhist point of view, so to are the brain/neural network delusional ... for the simple reason that heaps of skandhas are mental as well as physical/bodily? If that's true, then the body-brain ought logically be seen to be just as illusory as the mind/self.

Can anyone please respond to this issue?

AND...

2. Is there anything in the Buddhist teachings/traditions about how neuropathology impacts the mind - the mind viewed as "that which meditates"?
Not long ago I watched a YouTube lecture in which the lecturer said that Buddhist monasteries just don't possess a suffiicent "mental mapping" of brain pathology in regards to Buddhist monks. Naturally, the speaker's main subject was Alzheimer's disease. He maintained that there is virtually nothing in the traditions/monastic orders or in the Dharma itself that deals with the mental effects of brain disease/brain injury.

I therefore wonder just what modern, scientifically informed Buddhists are currently thinking about this issue. It is as if the basic Buddhistic (as well as other religious groups) stance always begins with the assumption of a sound mind in the practitioner. That is, the mind may be "sick" (Buddhism: egoic, enslaved by attachment/Christianity: sin/estrangement from God-and-Grace) in a spiritual sense, but sound and capable in terms of what most cultures regard as a normal, sane mind. I am not aware of any religious system that begins from a standpoint of a pathological mentality in the practitioner.

So I am wondering: What does Buddhism - modern, scientifically informed Buddhism - have to say about neuropathologies and injuries/traumas that occur during a practitioner's meditative initiation, or long after many years of practice? In short, how does Buddhism and/or the Dharma handle a practitioner's sick, injured mind, when the sickness and injury are clearly due to brain problems? Can the journey toward Buddhahood be interrupted or even derailed by a physical "skandha" such as brain sickness or injury?

There is a line in the novel, Midnight Cowboy, "There ain't no Beatitude for the lonely". Is there in Buddhism a Beatitude or practice for the brain injured and Alzheimer's victims? Can a mind "parallel-injured" by brain failure perform the requisit meditations?
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Re: Neuropathology and Buddhism?

Postby Malcolm » Tue Dec 27, 2011 5:15 am

steveb1 wrote: He maintained that there is virtually nothing in the traditions/monastic orders or in the Dharma itself that deals with the mental effects of brain disease/brain injury.



This is because he has no knowledge of Tibetan medicine where brain injuries and nerve disorders are treated rather extensively.

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Re: Neuropathology and Buddhism?

Postby steveb1 » Wed Dec 28, 2011 12:33 am

Sounds interesting - I'll look into that. Thanks for the info.
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Re: Neuropathology and Buddhism?

Postby Tsering927 » Wed Jan 04, 2012 6:05 pm

steveb1 wrote:
2. Is there anything in the Buddhist teachings/traditions about how neuropathology impacts the mind - the mind viewed as "that which meditates"?
Not long ago I watched a YouTube lecture in which the lecturer said that Buddhist monasteries just don't possess a suffiicent "mental mapping" of brain pathology in regards to Buddhist monks. Naturally, the speaker's main subject was Alzheimer's disease. He maintained that there is virtually nothing in the traditions/monastic orders or in the Dharma itself that deals with the mental effects of brain disease/brain injury.


Do you have a link to the youtube lecture?

steveb1 wrote:I therefore wonder just what modern, scientifically informed Buddhists are currently thinking about this issue. It is as if the basic Buddhistic (as well as other religious groups) stance always begins with the assumption of a sound mind in the practitioner. That is, the mind may be "sick" (Buddhism: egoic, enslaved by attachment/Christianity: sin/estrangement from God-and-Grace) in a spiritual sense, but sound and capable in terms of what most cultures regard as a normal, sane mind. I am not aware of any religious system that begins from a standpoint of a pathological mentality in the practitioner.


So I am wondering: What does Buddhism - modern, scientifically informed Buddhism - have to say about neuropathologies and injuries/traumas that occur during a practitioner's meditative initiation, or long after many years of practice? In short, how does Buddhism and/or the Dharma handle a practitioner's sick, injured mind, when the sickness and injury are clearly due to brain problems? Can the journey toward Buddhahood be interrupted or even derailed by a physical "skandha" such as brain sickness or injury?
[/quote]

I don't think they view the mind as separate. I think there is the method of blending the mind of the Guru with the student in order to calm the emotional distractions of the student and to point out the nature of mind. I think this blending of mind is extremely beneficial...and is often done in a group during certain practices for someone who is ill. And depending on the karmic connection with the practice and the practitioners, the result may be different. In the monastery that I frequently visit, the Lamas often chant Chod for people who are ill--mentally ill or physically ill--often the 'patient' is present during the chanting. Sometimes the person is someone from the monastic community. I have seen--over time--monks improve or even recover from what I initially thought was quite a strong mental affliction. But, I am not sure if it is the right path for everyone. I think I read somewhere that even HH the Dalai Lama encourages western medicine in some cases. But, I also think the power of mind to heal itself and benefit others through meditation and visualization can't be overlooked. I think most Buddhists would say that one has to take up the derailment as part of the path--in some cases the obstacle may even quicken the path to awakening. Obstacles may often appear like our enemies, but may, in fact, be our best friends. But, I also agree that mental illness or injury is a terrible obstacle to encounter.
It is said that you can tell whether someone has just eaten by how red his face is. Similarly, you can tell whether people know and practice the Dharma by whether it works as a remedy for their negative emotions and ego-clinging. --Jetsun Mila

The hungry are not satisfied by hearing about food; what they need is to eat. In the same way, just to know about Dharma is useless; it has to be practiced. --Jetsun Mila
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Re: Neuropathology and Buddhism?

Postby ronnewmexico » Wed Jan 04, 2012 6:23 pm

In the "journey towards buddhahood"....such presentations would invariably be in a practitioner of good moral value and action in this present life....be a burniing out of previous karmic tendency. So in a future life this would not be present.
So in that manner it is not a bad thing this has happened, and is but part of the journey.

KIlling oneself as consequence would impel that this be gone through again. Lived with to its furthest extension would pretty assuredly guarantee it will not present in this fashion again. UNless of course one did perform the initial actions, forming habit again which precipitated the occurance of this thing.
As one is now firmly in this life on a spiritual path, the chance of that happening is slim to none. One will not replicate those things.

ACtions, our status, the consequences, our intentions, are not all conscious but often hidden within us. So conscious action towards the spiritual do not immediately solve all problems of circumstance.Eventually with pursuance they will, but this is long long term, generally over many lives.
So bad things happen to good people.
But as to path this in this fashion is part of that
Earlier on there are perhaps remedy but now after the occurance, perhaps not, or very rarely may they be applied.

Meditational practice in any event will allow for a more healthy approach to this issue and if one may gain good result from this thing it is a meditator with a firm practice that will find it. Others...they may suffer more. All suffer...meditators with a sound spiritual practice will suffer less, than those not.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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